This year, Ronan Farrow, along with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The New York Times, won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for stories on Harvey Weinstein’s alleged pattern of sexual assault. The reporting popularized the #MeToo movement across the country; Weinstein has since been indicted. Now, as Farrow has continued unraveling the story and earning laurels for his work at The New Yorker, NBC executives are left trying to explain how they let him, a former MSNBC host and NBC News contributor, walk away.
Farrow has declined to go into much detail about his departure from NBC. He left in August 2017, just two months before his first Weinstein story was published. He said on a podcast in May, “The fact that there was a veil of silence around the Harvey Weinstein story for decades is not accidental, and there were a variety of systems that kept it silent.” On Thursday, Rich McHugh, Farrow’s former producer at NBC, claimed that one of those systems existed within their network.
McHugh, who worked closely with Farrow to report on Weinstein’s behavior under NBC’s umbrella, tells the Times and The Daily Beast that leadership at the network was resistant to their investigation. McHugh told the Times’s John Koblin that NBC’s handling of the story was “a massive breach of journalistic integrity.”
NBC executives have claimed that Farrow’s story wasn’t ready for primetime when he presented his findings to them. They maintain that he had not secured an on-camera, on-the-record interview with any of Weinstein’s accusers. McHugh, however, says that he and Farrow faced internal opposition of another kind, telling Koblin that they received an order to stand down from “the very highest levels of NBC.” NBC has denied McHugh’s allegations.
The institutional protection of powerful men has featured in endless stories of sexual harassment and assault. Virtually every major news outlet—from CBS to NPR to the Times—has dealt with similar questions, as allegations have been published about people in their newsrooms. NBC has faced scrutiny not just for its handling of the Weinstein piece, but also over questions about what network leaders knew of Matt Lauer’s alleged misconduct. (Lauer, a former Today anchor, was fired in November.) Of NBC’s treatment of Farrow’s reporting, McHugh, who recently left his job there, tells the Times, “I don’t believe they’ve told the truth about it. That’s my opinion. I’ve asked that question, and to this day I still have not been given a good answer.”
Below, more on the fallout at NBC.
- “Something else” going on: In a statement to CNN’s Brian Stelter on Thursday night, McHugh said: “Is there anyone in the journalistic community who actually believes NBC didn’t breach its journalistic duty to continue reporting this story? Something else must have been going on. As a journalist for 16 years I do know that when you have an explosive story you never let it walk out the door. You keep digging for more so you can publish it at your network. NBC owed it to those brave women who spoke to us to get their stories out.”
- Alleged legal threats: The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Lachlan Cartwright report that “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.” An NBC spokesperson denied that charge, calling it, “absolutely false.”
- Support for McHugh: Josh Elliott, who worked with McHugh at ABC, called the producer “simply, the most forthright and unassailably ethical producer I’ve known.” Elliott added, “He was my partner for years at @abcnews and afterward, and there is no more honest—or talented—a journalist. The work he’s done has meant so much to so many, and I’m proud to know him.”
- A story to tell: Farrow is currently working on a book, titled Catch and Kill, that will go behind the scenes of his reporting on Weinstein and others. When the project was announced in May, Vanity Fair‘s Joe Pompeo reported that it was causing “curiosity and agita inside 30 Rock.”
Other notable stories:
- BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith expresses regret for helping create insider political journalism, and argues that it’s time for the practice to end. “As the institutions of journalism gear up for another presidential campaign, we face an audience that isn’t just bored by tactical, amoral, insidery, and mostly male-dominated political reporting: Americans of all political stripes now actually hate it,” Smith writes.
- NiemanLab’s Ken Doctor writes that relief from Trump’s newsprint tariffs is only a temporary reprieve as the burden of print weighs heavier and heavier on news outlets. “The bigger picture: As the daily printed newspaper era fades rapidly into history, everything about it is getting tougher,” Doctor argues.
- The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg and Maggie Haberman report that, during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen considered buying all the dirt that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Inquirer, had on Trump. The stories in question reportedly dated as far back as the 1980s and covered Trump’s “marital woes and lawsuits; related story notes and lists of sensitive sources; some tips about alleged affairs; and minutia, like allegations of unscrupulous golfing.”
- For CJR, Tiffany Stevens writes about the dearth of preparation for covering trauma in newsrooms, “where efforts to assist journalists dealing with trauma are typically reactive, launched after tragedies such as natural disasters or school shootings that attract national coverage.”
- A 68-year-old California man was arrested Thursday and charged with making several threatening phone calls to the Boston Globe after the paper announced an editorial campaign aimed at combating President Trump’s attacks on the media. The man echoed Trump’s rhetoric about journalists being “the enemy of the people,” and threatened to shoot reporters.