NBC News President Noah Oppenheim is attempting to get ahead of the scandal included in former MSNBC host Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill,” which releases on Tuesday.
On Monday morning, Oppenheim sent a lengthy email to NBC News staffers laying out what he alleges are factual inaccuracies in Farrow’s book. The content of the email was shared on Twitter by journalist Yashar Ali. Oppenheim objects to Farrow’s characterization of NBC as having covered up former “Today” show host Matt Lauer’s sexual misconduct in part through payouts to “silence” his accusers who came forward.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 14, 2019
“Matt Lauer’s actions were abhorrent, and the anger and sadness he caused continue to this day,” Oppenheim began the email. “As we’ve said since the moment he was fired, his abuses should never have happened.”
“Ronan Farrow’s book takes that undeniable fact and twists it into a lie – alleging we were a ‘company with a lot of secrets.’ We have no secrets and nothing to hide,” he continued.
Oppenheim wrote to employees that NBC employees have read Farrow’s book and determined that “it’s clear — his smear rests on the allegation that NBC’s management knew about and took steps to hide Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November of 2017. Without that, he has no basis on which to rest his second conspiracy theory — that his Harvey Weinstein reporting was squashed to protect Lauer.”
Oppenheim claims that “the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.” The NBC president then laid out the company’s alleged counter evidence – an analysis from “Kim Harris and the [NBC Universal] Legal Team.”
This analysis claims that the “only three examples we can find that Farrow alleges are Lauer-related before 2017, with even minimal detail, involve employees who by their own admission made no complaint to management, and whose departure agreements were unrelated to Lauer and completely routine.”
The first example involves a named woman in Farrow’s books who, according to Oppenheim, told former NBC host Ann Curry about Lauer’s behavior. Curry, Oppenheim claims, merely told two NBC executives that Lauer “had a problem with women.” One of the executives allegedly denied having heard any such claim. This accuser apparently left the company three years after her allegations and “made no complaint about Lauer.” At the time of her departure, she “was paid 22 weeks of severance based on her years of service, and was asked to sign a separation agreement that was standard for departing employees at the time.”
That contract, according to NBC, was not designed to prevent employees from reporting misconduct.
The second example was an “on-air personality” who also “signed a completely standard separation agreement, including a routine confidentiality provision that was in her original employment contract.” This employee also, according to NBC, did not make any report to management but did show inappropriate messages from Lauer to “colleagues.” The third example involved a “senior member of the Today show team” who received a severance NBC claims, “was commensurate with her salary.” Farrow in his book says the woman received a “seven-figure payout.”
Oppenheim claims the agreements were about protecting “proprietary company information.” It will be hard for regular Americans to understand how much money was given to these three women as “severance” without it looking like a payoff.
Oppenheim also failed to address audio recorded by Ambra Gutierrez showing Harvey Weinstein trying to get her into his hotel room despite her repeated refusals. As Farrow writes in his book, NBC squashed his story about Weinstein’s sexual assault and says that Oppenheim dismissed the audio by saying “Eh … I mean, I don’t know what it proves.”