Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill,” which was released on Tuesday, details the Pulitzer-winning reporter’s extensive investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s behavior toward women and chronicles his experiences doing so at NBC News, where he first worked on his exposé before taking it to The New Yorker.
NBC News has aggressively denied some of the reporting and details of Farrow’s account of his experiences at the network in the book, which unearths a lot of new material.
Here are some of the highlights:
1. Multiple women said the network was aware of sexual misconduct accusations against Matt Lauer long before he was fired.
When NBCUniversal fired former “Today” show host Matt Lauer following an accusation of sexual assault in 2017, the network had repeatedly claimed that it had not been aware of any prior complaints made against Lauer. Throughout 2018, however, Farrow said he learned of “seven claims of sexual misconduct raised by women who worked with Lauer.”
“Most of the women could point to documents or other people they’d told to back up their accounts. Several said they had told colleagues, and believed the network knew about the problem,” Farrow writes.
In a self-reported investigation into Lauer’s workplace conduct, NBCUniversal claimed that it “found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or Today Show leadership, News HR, or others in positions of authority in the News Division received any complaints about Lauer’s workplace behavior prior to November 27, 2017.”
In a letter sent on Monday, the day before the release of “Catch and Kill,” NBC News President Noah Oppenheim denied that the network knew of Lauer’s misconduct prior to 2017. “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,” Oppenheim wrote. “The only three examples we can find 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.”
2. NBCUniversal settled with at least seven women who said they experienced harassment or discrimination within the company and had them sign nondisclosure agreements.
Farrow found a “pattern surrounding women with complaints” in the years after 2011 or 2012 — the time frame that Kim Harris, NBCUniversal’s executive vice president and general counsel, claimed NBC didn’t settle with employees over harassment issues.
During that time, Farrow reported that NBC “brokered nondisclosure agreements with at least seven women who experienced alleged harassment or discrimination within the company.” Though several of these NDAs stemmed from complaints “unrelated to Lauer,” most of them were about other men in positions of power at NBC News, Farrow said.
“When Harris said she was unaware of any harassment settlements, she appeared to be capitalizing on a technicality: many of the payouts were what the network referred to as ‘enhanced severance,’ offered to the women as they left their jobs. But individuals involved — including on the company’s side — disputed that characterization, saying the agreements were designed to restrain women with allegations from speaking,” Farrow wrote.
The agreements also stipulated that the women “waive their right to bring suit” against NBCUniversal, often in exchange for substantial payouts that were “disproportionate to any conventional compensation for departing the company,” according to individuals with knowledge of the transactions who spoke to Farrow.
According to a network spokesman, “NDAs were absolutely standard in all separation agreements at that time.”
3. Brooke Nevils, a former NBC News producer, comes forward to accuse Matt Lauer of rape.
Nevils, who had previously shared her story anonymously and whose complaint led to Lauer’s termination, spoke on the record with Farrow to detail her interactions with Lauer. When the two were in Sochi for the 2014 Olympics, Nevils said that Lauer had anally raped her while she was too drunk to consent:
When Nevils arrived at his door, Lauer had changed into a tee shirt and boxers. As he pushed her against the door and began to kiss her, she became aware of how drunk she was. She recalled the room spinning. “I thought I was going to throw up,” she said. “I kept thinking, I’m gonna throw up on Matt Lauer.” She said that she felt acutely embarrassed about her baggy clothes and unshaved legs.
She recalled Lauer pushing her onto the bed, flipping her over, and asking if she liked anal sex. She said that she declined several times, replying, at one point, “No, that’s not my thing.” Nevils said that she was still in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested when he “just did it.” Lauer, she said, didn’t use lubricant. The encounter was excruciatingly painful. “It hurt so bad. I remember thinking, Is this normal?” She told me that she stopped saying no, but wept silently into a pillow. …
Nevils said that, regardless of Lauer’s interpretation of their exchanges before and after, what transpired in his room was not consensual. “It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” she said. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”
The experience — and ensuing sexual interactions with Lauer, some of which included nonconsensual fingering and others were what she described as “transactional” — had been traumatic for Nevils and led her to attempt suicide, according to the book. She had also been hospitalized for PTSD and had for a time abused alcohol. After telling some “Today” colleagues about her experience with Lauer, Nevils eventually went to NBC’s human resources in 2017 to report the incident that had occurred at the 2014 Olympics.
