The Weinstein Effect: A Culture Of Complicity On Next Question
By Diana Brown
October 22, 2019
In 2017, journalist Ronan Farrow published an exhaustive investigative report on the multiple sexual harrassment, sexual assault, and rape allegations against Hollywood heavyweight, Harvey Weinstein. Since the article came out, more and more women have come forward against Harvey, and various other famous and powerful men, alleging similar experiences, horrifying reports of stalking and intimidation to keep them quiet, as well as a corporate culture that kept these stories from coming to light. Ronan has claimed that, though NBC originally assigned him to look into the Harvey Weinstein allegations, executives also worked hard to squash the story, leading Ronan to take it to the New Yorker. On this episode of Next Question, Katie Couric sits down with Ronan to learn more about how the story came together, the heartbreaking amount of evidence and testimonies he collected that he details in his new book, Catch and Kill, and the extreme lengths Harvey went to to keep him quiet.
Ronan hadn’t set out to take down Harvey Weinstein, he says; he was working on a mini-series for the Today Show about Hollywood, and one of the topics was the casting couch. “Very quickly, the conversations about Harvey Weinsten turned from...transactional sexual relationships in the workplace, which is already a serious conversation to have, to something that was more serious and even criminal.” He got extremely personal testimonies from several women, willing to be named and go on the record, even to go on air and tell their story. But suddenly, NBC wasn’t interested. “At the same time that they are making these arguments...that it is not appropriate for a news organization to report on secret sexual harassment settlements, they are brokering and enforcing their own secret sexual harassment settlements within NBC,” Ronan tells Katie. He was told to hold off until NBC Universal had done an internal investigation. “Which struck me as very strange, because it wasn’t an NBC News investigation, but an NBC Universal investigation,” Katie points out, wondering why a corporate review of a story would need to “go all the way up to Steve Burke, the CEO of NBC Universal?” Ronan tells her that, though it sounds incredible, the truth was Harvey Weinstein was leaning on the executives; “in at least 15 secret calls, he extracted promises from them that this story would be killed.”
That was when Ronan realized that he had essentially opened a Pandora’s Box of sexual misconduct that touched on executives not only at the Weinstein Company, but at NBC, CBS, AMI, and many more. “It’s bigger than any one network,” he says. “This is about patterns of complicity and cover up that allow people to get hurt in an ongoing way at these companies, and allow our most important news institutions to bow to powerful people.” When Ronan took the story to the New Yorker, they immediately recognized its importance and published a mere four weeks later. But NBC tried to muddy the timeline, claiming that it took months for the report to come out after they had refused to air it. “NBC has now admitted to hiring a Wikipedia whitewashing service to scrub...references to this scandal, to separate out sentences that mentioned both Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein in a connected way,” from their executives’ pages, Ronan says. “When you see a news organization scrubbing the public record in this way...it really does raise the ways in which this is bigger than one network, one company. This is about the truth.”
Both Ronan and Katie express dismay at hearing these allegations about coworkers and colleagues, and many journalists at NBC and elsewhere felt the same, Ronan says; they asked many times for an independent investigation of the network, not only into the internal misconduct, but into the cover-up of the Weinstein story. Ronan relates an “incredible scene” where NBC investigative journalists push the general counsel, Kim Harris, for an outside review, saying it will help the problem go away. “She says, ‘Well, if the press would stop talking about it, it’ll go away,’” Ronan tells us. “A reporter in the room says, ‘We are the press.’”
Join Ronan and Katie to hear more of this important story: the Israeli spies who tailed Ronan, watching his home; the upsetting truth about the lengths NBC and other companies went to to protect these powerful men; the company “consensus” that stopped investigations in their tracks and, as Ronan says, “swallowed women whole,” on this episode of Next Question.
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