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New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey knew it wasn’t going to be easy reporting out the longstanding rumors and allegations that Harvey Weinstein had sexual harassed women over a span of three decades.
“On the one hand, it seemed like a little bit of a Mount Everest because we had the sense that many other journalists had tried this story,” Kantor said Friday night in a pre-taped video at PEN Center USA’s Literary Awards Festival gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. “But on the other hand, it felt like, what are we doing with our careers if we’re not doing these kinds of stories? Why did we train for this? Why are we here?”
Twohey, appearing alongside Kantor in the video, explained, “There had been rumors about Harvey Weinstein for years, and I think that this was the time, 2017 was the year, when the paper felt like it was time to put some serious investigative muscle into those rumors and see what was there.”
Kantor and Twohey were honored by the literary and human rights organization along with three other Times reporters: Katie Brenner for her work reporting on sexual harassment in Silicon Valley, and Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt for their bombshell investigations detailing Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox’s multiple payouts to women who have accused the former Fox News host of sexual harassment.
“Our job is to just document the facts and ask the hard questions, to say, ‘Here’s this pattern of allegations, and here’s a lot of different kinds of evidence that support what these women say,’” Kantor said.
Steel and Schmidt’s first story about O’Reilly was published in April, followed by another bombshell just a week ago that he settled one sexual harassment case brought against him by former Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl for $32 million.
“The purpose of our reporting was not to bring anyone down,” Steel said. “We saw it as telling the stories of women who had been silenced, report on Bill O’Reilly’s record and show how the company protected him. This reporting was about shining a light on dark places and holding people in positions of power accountable.”
O’Reilly has repeatedly claimed that the reports of sexual misconduct are part of a politically motivated media out to smear his name and reputation.
Weinstein has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.
The PEN evening certainly wasn’t all about the disgraced movie mogul and TV host.
Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards was on hand to present Margaret Atwood with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Like many of the night’s other presenters and winners, The Handmaid’s Tale author sounded the alarm about the Trump administration.
“Responsible journalism is not only under stress but under attack, sometimes physical,” said Atwood. “Truth in reporting is being called into question at the highest level with the end view of confusing the public and obliterating the very ideals of truth and factuality.”
Atwood did lighten the mood by reminiscing about the early days of PEN in her native Canada when fundraising for the organization included a talent show of sorts where she sang a duet with the late literary giant Robertson Davies. Their song? “Anything You Can Write, I Can Write Better.”
As Atwood made her way offstage, the gala’s host Nick Offerman cracked, “Hey, Margaret — I’ve been told I look pretty good in a bonnet.”
LGBT activist and writer Janet Mock was presented with the Award of Honor by Girlboss entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso.
Mock talked of how she fell in love with literature as a child in her native Hawaii.
“Stories were my refuge as a young person,” she said. “It was in the library … where I got a chance even for just a few hours after school to evade the prying eyes and taunts of bullies. My library card gave me access to works written by Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston.”
Mock is currently a writer on Pose, Ryan Murphy’s upcoming FX series about New York City in the 1980s.
“It’s been a thrill ride,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s been a master class to be able to learn from Ryan.”
Details of the show were announced earlier this week. Murphy’s casting of five transgender actors on Pose is history-making as it now has the largest number of trans actors in series regular roles for a scripted project.
Mock revealed she has been in Los Angeles since July secretly working on the show, “but I haven’t been able to tell anyone.”
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