The president of NBC News pushed back on some of the explosive claims made by Farrow Monday, calling into question an allegation that the NBCUniversal news outlet knew about sexual misconduct by former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer before he was fired in 2017 – and that Lauer’s conduct was used as a way to squelch Farrow’s reporting on similar allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“Farrow alleges there were employees who reported Lauer’s behavior prior to November of 2017 and were paid settlements to silence them,” said Noah Oppenheim, NBC News’ president, in a memo to staff. “Not only is this false, the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.”
“We have no secrets and nothing to hide,” he added.
Farrow and NBC News have been locked in a seismic battle of journalistic claims. He maintains in his book that NBC News sought to obstruct and contain his quest to report on a spate of clams of sexual harassment by Weinstein. NBC News has for months maintained it allocated many resources to his efforts, including multiple producers, but could not approve the airing of the report without having an accuser going on the record with claims on camera.
Farrow left NBC News with his reporting and was able to turn it into an explosive article that appeared in The New Yorker. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for public-service reporting with The New York Times, which also posted an investigation into allegations made against Weinstein.
NBC News released the retort — a pages-long memo filled with rebuttals to individual assertions made in Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill” — while the celebrated journalist was making a TV appearance on “CBS This Morning.” Confronted with some of the NBC News statements on air, Farrow said he’d let his reporting stand for itself. He has created a new whirlwind of suspicion and doubt around NBC News by presenting for the first time comments from a former NBC News staffer who alleges Lauer raped her during NBC News’ coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Lauer has denied the allegation. He was dismissed by NBC in 2017 for what was at the time said to be “inappropriate sexual behavior.”
In his book, Farrow alleges movie mogul Harvey Weinstein threatened to expose Lauer’s behavior while Farrow was reporting on claims of sexual harassment made against the entertainment executive — an accusation NBC News strongly denied Monday. “Farrow asserts this based entirely on third-hand rumor. Farrow cites William Arkin, a former NBC employee, who says he was ‘told’ this by anonymous third parties,” Oppenheim said in the memo. “He offers no corroboration. Because it did not happen.”
Loss of the Weinstein story has haunted NBC News, which has come under criticism by both outside critics and its own employees. But executives felt at the time that Farrow’s reporting did not meet its standard. People familiar with the network’s vetting process have said executives believed Farrow felt he was under pressure to bring the story home because he knew The New York Times was working on a parallel investigation.
Oppenheim said in his memo that Farrow worked on the Weinstein story until August of 2017, and was then “told two of the most seasoned investigative reporters at NBC News would work with him to advance the story. They immediately recognized it was not ready for air. While they worked to review his reporting and chart a path forward, he announced his desire to leave.”
Speaking on “CBS This Morning,” Farrow said the claims made in “Catch and Kill” were put through a fact-checking process.