NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack sent a memo to staff on Monday calling recent accusations baseless that the news organization buried journalist Ronan Farrow’s investigative piece into then sexual harassment rumors surrounding Harvey Weinstein.
“We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News — like many others before us — still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record. (Rose McGowan — the only woman Farrow interviewed who was willing to be identified — had refused to name Weinstein and then her lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter.) So we had nothing yet fit to broadcast,” Lack wrote in the memo obtained by TheWrap. “But Farrow did not agree with that standard. That‘s where we parted ways — agreeing to his request to take his reporting to a print outlet that he said was ready to move forward immediately.”
Farrow’s reporting later resulted in a New Yorker piece that assisted in Weinstein’s downfall and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Questions regarding NBC’s decision not to air the story have resurfaced in recent days. Last week, Rich McHugh, a former producer of the NBC News investigative unit, told the New York Times that people at “the very highest levels of NBC” worked to quash the story at the network. NBC denied the accusation, calling it an “outright lie.”
“Contrary to recent allegations, at no point did NBC obstruct Farrow’s reporting or ‘kill’ an interview,” Lack said in his memo. “Immediately after Farrow had parted ways with us, he asked for NBC cameras to record another anonymous Weinstein victim. Farrow conducted the interview but we declined the request for a crew because we believed filming another anonymous interview would not get us any closer to clearing the threshold to broadcast, and because he had already informed us he was pursuing the story for another outlet.”
Lack said in the memo that when NBC and Farrow agreed to part ways in August 2017, the organization asked a group of experienced investigative journalist to review Farrow’s reporting to determine if the story was ready to broadcast.
“Their conclusion was unequivocal – this story is not ready for air. (Further, they found several elements in Farrow’s draft script which did not hold up to scrutiny – described in the accompanying document.) It was Farrow’s decision, in the midst of this process, to pursue the story elsewhere,” Lack wrote.
According to Lack, one of the major road blocks NBC faced in reporting the story was the dearth of on-the-record interviews with accusers on camera.
Lack points out in his memo that once the story ran in The New Yorker last October, Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Caunes, Jessica Barth and Sophie Dix were all named in the article.
Lack said not one of those women were included in the reporting Farrow had at NBC when he left in August.
“NBC might have ultimately broken the story, but we wondered then, and still wonder now, whether the brave women who spoke to him in print would have also sat before TV cameras and lights,” Lack wrote. “If we had tried to hold him and nothing changed, we would have needlessly blocked him from disseminating it via another forum. And that is why we agreed to let him go elsewhere.
“If some believe that decision a failure of our competitive instincts, so be it. But it was a decision undertaken honorably and with good intentions toward Farrow and his work.”
Late Monday, Farrow blasted back at Lack’s memo, which he said included “false or misleading” statements. He said that the network’s “list of sources is incomplete and omits women who were either identified in the NBC story or were willing to be.”
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) September 4, 2018