Everyone knew that the decision by NBC News to bail on the Harvey Weinstein story was among the most cowardly media episodes of modern times. The shorthand version goes like this: Ronan Farrow, a former MSNBC daytime anchor, worked to document Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment under the auspices of NBC News for several months. After much internal turmoil, he took the story to the New Yorker, which published it to great effect in fall 2017. It landed just after a New York Times exposé of Weinstein by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

Responding to an uproar about the network’s decisions, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim told staffers at the time, “It would pain all of us … if anyone at this organization thought there was anything to be ashamed of in that decision-making process … The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us.”

In light of that statement, NBC News must be in a lot of pain these days. That’s because claims from Farrow’s much-anticipated new book, “Catch and Kill,” are now surfacing in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, adding a coat of fresh polyurethane to the depravity and mismanagement at NBC News.

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An allegation of rape against fired “Today” show star Matt Lauer tops the revelations to emerge thus far. Variety reports that former NBC News employee Brooke Nevils claims that Lauer raped her in his hotel room while the two were covering the Sochi Olympics in 2014. From the Variety report:

Once she was in his hotel room, Nevils alleges, Lauer — who was wearing a T-shirt and boxers — pushed her against the door and kissed her. He then pushed her onto the bed, “flipping her over, asking if she liked anal sex,” Farrow writes. “She said that she declined several times.”
According to Nevils, she “was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it,’” Farrow writes. “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 she stopped saying no, but wept silently into a pillow.” Lauer then asked her if she liked it. She tells him yes. She claims that “she bled for days,” Farrow writes.
Nevils tells Farrow: “It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” she says. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”

Farrow reports that sources close to Lauer “emphasized” that Nevils later initiated subsequent sexual encounters with Lauer, a situation for which Nevils blames herself. “What is not in dispute is that Nevils, like several of the women I’d spoken to, had further sexual encounters with the man she said assaulted her,” writes Farrow, who reports that Nevils told many colleagues — including superiors — at NBC News and NBC’s Peacock Productions about the situation.

In response to these allegations, Lauer has penned a long denial released to Variety by his lawyer. In that encounter, writes Lauer, he and Nevils had various kinds of sex, all of it consensual. “The story Brooke tells is filled with false details intended only to create the impression this was an abusive encounter,” he writes. “Nothing could be further from the truth. There was absolutely nothing aggressive about that encounter. Brooke did not do or say anything to object. She certainly did not cry. She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner. At no time did she behave in a way that made it appear she was incapable of consent. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do. The only concern she expressed was that someone might see her leaving my room. She embraced me at the door as she left.”

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NBC News fired Lauer in November 2017 after receiving Nevils’s complaint, though she wasn’t named at the time. “Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time,” NBC News told Variety. “That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”

The Lauer fiasco went down more than one month after Farrow had published his Weinstein scoop in the New Yorker. Just how NBC News executives lost Farrow’s investigation is the subject of “a great deal of the narrative” in “Catch and Kill,” as the Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie puts it. According to Farrow, Weinstein thought he might be able pressure NBC News to kill Farrow’s reporting by deploying complaints against Lauer. “Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer’s behavior and capable of revealing it,” Farrow writes in the book. Among the more sensational details is that Weinstein consulted with Dylan Howard, chief content officer of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, to compile, in effect, kompromat against Lauer with which to hammer NBC News.

The network issued this statement to Guthrie: “NBC News was never contacted by AMI, or made aware in any way of any threats from them, or from anyone else, for that matter. And the idea of NBC News taking a threat seriously from a tabloid company about Matt Lauer is especially preposterous, since they already covered him with great regularity.”

