REPORT: How NBC News tried to kill the Harvey Weinstein Story

The Huffpo has a story out now on how the top NBC News executives slow-walked the Harvey Weinstein story, only to try and kill it in the end:

HUFFPO – In mid-August, Ronan Farrow, an NBC News contributor, had secured an interview with a woman who was willing to appear on camera, in silhouette, her identity concealed, and say Harvey Weinstein had raped her, according to four people with close knowledge of the reporting. It was a pivotal moment in a testy, months-long process of reporting a story that had bedeviled a generation of media and Hollywood reporters.

Farrow had a lot of material already. In March, he had acquired a damning and much-coveted audio recording in which Weinstein admits to having groped an Italian model. He had interviews with former executives and assistants who’d worked closely with Weinstein who spoke about the culture of harassment and abuse he perpetrated. And now he had someone ready to accuse Weinstein of rape, on camera.

But at that moment Farrow was also caught in the pincers of an NBC News edict. He had been told by executives at NBC News that he didn’t have enough reporting to go on air with his Weinstein story, according to four sources, and he had been told by the network to stop reporting on it. NBC tried to put a stop to the interview with the woman accusing Weinstein of rape. The network insisted he not use an NBC News crew for the interview, and neither was he to mention his NBC News affiliation. And so that was how Ronan Farrow wound up paying out of his own pocket for a camera crew to film an interview.

As a project for NBC News, Farrow’s story was effectively dead. Later that month, he received permission to take his reporting to another news organization. The story that resulted, published Tuesday by The New Yorker, was a blockbuster: multiple women accusing Weinstein of rape and other sexual misconduct, accompanied by the audio of Weinstein admitting to sexual assault.

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim is now trying to paint a different story, but Huffpo has 12 sources that say otherwise:

At an NBC News town hall Wednesday, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said: “The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us. We were on that long list of places that chased this thing, tried to nail it, but weren’t ultimately the ones who broke it.”

Then he struck a rueful tone, suggesting that the NBC iteration of the story had died of natural causes. “We reached a point over the summer where we, as an organization, didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air,” he said.

Yet interviews with 12 people inside and outside NBC News with direct knowledge of the reporting behind Farrow’s story suggest a different cause of death. All of the sources who spoke to HuffPost asked not to be named, either because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media about the story or because they were fearful of retribution from NBC News executives. These sources detailed a months-long struggle within NBC News during which Oppenheim and other executives slow-walked Farrow’s story, crippling it with their qualms and irresolution.

Toward the end, the concerns seemed to take on a personal tone, and it became difficult to tell where the Weinstein team’s attempts to discredit the story left off and NBC News’ editorial forbearance began. According to multiple sources inside and outside of NBC News who worked on the aborted story, Oppenheim related to Farrow what Weinstein’s lawyers had said in complaint to NBC: that Farrow had a conflict of interest because Weinstein had helped revive the career of Farrow’s estranged father, director Woody Allen. Weinstein’s representatives would later use a similar line of attack when the story landed at The New Yorker. The magazine, known for its rigorous vetting process, saw no conflict of interest.

Oppenheim’s statement and the pushback that NBC News has been sharing on background to reporters conflicts significantly with the accounts of people who worked on the story inside NBC News and elsewhere, according to several sources with close knowledge of the reporting.

In other words, NBC News was caving to Weinstein’s pressure campaign to keep the story from seeing the light of day. Amazing.

It’s no wonder Oppenheim is trying his best to spin this now. His Comcast bosses are likely not very pleased with him and his team of executives.

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