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Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, which releases on Tuesday, details alleged secret payouts at NBC News and how ousted Today anchor Matt Lauer may have played a role in the network’s decision to kill Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein exposé that ultimately published in the New Yorker in October 2017. After some of the claims were made public by Farrow in a cover story with The Hollywood Reporter last week, NBC News chairman Andy Lack first pushed back in a staff memo, saying Farrow “uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.” Farrow responded with a Good Morning America interview where he stood by his reporting and reiterated that the book was “extensively fact-checked.”
On Monday, one day before the book’s release, Oppenheim told his staff in the memo obtained by THR, “Matt Lauer’s actions were abhorrent, and the anger and sadness he caused continue to this day. 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 continues, “Now that we’ve read Farrow’s book, 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.
“Farrow alleges there were employees who reported Lauer’s behavior prior to November of 2017 and were paid settlements to silence them. Not only is this false, the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.”
The note goes on to share the internal analysis made by the NBCU Legal Team, stating that they found only three examples “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.”
Those three examples reference a woman who is named in the book and who Farrow says shared the account of her incident with then-anchor Ann Curry; an on-air personality who departed in 2012; and a senior member of the Today show team who departed in 2017 with an alleged seven-figure payout. (These accounts were reported in THR‘s cover story, in addition to the complaint that led to Lauer’s ouster from Brooke Nevils, who has since spoken out. Lauer has denied the claims.)
“I feel absolutely terrible that these three employees were subjected to Matt Lauer’s horrific behavior, but the facts do not support Farrow’s allegation of a ‘cover-up,’ and he offers no further evidence,” said Oppenheim about the three women. “In fact, [Kim] Harris and the Legal team have determined that nothing in the book undermines any of the conclusions of the May 2018 investigation conducted by NBCUniversal in the wake of Lauer’s firing. There is no evidence of any reports of Lauer’s misconduct before his firing, no settlements, no ‘hush money’ — no way we have found that NBC’s current leadership could have been aware of his misdeeds in the past.”
The NBC News president ends his note by saying, “Farrow takes the first false allegation — that we knew about Lauer’s offenses — and uses it to sustain another, that we obstructed his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. Attached is the detailed accounting of that reporting, which we released in September 2018. Once, again, we stand by every word of it. In the meantime, Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind. It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies.”
Oppenheim’s letter then continues to respond in detail to several items from the book, and his note also includes Harris’ original report from the May 2018 investigation.
Also on Monday morning, Farrow was appearing on CBS This Morning to promote the book and was given the chance to respond to Oppenheim’s six-page memo, which he likened to other news organization attempts to “campaign to undercut the reporting” in his past investigations.
“This book is an extraordinarily, meticulously fact-checked work of investigative journalism. It’s two years of reporting. One of the senior fact-checkers at the New Yorker checked it. I’ll let the reporting in the book stand on its own. We’re very confident in it,” he said, adding that the response from journalists and sources inside NBC has been supportive. “And it’s been amazing to see how the press has rallied around it. I think people have seen it for what it is.”
Farrow also said NBC is putting out “untruths” and “lies,” adding, “They are concealing the fact that they actively ordered us to stop” investigating Weinstein. “This book answers why.”
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