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NBC News Defends Itself After Damaging Report, Gets Called Out For More ‘False,’ ‘Misleading’ Statements

By  James Barrett
DailyWire.com

NBC News chairman Andy Lack responded Monday to accusations included in a damaging report published last week by The Daily Beast, which claims the network “threatened” former NBC reporter Ronan Farrow if he continued to report on Harvey Weinstein, and suggests that NBC News President Noah Oppenheim had ulterior motives for suppressing Farrow’s story. But Lack’s attempt to set the record straight has resulted in yet more accusations of “false” and “misleading” statements by the reporter at the center of the controversy.

In a memo issued to NBC employees Monday (full text below), Lack said that in this “unusual situation for a news division,” he felt it necessary to “lay out all the facts dispassionately and in necessary detail – from start to finish.” After complaining about other news outlets reporting on NBC’s handling of the story, Lack presented his version of events. Lack said that Farrow’s reporting did not meet the network’s journalistic standards because he “did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record.” When he finally published the story with The New Yorker, Lack claims, Farrow cited seven victims who were not included in his report when he was at NBC:

We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News – like many others before us – still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record. (Rose McGowan – the only woman Farrow interviewed who was willing to be identified – had refused to name Weinstein and then her lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter.) So we had nothing yet fit to broadcast. But Farrow did not agree with that standard. That’s where we parted ways – agreeing to his request to take his reporting to a print outlet that he said was ready to move forward immediately.

Seven weeks later, and five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the Weinstein story in The New York Times, Farrow published the first in a series of outstanding stories for The New Yorker, winning great acclaim and attention, all of which is well deserved. That story cited the following victims by name: Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Caunes, Jessica Barth, and Sophie Dix. Not one of these seven women was included in the reporting Farrow presented while at NBC News.

We regret the deterioration of NBC’s relationship with Ronan, and genuinely wish we had found a path to move forward together. That is why, in August of 2017, when Farrow objected to his editors’ conclusion we convened an independent group of the most experienced investigative journalists in our organization to review his material with fresh eyes. We asked them — tell us what, if anything, we can broadcast. But their conclusion was unequivocal – this story is not ready for air. (Further, they found several elements in Farrow’s draft script which did not hold up to scrutiny – described in the accompanying document.) It was Farrow’s decision, in the midst of this process, to pursue the story elsewhere.

But, as Deadline reports, Farrow adamantly disagrees. In a blistering response posted on Twitter Monday, Farrow accused Lack of spreading “numerous false or misleading” claims:

I’ve avoided commenting on the specifics of NBC’s role in the Weinstein story to keep the focus on the women and their allegations. But executives there have now produced a memo that contains numerous false or misleading statements, so I’ll say briefly: their list of sources is incomplete and omits women who were either identified in the NBC story or offered to be. The suggestion to take the story to another outlet was first raised by NBC, not me, and I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting. the story was twice cleared and deemed “reportable” by legal standards only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein.

In a tweeted response Monday, former NBC Investigative Unit producer Rich McHugh backed up Farrow, refuting Lack’s claims about the report not meeting the network’s “journalistic ethic.'”

“The release of an internally drafted report without a complete investigation and transparency for participants only raises more questions than answers,” wrote McHugh. The need for an independent investigation of NBC News’ handling of sexual harassment claims, he said, seems “more important now than ever given Mr. Lack’s letter.”

Related: NBC Slapped With Damning Accusations Over Alleged Cover-Up Of #MeToo Bombshell Report

Below is the full text of Lack’s memo (via Deadline):

Dear Colleagues,

This is an unusual situation for a news division. In the last several days, questions surrounding how NBC News handled Ronan Farrow’s investigation of Harvey Weinstein have resurfaced. The following pages lay out all the facts dispassionately and in necessary detail – from start to finish. If you have any remaining questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

For the past nine months, it has been our belief that the ‘story’ here is about Harvey Weinstein’s horrendous behavior and about the suffering and bravery of his victims, rather than a back-and-forth between a reporter and his producer and a news network. However, we’ve watched with disappointment as unfounded intimations and accusations have traveled through media circles.