Eventually, NBC offered Nevils a seven-figure settlement “in exchange for her silence,” Farrow writes. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations also told Farrow that NBC had attempted to include a clause in the agreement that would have prevented Nevils from speaking with other Lauer accusers, but the producer had been able to “push back” against it. NBC denied that it had tried to include that clause.
Last week, Lauer denied the rape accusation and said that the affair was “mutual and completely consensual.”
4. Harvey Weinstein tried to leverage his knowledge of the accusations against Matt Lauer to pressure NBC News to kill Farrow’s story.
In May 2018, then-NBC News reporter William Arkin told Farrow that he heard from two network insiders that “Weinstein had made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer’s behavior and capable of revealing it.” Two more sources at American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer, also told Farrow they had “heard the same thing.” NBC and Weinstein, meanwhile, have both denied this claim.
5. NBC News editors and executives repeatedly discouraged Farrow and his producer at the time, Rich McHugh, from investigating Weinstein, according to Farrow. At times, they even called for a complete halt of reporting before NBC News President Noah Oppenheim officially killed the story.
Even as Farrow and McHugh managed to get more women on camera to chronicle more accusations against Weinstein, NBC News executives and editors stonewalled the two reporters as they got closer to the story, Farrow writes, recounting instructions to put it on the “back burner,” “give it a rest,” and “put a pause on all reporting and contact with sources.”
NBC eventually called for a legal review of the piece but the process stalled and key pieces of evidence, including a recording from an NYPD sting that caught Weinstein admitting to groping a woman, were not initially requested for review. Farrow wrote that Oppenheim, after listening to the tape, expressed hesitation that it was newsworthy.
At one point, when Farrow and McHugh were about to interview Rose McGowan on camera, their editor at the time — Rich Greenberg — told the two that they needed to “pause all reporting,” including taping the interview. Greenberg, according to Farrow, told the two reporters that the decision came from NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke and NBC News chairman Andy Lack.
“This is a Steve Burke decision. It’s an Andy [Lack] decision,” Greenberg said. “What I say is not gonna matter.”
Later in the reporting process, as the legal review continued to stall, Oppenheim encouraged Farrow to take the story to New York magazine instead, according to the book. When Farrow decided to take him up on his offer to take the piece elsewhere — to The New Yorker — Oppenheim said it was fine but said that Farrow could not continue any more reporting into the story with the blessing or support of NBC News.
In an email to staffers this week, Oppenheim insisted that Farrow’s reporting was not ready for air and that Farrow announced his desire to leave the network in early August while “two of the most seasoned investigative reporters at NBC News” were working “to review his reporting.”
6. Harvey Weinstein sent a gift to NBC News President Noah Oppenheim after he spiked the story.
Soon after the story was essentially killed at NBC News, Farrow writes, Weinstein sent a friendly note to Oppenheim about Megyn Kelly’s then-new daytime talk show on the network. Along with it came a gift: a bottle of Grey Goose.
A network insider said Oppenheim’s assistant didn’t pass the bottle to him since he doesn’t drink.
7. NBC hired someone to edit NBC News Wikipedia pages related to Farrow’s Weinstein reporting.
The network hired Ed Sussman, a “Wikipedia whitewasher” to edit pages referring to Lauer, Oppenheim, and Weinstein, according to Farrow. “He spun the material in NBC’s favor, sometimes weaving in errors. In one edit, he proposed that the month between the Weinstein story being greenlit and running at The New Yorker be revised to ‘several months.’ Other times, he simply removed all mention of controversies,” Farrow wrote. Oppenheim’s Wikipedia page, Farrow reports, had been “stripped of evidence of the killing of the Weinstein story.”
The network did not respond to a request for comment but confirmed its relationship with Sussman to HuffPost.
8. Farrow accuses attorney Lisa Bloom of duplicitousness.
Early in Farrow’s reporting, he contacted the attorney Lisa Bloom for advice on the non-disclosure agreements that he had been encountering. At the time, Farrow said he revealed to Bloom he was looking into Weinstein but asked Bloom to keep the information to herself. But after that initial call, Bloom would check in on Farrow seeking updates on his reporting.
“Bloom had said she was acquainted with Weinstein and his team — and, sure, she was attentive to her brand, and didn’t hate a press conference — but she had moral fiber I felt I could trust. Besides, she was a lawyer. Respecting confidences was the bedrock of our profession,” Farrow wrote. During that call, she asked if he had seen any of the non-disclosure agreements and asked, “How many women are you talking to? Can you tell me who they are? I may be able to help get you information, if you can share who you’re talking to.”
