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NBC tried to put a stop to Ronan Farrow’s investigation into producer Harvey Weinstein according to a former producer at the network’s news investigation unit.
The New York Times on Thursday reported that Farrow’s investigation into multiple sexual assault and rape allegations made against Weinstein was stymied by “the very highest levels of NBC,” according to ex-NBC News producer Rich McHugh. Farrow ultimately left NBC News and published the story in The New Yorker in October.
McHugh, who left NBC News two weeks ago, told the Times that the network’s attempts to impede Farrow’s investigation into Weinstein is “a massive breach of journalistic integrity.”
Without disclosing the names of any executives involved, McHugh described NBC as “resistant” to the eight-month investigation, and by August 2017 they were no longer supportive and, in his view, were “killing the Harvey Weinstein story.”
“Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to Los Angeles 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 denied McHugh’s characterization of what happened, claiming that the story was not broadcast ready and that Farrow decided to take it to The New Yorker. Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, told the Times: “He was never told to stop in the way [McHugh is] implying.”
Oppenheim felt that Farrow’s story lacked on-the-record and on-camera interviews. “We repeatedly made clear to Ronan and Rich McHugh the standard for publication is we needed at least one credible on-the-record victim or witness of misconduct,” Oppenheim told the Times.
He added: “And we never met that threshold while Ronan was reporting for us.”
Regarding the proposed L.A. interview that never happened, Oppenheim told the Times that Farrow had already asked to take the story to another outlet, for which he was given permission when the request for a crew was made. He turned down the request as Farrow would not be breaking the story for NBC. “We said: ‘You’ve asked for permission to go elsewhere. You can’t use an NBC camera crew for another outlet. You can do whatever you want to do. And you don’t work for us,’” Oppenheim told the Times.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter an NBC News spokesperson said: “The assertion that NBC News tried to kill the Weinstein story while Ronan Farrow was at NBC News, or even more ludicrously, after he left NBC News, is an outright lie.”
The statement continued: “In August of 2017, after NBC News assigned Ronan Farrow to investigate Weinstein and supported his reporting efforts for eight months, Farrow believed his reporting was ready for air. NBC disagreed because, unfortunately, he did not yet have a single victim of — or witness to — misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified. Dissatisfied with that decision, Farrow chose to leave for a print outlet that he said was willing to publish immediately. NBC News told him ‘we will not stand in your way,’ and allowed him to take his reporting to The New Yorker, where, two months later, he published a strong piece that cited the following victims by name: Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Canes, Jessica Barth, and Sophie Dix. Not one of these seven women was included in the reporting Farrow presented while at NBC News.”
In October, sources told THR that Farrow’s investigation was originally targeted to air on NBC in February 2018, just as Hollywood was gearing up for the Oscars. Sources told THR that Farrow was working on the piece at NBC News throughout last summer when he suddenly stopped coming to the office sometime in September. Farrow’s contributor contract with NBC News had expired and he was in the midst of negotiating a new deal with the network when he took the story to The New Yorker.
Multiple sources told THR that Farrow had secured an on-camera interview with Rose McGowan, one of the many women to whom Weinstein paid settlements. McGowan was willing to go on-the-record and on-camera until July 2017, but her lawyers contacted Farrow and NBC and pulled consent because any interview could have put her in legal jeopardy per the terms of the settlement agreement she had agreed upon with Weinstein.
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