At NBC News, one of our primary goals is to produce outstanding investigative journalism that stands up to intense scrutiny and has a meaningful impact on society. We had that goal very much in mind when we first assigned Ronan Farrow to look into rumors in Hollywood about Harvey Weinstein, as many other news organizations had done before us over the span of two decades.

We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News – like many others before us – still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record. (Rose McGowan – the only woman Farrow interviewed who was willing to be identified – had refused to name Weinstein and then her lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter.) So we had nothing yet fit to broadcast. But Farrow did not agree with that standard. That’s where we parted ways – agreeing to his request to take his reporting to a print outlet that he said was ready to move forward immediately.

Seven weeks later, and five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the Weinstein story in The New York Times, Farrow published the first in a series of outstanding stories for The New Yorker, winning great acclaim and attention, all of which is well deserved. That story cited the following victims by name: Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Caunes, Jessica Barth, and Sophie Dix. Not one of these seven women was included in the reporting Farrow presented while at NBC News.

We regret the deterioration of NBC’s relationship with Ronan, and genuinely wish we had found a path to move forward together. That is why, in August of 2017, when Farrow objected to his editors’ conclusion we convened an independent group of the most experienced investigative journalists in our organization to review his material with fresh eyes. We asked them — tell us what, if anything, we can broadcast. But their conclusion was unequivocal – this story is not ready for air. (Further, they found several elements in Farrow’s draft script which did not hold up to scrutiny – described in the accompanying document.) It was Farrow’s decision, in the midst of this process, to pursue the story elsewhere.

Had we refused his request, NBC might have ultimately broken the story, but we wondered then, and still wonder now, whether the brave women who spoke to him in print would have also sat before TV cameras and lights. If we had tried to hold him and nothing changed, we would have needlessly blocked him from disseminating it via another forum. And that is why we agreed to let him go elsewhere. If some believe that decision a failure of our competitive instincts, so be it. But it was a decision undertaken honorably and with good intentions toward Farrow and his work.

Contrary to recent allegations, at no point did NBC obstruct Farrow’s reporting or “kill” an interview. Immediately after Farrow had parted ways with us, he asked for NBC cameras to record another anonymous Weinstein victim. Farrow conducted the interview but we declined the request for a crew because we believed filming another anonymous interview would not get us any closer to clearing the threshold to broadcast, and because he had already informed us he was pursuing the story for another outlet. (The victim Farrow anonymously interviewed did not ultimately speak on the record for The New Yorker or The New York Times.) Furthermore, we were increasingly concerned that repeatedly asking victims to sit for anonymous interviews in front of television cameras on this subject matter was no longer a productive approach. (For the record, the first television interview with a Weinstein victim aired on NBC News on October 9.)

Finally, a word on the baseless speculation that some interference by Harvey Weinstein played a role in our decision-making. The accompanying document recounts every interaction NBC News executives and editors had with Weinstein and his attorneys. It will surprise no one that they were dishonest in their dealings with us, often mischaracterizing our brief conversations. But in each instance, their calls were either completely ignored or met with a boilerplate commitment to allow them to comment if and when something was ready for broadcast. None of this was kept secret from Farrow. None of it was any different from the calls we receive on every other difficult story our investigative unit regularly breaks. And none of it played any role in our decision-making.

Our Investigative Unit, led by Rich Greenberg, is filled with the best journalists in the business doing a remarkable job. They consistently shepherd difficult stories onto the air and drive the daily news cycle. Over the past year-and-a-half they have delivered an astounding 420 exclusive stories on politics, national security, business and technology and more.

As we get back to work this week, we will continue to pursue the toughest stories, in the most challenging circumstances, involving the most powerful people. And we will keep doing it while upholding the journalistic standards that have been the backbone of this outstanding news organization.

Thank you for your great work this summer. See the attached.

Andy

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