Ronan Farrow, NBC News at Odds Over Sex Abuse Allegations
On the eve of his Catch and Kill hitting shelves, Ronan Farrow and NBC News are escalating their war of words.
The explosive book, out Tuesday, charges that NBC was aware of alleged sexual misconduct by disgraced “Today” cohost Matt Lauer years before his firing, secretly paying settlements to his accusers. Catch and Kill also suggests Harvey Weinstein may have used dirt on Lauer to pressure NBC into killing Farrow’s investigation into the Hollywood mogul’s decades of alleged sexual abuse.
Before late 2017, when Farrow’s Weinstein exposé was published by The New Yorker and ignited the #MeToo movement, the investigative reporter had intended the story for NBC News.
“Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind,” wrote Noah Oppenheim, NBC News president, in an internal memo to staff circulated Monday morning, as per journalist Yashar Ali. “It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies.”
Oppenheim countered some of Farrow’s most incendiary Catch and Kill claims, including that those who reported Lauer’s behavior prior to November 2017 had their silence bought by the network. Lauer was dismissed by the network at that time for what was then described as “inappropriate sexual behavior,” after which point more allegations emerged detailing Lauer’s track record of abuse.
“Not only is this false, the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny,” wrote Oppenheim, denying knowledge of Lauer’s misconduct prior to his firing. “We have no secrets and nothing to hide.”
Oppenheim had NBCUniversal general counsel Kim Harris and the network’s legal team inspect Farrow’s book.
In the memo, Oppenheim refutes specific incidents described in Catch and Kill, adding that “there is no evidence of any reports of Lauer’s misconduct before his firing, no settlements, no ‘hush money’—no way we have found that NBC’s current leadership could have been aware of his misdeeds in the past.” Oppenheim notes that employees who later spoke to Farrow were under “standard separation agreements” that included “routine” confidentiality clauses, but he insists these were not designed or wielded to prevent an employee from reporting misconduct.
As for Farrow’s suggestion that NBC News killed his Weinstein story after being leaned on by the powerful executive? “A conspiracy theory,” wrote Oppenheim.
“Farrow asserts this based entirely on third-hand rumor. Farrow cites William Arkin, a former NBC employee, who says he was ‘told’ this by anonymous third parties,” Oppenheim added. “He offers no corroboration. Because it did not happen.”
Farrow maintains that NBC News killed his Weinstein story through repeated efforts to obstruct and contain its scope, while the network counters that it could not approve the airing of the report without a Weinstein accuser going on record for the camera. After departing, Farrow took the story to The New Yorker and published it as a lengthy, explosive exposé, toppling the Hollywood mogul and earning a Pultizer Prize (split with The New York Times for its parallel investigation).
On Good Morning America Friday, Farrow stood by his reporting, saying it’s “indisputable based on the evidence in this book that there was a chain of secret settlements at this company that were covered up” and adding that it was sustained enough to constitute “a pattern.”
Following the release of Oppenheim’s statement Monday, Farrow was asked on CBS This Morning about the network head’s assertions and responded that he’d allow the reporting in his book to stand by itself. Catch and Kill has sent shockwaves through NBC News since excerpts from the book began circulating online earlier this month. In the book, Farrow interviews Brooke Nevils, the former NBC News staffer describing in new, graphic detail how Lauer raped her during NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics then continued to exploit his position over her in subsequent encounters back in the United States.
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