NBC on Defense Ahead of Ronan Farrow #MeToo Book: ‘We Have No Secrets and Nothing to Hide’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 18: Ronan Farrow speaks onstage at the 78th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony Sponsored By Mercedes-Benz at Cipriani Wall Street on May 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images for Peabody)
Mike Pont/Getty Images for Peabody

The head of NBC News is on the defense ahead of the release on Tuesday of Rowan Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, about his reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal that includes claims of widespread sexual abuse inside the media outlet.

Farrow was first reporting on Weinstein for NBC, but the network spiked the story, it says, because of insufficient evidence. Then the New Yorker published Farrow’s investigative piece about the now disgraced Hollywood mogul and his alleged serial sex abuse of women, including rape.

And now in Farrow’s book a much darker picture of NBC and its mistreatment of women is emerging, including from a woman who said she was raped by former NBC anchor Matt Lauer, who was fired by the company for sexual misconduct in 2017.

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to staff that New York magazine reporter Bashar Ali tweeted out:

Matt Lauer’s actions were abhorrent, and the anger and sadness he caused continue to this day.

Ronan Farrow’s book takes that undeniable fact and twists it into a lie — alleging we were a “company with a lot of secrets.”

We have no secrets and nothing to hide.

Now that we’ve read Farrow’s book, it’s clear — his smear rests on the allegation that NBC’s management knew about and took steps to hide Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November of 2017. Without that, he has no basis on which to rest his second conspiracy theory — that Harvey Weinstein reporting was squashed to protect Lauer.

The letter includes an analysis of the book by NBC’s “legal team” in an attempt to discredit the book.

“It’s built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies,” Oppenheim wrote.

But Farrow pushed back in media interviews, including with CBS on Monday.

“This book is an extraordinarily, meticulously fact-checked work of investigative journalism,” Farrow said. “It’s two years of reporting. One of the senior fact checkers at the New Yorker checked it.”

“I’ll let the reporting and the book stand on its own,” Farrow said. “We’re very confident in it and it’s been amazing to see how the press have rallied around it. I think people have seen it for what it is.”

Farrow also said that NBC had an “enhanced severance” protocol.

“These were explicitly arrangements to shut up women with allegations of misconduct at this company,” Farrow said in the CBS interview.

Farrow also said he as amazed at the “outpouring of support from journalists at this company,” referring to NBC.

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Farrow discussed Brooke Nevils, the Lauer accuser who spoke publicly for the first time in the book:

In Brooke Nevils’ case, this was a very powerful person at a company that she worked at who she had to have professional encounters with. And she describes instances where she was desperately trying to stop this and tortured by it and would have to come to him for professional reasons. And he would, by her telling – and he denies this – demand sex acts in his office when she was just trying to do her job.

So yes, there’s a complicated mix of contact afterwards where she was – readily concedes that there were communications where she was trying to not make him angry, where she feared for her career, where she was trying to make it OK in her own narrative to herself and stay cheerful about it – but that this was never something she described as an affair. This was a painful, agonizing process, even in those encounters after the alleged assault.

Farrow told NPR that Lauer was just the tip of the iceberg.

“I’m referring to a wider pattern that is about executives at the company, others at the company and, indeed, in several cases … with women who had complaints, including serious ones, about Matt Lauer years prior to his firing.”

“And I personally spoke to executives who were told about the problem,” Farrow said.

Farrow also called out Oppenheim in the book about his “anti-feminist” writings from when he was a student at Harvard.

Weekend Edition Sunday host Lulu Garcia-Navarro said:

I want to talk a little bit about Noah Oppenheim. In the book, you uncover some anti-feminist writing from his days at The Harvard Crimson. One read, apparently, women enjoy being confined, pumped full of alcohol and preyed upon. They feel desired, not demeaned – talking about women going to frat parties. Why is that relevant?

Farrow said:

You know, I go to pains to say Noah Oppenheim was young when he wrote that, that people grow and change. In the context of the book, it becomes relevant because this is someone who is making very similar arguments in the present day as a rationale for shutting down this story, saying, you know, this is simply not news. This does not matter.

The “Dear Colleague” letter on Twitter cuts off before Oppenheim lists what he wrote are “egregious examples” of inaccuracies in the book.

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