×

Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein Scoop Draws Scrutiny to NBC News (Analysis)

The scene on last night’s “Rachel Maddow Show” was an awkward one. Ronan Farrow took to one of NBCUniversal’s own programs — often the most-watched cable news program in primetime — to push back against the notion that a blockbuster report he published on Tuesday in The New Yorker about disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein wasn’t ready for broadcast while it was first being prepared at NBC News.

Farrow had spent 10 months on the story while continuing to work as a contributor at NBC News, but the two sides can’t seem to agree if the reporting he showed NBC executives was ready for primetime, so to speak, even as word leaked yesterday that NBC News didn’t feel it could air what Farrow had gathered earlier. “I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public,” Farrow told Maddow on MSNBC. “Immediately the New Yorker recognized that, and it was not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations at NBC that it was reportable.” When asked by Maddow why the story ran in the New Yorker rather than on NBC, Farrow replied: “You would have to ask NBC and NBC executives about the details.”

The exchange represented a rare serving of grilled Peacock at NBCUniversal, which rarely conducts such business in public.

The gap between Farrow and NBC News has only served to draw more scrutiny to the news unit, which, for the second time in recent memory, has seen an important yet salacious story developed under its aegis break first at a rival. Last year, NBC had its corporate mitts on a shocker: a taped outtake from a 2005 broadcast of NBC’s “Access Hollywood” showing then-candidate Donald Trump bragging to then-correspondent Billy Bush about harassing women. The tape leaked to The Washington Post, however, which beat NBC News to the punch about a piece of material that had been sitting in the TV company’s archives for years.

In a town-hall meeting on Wednesday with staffers from NBC News and MSNBC, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim said NBC News could not air Farrow’s reporting at the time it reviewed it. “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,” Oppenheim said, according to a statement provided by NBC News. “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. 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.”

One person familiar with the process suggested Farrow had amassed strong material for NBC News. This person said three women were named in Farrow’s reporting. Where the two sides appear to disagree is on how many women would be willing to speak on the record, without appearing on camera in silhouette. This person did not speculate as to why the story did not move forward at NBC News.

A distraction of this sort only serves to hinder NBC News. Executives have other things to focus on, including the ongoing launch of Megyn Kelly’s 9 a.m. morning program, and an ongoing, scorched-earth battle with ABC News. “NBC Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News Tonight” are locked in a ratings war, as are NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“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,” said Oppenheim during the town hall. “The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us.”

Farrow’s MSNBC conversation with Maddow — on the record, on camera, and not in silhouette — would suggest not everyone shares the sentiment.

More TV

  • Billie Eilish 62nd Annual Grammy Awards,

    Grammys' Focus on Message Songs Meshes Well With Kobe-Mourning Mood: TV Review

    “It’s been a hell of a week,” said Alicia Keys, moments into her hosting gig on Sunday night’s Grammys telecast. “Damn! It’s a really serious one — real talk.” No kidding. Was this the first 99.9% joke-free Grammys, in the 62-year history of the telecast? Not that anyone should be complaining about that, exactly … not [...]

  • Feras Fayyad77th Annual Peabody Awards, Show,

    'The Cave' Director Feras Fayyad Finally Arrives in U.S. After Visa Troubles

    “The Cave” director Feras Fayyad has finally made it into the United States, weeks after he was denied entry into the country. According to National Geographic Documentary Films, which is behind the Oscar-nominated “The Cave,” “we can report that Feras arrived safely this evening in Los Angeles.” Fayyad’s arrival comes after he missed a Television [...]

  • I Sing the Body Electric

    'I Sing the Body Electric': How a 'Fame' Monster Was Reimagined for the Grammys

    Longtime Grammy telecast producer Ken Ehrlich has delivered his Grammy swan song (figuratively and literally), and it couldn’t have happened without … Walt Whitman. To usher out his 40-year era as the guiding light behind some of TV’s greatest musical moments, Ehrlich chose the song “I Sing the Body Electric” from the 1980 movie musical [...]

  • Kobe Bryant Staples Center memorial

    Kobe Bryant Mourners Gather Outside Staples Center to Remember Basketball Great

    Within hours of the news of Kobe Bryant’s death breaking, a fast-growing crowd of about two hundred people had gathered outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday to mourn the Lakers legend, who died earlier that day in a helicopter crash. Chants of “Kobe! Kobe!” broke out spontaneously outside of the sports [...]

  • Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile -

    Tanya Tucker Wins First Grammys, 47 Years After First Nomination

    Country music legend Tanya Tucker picked up her first two wins at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The 61-year-old singer won for best country song for “Bring My Flowers Now” and best country album for “While I’m Livin’.” “After 50 years in this business, I have a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content