Farrow declined to share his sources, but let her know that there was a “growing” group of women.
Later, Farrow received a letter from Weinstein’s legal team threatening him over his reporting, which he had then taken to The New Yorker.
Bloom would call again:
“Lisa, you swore, as an attorney and a friend, that you wouldn’t tell his people,” I said.
“Ronan,” she replied. “I am his people.”
I thought of her calls and texts and voicemails pressing me for information, dangling clients, enticing me to meet about Blac Chyna. Bloom reminded me that she’d mentioned she knew Weinstein and [David] Boies. But that was after she made the promise not to disclose anything I told her. And she hadn’t let on that she was actually representing Weinstein in the matter she kept asking about.
During that call, Bloom told Farrow that Weinstein had optioned the movie rights for her book and put her in an awkward position. “Ronan, you need to come in. I can help. I can talk to David and Harvey. I can make this easier for you,” she told him.
“Lisa, this is not appropriate,” Farrow responded.
“I don’t know what women you’re talking to,” she said. “But I can give you information about them. If it’s Rose McGowan, we have files on her. I looked into her myself when this first came up. She’s crazy.”
Responding by email, Bloom told The Wrap, “I was always truthful in the few calls Ronan and I had.”
9. Farrow kept evidence of his reporting in a safe-deposit box with a letter in case something happened to him.
In the basement underneath a Bank of America in New York, Farrow kept a safe-deposit box with flash drives and other evidence he obtained from his reporting. He had been warned by other sources of the lengths to which Weinstein would go to silence the story and, throughout “Catch and Kill,” Farrow had a nagging feeling he was being watched and followed — a feeling that he would later confirm was true.
Earlier in his reporting while still at NBC News, Farrow left a note with instructions on what to do with the information in case something happened to him:
If you’re reading this, it’s because I can’t make this information public myself. This is the blueprint to assembling a story that could bring a serial predator to justice. Multiple reporters who have attempted to break this story have faced intimidation and threats. I have already received threatening calls from intermediaries. Noah Oppenheim at NBC News should be able to access the associated video footage. Should anything happen to me, please make sure this information is released.
10. Shortly after Farrow’s story was killed at NBC News, NBCUniversal and the Weinstein Company were in talks for a home video and video-on-demand deal.
Around September 2017, Weinstein had reached out to Ron Meyer, then the head of Universal Pictures and vice chairman of NBCUniversal, for a potential home video and video-on-demand deal with The Weinstein Company. An individual with knowledge of NBCUniversal’s operations confirmed this week that the deal had been in the works but did not ultimately come to fruition.
Weinstein was fired from the company he co-founded and ran on October 7, 2017 — just days after bombshell stories by Farrow in The New Yorker as well as Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times detailing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. (TWC filed for bankruptcy the following March; Weinstein, who is facing criminal charges in New York, has repeatedly denied any criminal wrongdoing.)
11. An aide to Hillary Clinton called Farrow with “concern” about his Weinstein reporting.
Nick Merrill, one of Clinton’s aides, called Farrow in August 2017 to let him know his team had heard about his “big story” and to express “concern.” During that call, Merrill told Farrow that an interview they had scheduled beforehand with Clinton for a foreign-policy book that Farrow was also working on at the time would have to be postponed.
As I pushed through the downpour and into my building’s front door, a call came in from Nick Merrill, Clinton’s flack. We discussed the [foreign-policy] book briefly, and then he said, “By the way, we know about the big story you’re on.”
I sat down on one of the chairs in my building’s lobby. “Well, Nick, I’m probably working on a lot of stories at any given time.”
“You know what I mean,” he said.
“I really can’t say anything.”
“Well, you know, it’s a concern for us.”
I felt a rivulet of rain run down my neck. “Can I ask who said this to you?” I said.
“Maybe off the record, over drinks,” he replied. “Let’s just say people are talking.”
As for the Clinton interview, Farrow said that “every attempt to lock a date for the interview yielded another terse note that she’d become suddenly unavailable. She’d injured her foot. She was too tired. Clinton, meanwhile, was becoming one of the most easily available interviews in all of politics.”
Later, Farrow said that Merrill would “swear up and down that Clinton’s sudden reticence was coincidental” and not related to his reporting on Weinstein.