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NBC News President: Notion That We Would Cover for Powerful Person Is ‘Deeply Offensive’

The president of NBC News told staffers Wednesday that the NBCUniversal unit was unable to come up with “all the elements that we needed to air” an investigation into Harvey Weinstein, even though freelance correspondent Ronan Farrow had started work on such a project under NBC News’ aegis last year and took his work to The New Yorker, where it has had a significant effect on the news cycle.

“Ronan, who was not working for us exclusively, began reporting on that story for NBC. We are proud of that. We launched him on that story, we encouraged him to report that story. We supported him and gave him resources to report that story over many, many months. The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us,” said NBC News president Noah Oppenheim at a” town hall” meeting, according to a statement provided by NBC News.  “Like pretty much every newspaper and magazine in L.A. and New York, the New York Times up until last week, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, you name it, 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.”

Oppenheim was working to quell growing scrutiny of NBC News’ handling of a story that has now captured the fascination of Hollywood, Wall Street and Silicon Valley. While the allegations against Weinstein were reported first by The New York Times, Farrow’s work in The New Yorker includes harrowing descriptions of Weinstein’s behavior from women including Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette and Mira Sorvino. Weinstein was fired by the board of the Weinstein Company on Sunday, in the wake of allegations revealed in the New York Times that he had been harassing women for many years.

While Farrow on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Rachel Maddow Show” said he felt his work could have aired at NBC, Oppenheim told staffers he did not agree. “We reached a point over the summer, where as an organization, we didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it. Ronan very understandably wanted to keep forging ahead, so, we didn’t want to stand in his way and he took it to the New Yorker and did a ton more extraordinary work. He greatly expanded the scope of his reporting,” Oppeneheim said “Suffice to say, the stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday, was not the story that we were looking at when we made our judgment several  months ago.”

A person familiar with the matter has suggested that Farrow had spoken with several women for the NBC News piece, but the two sides appear to disagree on how many would be willing to speak on the record, without appearing on camera in silhouette.

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