In a Vanity Fair exclusive, producer Rich McHugh writes that he resigned from NBC News “because they ordered me to stop reporting on Harvey Weinstein, and I did not believe that they had been truthful with me or Ronan Farrow.” Farrow, who was one of the first reporters to break the story about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, also says NBC told him to stop reporting on the story.
Ronan Farrow’s long-awaited new book Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators doesn’t release until next week (Oct. 15), but already the investigative tome has jumped to the No. 1 best-seller slot on Amazon and has prompted swift responses from the book’s biggest targets.
On Friday morning, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist visited ABC’s Good Morning America to weigh in on the headline-making responses that have surfaced since Farrow revealed some of the most explosive details Catch and Kill uncovers in a cover story with The Hollywood Reporter that published on Wednesday. Namely, Farrow punched back at the self-defense letter penned by former Today co-host Matt Lauer and the staff memo and statements given by top NBC executives in regards to the reporting Farrow details about his investigation into Harvey Weinstein.
Catch and Kill details alleged secret payouts at NBC News and how Lauer may have played a role in the network’s decision to kill Farrow’s Weinstein exposé that he had originally planned to take to NBC but eventually published in the New Yorker, and subsequently kicked off the #MeToo movement in October 2017. In the book, Farrow writes that, “Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer’s behavior and capable of revealing it.” (A rep for Weinstein tells THR, “Harvey insists that there is absolutely nothing factual about that account and he never did anything of the sort.”)
When sitting down with GMA‘s George Stephanopoulos, Farrow said NBC News ordered a “hard stop to reporting” on Weinstein, despite Farrow having a taped confession from Weinstein and multiple named women in his story. “They told me and a producer working on this that we should not take a single call; they told us to cancel interviews. The question for years has been, why? Because every journalist at that institution didn’t understand why. And I think the book answers that question. This was a company with a lot of secrets.”
Farrow also refuted NBC’s statement that his story took seven weeks to come together and didn’t meet the standard for publishing, instead pointing to his book’s reporting, which suggests that NBC News was afraid of the Lauer information getting out. “They halted reporting and this book explains why,” he added. “It is indisputable based on the evidence in this book that there was a chain of secret settlements at this company that were covered up with victims of harassment and assault. Some of them about Lauer, some of them about others in the company. This was a pattern; it was concealed from journalists there. This is bigger than NBC; it’s bigger than these executives. These are not highly public figures. The reason this reporting was important is because this is a pattern in media, in law, in politics; institutions that conceal abuse of this type let people get hurt and that’s something we should all care about.”
Farrow’s book uncovers seven allegations of workplace misconduct by Lauer and details for the first time the complaint that led to his firing, a sexual assault complaint from Meredith Vieira’s former producer Brooke Nevils that was filed the day before Lauer’s termination.
In response to the explosive claims made about NBC’s attempt to cover-up allegations surrounding Lauer, NBC News chairman Andy Lack said in a Wednesday memo to his staff that the “first moment” they learned of any bad behavior at the hands of Lauer was the night of Nov. 27, 2017 after Nevils filed her complaint, “and he was fired in 24 hours.” Adding, “Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.”
On GMA, however, Farrow doubled down on his reporting. “There were seven nondisclosure agreements, multiple ones of those were with Matt Lauer accusers. This is years before this incident with Brooke Nevils,” he said. Farrow said his book outlines with a paper trail and documents that there were multiple secret settlements and nondisclosures being struck with women at NBC News, including involving Lauer, over a period of six to seven years — refuting Lack’s statement that only two settlements were struck with Lauer accusers after his termination. (Following Lauer’s firing, Lack said NBCU’s legal team did an exhaustive investigation and “uncovered no claims or settlements associated with allegations of inappropriate conduct by Lauer before he was fired.”)
Lauer also broke his silence to pen a lengthy denial and hit back against what he described as “false and salacious allegations leveled at me.” He particularly denied the claim that he sexually assaulted Nevils. Nevils was Vieira’s assistant at the time of what she describes in the book as a rape, which she says took place in Lauer’s hotel room in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Her exit negotiation included a seven-figure payout and an NDA, after Vieira advised her to file the complaint once the Weinstein claims began reverberating in the fall of 2017.
The relationship did continue after that night, and in his response Lauer described the extramarital affair as “an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter,” claiming that every sexual act that night in Sochi was “mutual and completely consensual.”
Farrow told Stephanopoulos that the facts of Nevils case are extensively fact-checked and backed by documentation and eye witnesses that suggest that “there was an encounter here that she consistently has described as nonconsensual and she says that regardless of what happened before and after that and how he interpreted that, she said ‘no’ to a physical act.” He added that when Nevils reported the incident to NBC, she and her lawyer made it clear that her night with Lauer in Sochi was nonconsensual. Nevils herself called Lauer’s letter a “case study in victim blaming” when she spoke out on Wednesday.