A new report presents more troubling accusations against NBC News over its handling of a bombshell report by Ronan Farrow it ultimately refused to publish. According to The Daily Beast’s sources, “NBC threatened Ronan Farrow if he kept reporting on Harvey Weinstein.”
After Farrow left the network following its refusal to run his Weinstein story — a story which eventually helped secure him a Pulitzer Prize after he published it at The New Yorker — “a top lawyer at the network threatened to smear him if he continued to pursue the Hollywood mogul,” the DB’s sources say.
Farrow’s report, along with a blockbuster New York Times report published a few days earlier, blew open the story of megaproducer and Democratic megadonor Harvey Weinstein’s alleged decades-long record of sexual abuse that triggered the #MeToo movement.
While Farrow has publicly discussed NBC’s refusal to run the story, The Daily Beast “has uncovered new details of how the process went awry, including alleged threats from NBC, back-biting inside the network about who was truly responsible, and a previously unreported ultimatum by Weinstein’s attorneys.” The first allegation is the most alarming. The DB reports:
According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, NBC News general counsel Susan Weiner made a series of phone calls to Farrow, threatening to smear him if he continued to report on Weinstein.
NBC vehemently denies the accusation that it threatened Farrow. “Absolutely false,” an anonymous NBC spokesperson told the outlet. “There’s no truth to that all. There is no chance, in no version of the world, that Susan Weiner would tell Ronan Farrow what he could or could not report on.”
The Daily Beast’s report also strongly suggests that NBC News President Noah Oppenheim had ulterior motives for suppressing Farrow’s story, something Farrow reportedly began to suspect as Oppenheim showed increased resistance to publishing his piece:
In spring 2017, according to the sources, Farrow played Oppenheim the audio of Weinstein with Battilana admitting that he was “used to” groping women’s breasts. At one point during their meeting, according two sources, Oppenheim had asked if people still cared about Weinstein.
Farrow had begun to suspect that Oppenheim—who moonlighted as a Hollywood screenwriter—was potentially communicating with Weinstein directly about the story, according to the sources.
A particularly suspicious moment came during a meeting in summer 2017, when Oppenheim allegedly “mentioned to Farrow that Weinstein had raised objections to Farrow’s reporting—even though Farrow had not yet asked Weinstein to comment on the allegations, according to individuals briefed on the meeting.”
In addition to the alleged “threats” by Weiner and damning suggestions about Oppenheim’s motives, the DB reports that sources say Weinstein’s lawyer Charles Harder claimed in legal threats to Farrow that NBC had given Weinstein’s legal team “written assurances that Farrow would not use any reporting he obtained about Weinstein during his time at the network.”
NBC acknowledges that Harder sent the legal threats, but denies his “characterizations” of the network’s position. “We immediately were clear with Weinstein’s legal team that we disputed the characterizations,” the NBC spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
The DB also reports claims about an ugly internal blame-game at NBC after Farrow’s story broke at The New Yorker, reporting that while Oppenheim publicly took the blame for not running Farrow’s report, he “privately told at least one colleague that NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack and senior communications vice president Mark Kornblau had made him a scapegoat.”
An NBC spokesperson likewise rejected this claim as “absolutely false.”