Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey Detail How Weinstein Investigation Led to 'She Said'

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Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists discussed their new book on Wednesday evening.

Right before New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the first story with sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the enraged producer showed up at the newspaper’s office with legal counsel in tow, with folders of threatening information against the women who had come forward.

Kantor and Twohey reveal the details of this encounter and other details from their investigation in their book She Said. At a Times Talks conversation on Wednesday night with Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris, Morris wanted to know how they handled that climactic moment.

"It's what we live for," Kantor said. "It's the reason we get out of bed in the morning."

Kantor and Twohey broke the first Times story on Weinstein on Oct. 5, 2017, and produced a series of stories after as more women came forward. They won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, along with Ronan Farrow from The New Yorker, for their investigation and reporting.

The book reveals new details from the process and discloses some new sources, including who Kantor calls "the Deep Throat of the Weinstein investigation": Irwin Reiter, a former Weinstein accountant who supplied the reporters with intel, including the crucial Lauren O'Connor memo. Reiter attended the event on Thursday, along with many figures from the story, such as survivor and source Katherine Kendall and editor Rebecca Corbett.  

Morris, Kantor and Twohey discussed the process of the investigation, and the reporters emphasized the importance of not letting the story become about them and trying not to be affected by the emotional weight of the story. One of their biggest hurdles was the nondisclosure agreements signed in many settlements, which legally bound many of the women to silence.

"These restrictive clauses were jaw-dropping,” Twohey said. "We wanted to learn more about them, not just because we knew it was crucial to help expose the truth about Weinstein, but also because we realized that they had been used as an instrument of hiding sexual harassment and sexual assault in industry after industry. They had allowed alleged predators to go on and hurt more women. They had basically been a tool by which these people could cover their tracks."

Kantor and Twohey were surprised by many of the people involved in these NDAs, including women's rights attorney Gloria Allred, Allred's daughter and civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom and former New York sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein. Many had been involved in landmark harassment cases. Bloom represented women in the claims made against Bill O'Reilly at Fox News, and Fairstein is known for prosecuting the Central Park Five.

In addition to igniting the #MeToo movement and Times Up, the Weinstein reporting unveiled a side of Hollywood that no one wanted to talk about: the casting couch culture. Morris recalled how he'd hear late night hosts joke about it, making it seemingly easier to ignore. "It's a part of the culture we were trained to laugh at and ignore consequentially," Morris said.

Kantor explained that as she was reporting the story, it made her reframe her thinking on some of the beloved Hollywood classics. After the first story came out, which included 25 years of allegations, more women came forward to expand that timeline to 40 years. "This is more than one generation of show business," Kantor said.

"There is something so rotten at the heart of our pop culture and so many of our memories — whether it's of something like Cannes or watching the Academy Awards or these movies like Pulp Fiction or Shakespeare in Love — that are so embedded in us. Then the idea that there was this whole story we didn't know that happened behind the scenes of this thing we thought we understood was something very powerful initially for the two of us in reporting and then, after the story broke, for the world," Kantor said.

The reporters dedicated the book to their young daughters and spoke about how many of the sources came forward as a result of speaking with their children. Laura Madden chose to go on the record for the first story because of her daughter, and Reiter became a source for a similar reason. 

During the question and answer portion of the talk, a young woman walked up to the microphone and asked Twohey and Kantor: "Do you think that the same thing is going to happen to my generation or if it will, I hope not, that people will react the same way?"

"We don't have control over what's going to happen in the future, but what we can tell you is there were people who participated in our investigation — women and other sources — who were motivated because they did want to bring about better protections for people your age," Twohey said. "You should know that there are people out there who are absolutely motivated and determined to help make sure things are safer for you guys."