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There’s much more from Farrow’s new book:

*Weinstein pressured top NBC executives over and over to kill the story. The main targets were Oppenheim, NBC News/MSNBC Chairman Andy Lack and MSNBC President Phil Griffin. These fellows were known as the “triumvirate” to Weinstein assistants who were helping the famous producer place his calls. “I’m very clear about the fact that Harvey was laying siege to NBC,” Farrow told Guthrie. “I don’t mean that all of them all of the time were dying to get these calls. But I think what is inappropriate is the way in which they continued to take those calls, and in some cases meetings, and to engage with him in a warm and friendly way that was then concealed as they killed the story.”

*NBC News claims that Farrow had taken the story to the New Yorker by mid-August, though the two sides disagree about the specifics. As Farrow tells it, there were “ongoing” conversations about NBC News doing a follow-up piece to whatever surfaced in the New Yorker. In late August, he asked for a camera crew to assist with an interview of a Weinstein accuser. Here’s what happened next, from the Hollywood Reporter:

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Farrow recounts he then had a testy phone call with Susan Weiner, NBC News general counsel, during which she warned him to stop representing himself as an NBC reporter or she would be forced to “publicly disclose” that he had been “terminated.” Farrow writes that Weiner told him, “Obviously we don’t want to publicly discuss your contract status, but we will be forced to do so if we receive any more complaints about this.” (NBC News says this was because it was no longer vetting his work.)

*The exchanges surrounding the killing of the NBC News story on Weinstein are abysmal:

Though his contract with NBC News would not expire until October 2017, Farrow says by September, Weinstein was given assurances by executives that he was no longer working on the story for NBC. Farrow cites a phone call in which Griffin told Weinstein the story was not running as well as a call between Weinstein attorney David Boies and Lack during which Lack told Boies: “We’ve told Harvey we’re not doing a story. If we decide to do a story, we’ll tell him.” Weinstein was ecstatic, boasting in his offices that he would also quash the rumored Times piece: “If I can get a network to kill a story, how hard can a newspaper be?” Later, Weinstein would send Oppenheim an email acknowledging their prior friction (“I know we’ve been on opposite sides of the fence …”) and complimenting Megyn Kelly’s morning TV debut: “… she was terrific … the format is outstanding …” (He did not mention Farrow.) Oppenheim responded: “Thanks Harvey, appreciate the well-wishes!” Weinstein then sent Oppenheim a bottle of Grey Goose vodka.

Bolding inserted to highlight extraordinary naivete by Weinstein. There’s another book currently in circulation — “She Said,” by Kantor and Twohey — that documents Weinstein’s vigorous efforts to kill their story. It’s a spellbinding tale of two reporters, plus a team of supportive editors and colleagues, against a deep-pocketed subject who finances the best journalism-opposition team in the business.

What’s clear from reading “She Said” and the abridgments of “Catch and Kill” is that NBC News was, in fact, a far easier target for Weinstein than was the Times. As a large corporate TV news outlet, it afforded Weinstein multiple avenues to exert his tedious pressure. Example: Weinstein sought the support of NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer on a home video deal for material produced by Weinstein Co. “I look forward to us being in business together,” Meyer wrote to Weinstein in September 2017. After the Times published its Weinstein story, Meyer “apparently” passed along words of support. “Dear Ron, I just got your message, and thank you,” Weinstein responded, according to Farrow. (The business deal didn’t come to fruition).

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All these details are damning; they raise questions as to why the NBC News leadership remains in place, and they show how elites protect elites.

Yet nothing condemns NBC News quite like its own words. In defending the network’s actions to Guthrie, Oppenheim made this argument, triggered by Farrow’s statement on MSNBC in October 2017 that he had a “reportable” story when he took it to the New Yorker: “He had just made the false claim on Rachel Maddow that he had left NBC with an ‘explosively reportable’ story. This was belied by the fact that it took The New Yorker another 53 days to publish its story on Weinstein, which turned out to be completely different than what he had presented to us.”

Think about the self-condemnation in that statement, which says, in effect: Once Farrow took his file out of our bureaucratic hellhole, he produced a Pulitzer-winning story in less than two months!

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