NBC News on Tuesday pushed back against new statements from journalist Ronan Farrow and his producer, Rich McHugh, over its handling of Farrow’s investigation into harassment allegations levied against Harvey Weinstein, insisting that his story “was never cleared or approved for air by NBC News Legal or Standards.” NBC News also took issue with recent accounts by two women who have said NBC News had evidence that they had been hurt and declined to air it were not exactly accurate.
“While [Farrow] was told by his editors that several elements of the draft script were technically “reportable,” he was consistently advised that – even taken together – they were not yet sufficient to air a story alleging serial sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein without at least one victim or witness on the record,” NBC News said in a statement. “Precisely because the script was never ready for air, no one in the NBC News Standards department ever reviewed it.”
The matter has developed into a hot-potato issue for NBC News, and was exacerbated Tuesday morning when Megyn Kelly addressed the matter on her NBC morning program. She told her viewers. “There is a question as to whether an outside investigator should take a look at this,” Kelly said.
Farrow and McHugh last night responded to NBC News’ disclosure of how the news organization handled their investigation into Weinstein, which would go on to be published in The New Yorker and be awarded a Pulitzer. Farrow said his story “was twice cleared and deemed ‘reportable’ by legal and standards only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein.” McHugh said he had never been interviewed for the report.
NBC News’ handling of the issue has been under intense scrutiny since the fall of last year, when Farrow published a story about Weinstein in The New Yorker filled with on-the-record allegations about the movie mogul’s behavior toward women. New scrutiny of the situation sparked last week after Rich McHugh, NBC News’ former supervising producer of investigative reporting, accused top NBC News executives in an interview with The New York Times of trying to block him and Farrow from reporting on sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NBC News faced similar opprobrium in the fall of 2016 when it was scooped by The Washington Post on the existence of a tape from “Access Hollywood” — a show that is part of its parent, NBCUniversal – featuring a younger Donald Trump making lewd remarks about women and acknowledging he felt he had carte blanche to grab them by their genitals.
But NBC News has persisted in its portrayal of a story in progress that it says never reached a necessary standard for being put on the air. In statement after statement, NBC News has emphatically stated that Farrow’s reporting lacked the one element the network wanted to proceed: an on-the-record interview from a person alleging harassment by Weinstein done on camera.
NBC News also pressed back against accounts that it had or chose to ignore potential on-the-record accounts from women who said they were Weinstein victims. Emily Nestor, who has alleged Weinstein offered to help her career if she accepted his sexual advances, said in a statement Monday night that “Farrow and I discussed and I had tentatively offered either to attach my name to the interview in silhouette or potentially even reshoot the interview with my face visible. However, they were not interested in this interview.” Multiple parties have stated that actress Rose McGowan had named Weinstein in an off-camera interview, then retracted the statement she made via a cease-and-desist statement sent by an attorney.
NBC News said Nestor “was contacted during the editorial review process” by “an investigative producer with two decades of experience. That producer took contemporaneous notes of their conversation and at no time then or since did Nestor tell her or NBC News she was willing to be named. NBC News of course respected and honored that decision.”
Farrow did submit a draft script that included a reference to McGowan naming Weinstein in an off-camera discussion. But “Within days of that July 23 draft script being submitted, while Farrow attempted to get McGowan to name Weinstein on camera, she cancelled a follow up interview and her attorney sent NBC a cease and desist letter revoking all permission to use any material related to her,” NBC News said in its statement.