NBC News and Ronan Farrow, who wrote an exposé on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct for The New Yorker that earned a Pulitzer, are battling over the story, which Farrow spent eight months chasing down for NBC News. A producer who worked alongside Farrow at NBC News said the network news department killed the story.
Producer Rich McHugh told The New York Times the kill order came from “the very highest levels of NBC.”
McHugh recently departed his job in the investigative department at NBC News, and now works on a climate change broadcast hosted by Al Gore. He called the network’s handling of the matter “a massive breach of journalistic integrity” in The New York Times.
“Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to L.A. to interview a woman with a credible rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein, I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman,” McHugh told the Times. “And to stand down on the story altogether.”
NBC countered that Farrow’s work was not broadcast-ready before the reporter shifted to The New Yorker. Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News, said the story needed at least one credible, on-the-record victim, which at the time it did not have. “He was never told to stop in the way he’s implying,” he said.
NBC issued a 12-page internal report on Farrow’s Weinstein reporting. “The only victim willing to be interviewed on camera and name Weinstein was a woman who spoke anonymously in shadow and alleged he subjected her to verbal sexual harassment,” it said. “Therefore, following widely accepted journalistic standards, Farrow’s NBC News editors, including the head of the investigative unit, did not believe his work was ready for broadcast.”
NBC News convened a team of three of its journalists, each with “decades of experience,” to examine Farrow’s work on Weinstein. The report said Farrow’s New Yorker story “bore little resemblance to the draft script he produced at NBC News.”
Weinstein, a Hollywood kingmaker before stories in the New York Times and The New Yorker, both which won Pulitzers, detailed his misconduct, had no influence on how NBC News handled the matter, said Oppenheim.
Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News, sent an email to staff members stating that Farrow’s report was not “fit for broadcast.”
“Contrary to recent allegations, at no point did NBC obstruct Farrow’s reporting or ‘kill’ an interview,” Lack said in the email.
On Twitter, Farrow cited “numerous false or misleading statements” in NBC’s report.
President Trump too weighed in on Twitter, saying NBC was "fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct."
McHugh said he was never interviewed by NBC News for the report.