A great question, first raised by Jake Tapper on Twitter, and to her credit Rachel Maddow asks it of Ronan Farrow on her NBC platform. After conducting a lengthy interview with Farrow about his bombshell follow-up on Harvey Weinstein, Maddow wonders why Farrow didn’t publish it at NBC, where he remains under contract. Farrow won’t give any specifics, but alludes to the pressure media organizations have felt whenever they’ve tried to report on Weinstein, leaving the impression that NBC buckled:
NBC disputed this yesterday, claiming that Farrow hadn’t nailed down the story when he brought it to them with on-record testimony from Weinstein’s victims. Maddow brings up that argument, to which Farrow strenuously objects. “I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier,” he tells Maddow. Farrow also insinuates that NBC is not being truthful about their internal review of his reporting. “And it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC,” Farrow insists.
The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove — who relates his own story of Weinstein intimidation — says it’s tough to determine who’s right in this dispute. Sources within NBC are telling him two different stories too, but an outsider familiar with the whole story says the issue clearly wasn’t the reporting:
Sources inside and outside NBC, meanwhile, challenged the network’s assertion that Farrow had obtained no usable on-the-record, on-camera interviews with Weinstein’s alleged victims. By several accounts, at least eight women claiming to have been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted by Weinstein had agreed to go on camera—most of them anonymously in shadow, but two alleged victims with their names and faces. A third alleged victim was willing to allow her name to be used, but not her on-camera image, according to sources, and at least two of the women who spoke to NBC News ultimately ended up in The New Yorker piece.
Those claims, however, were heatedly contradicted by other network insiders, who said Farrow had not arranged a sufficient number of usable on-camera interviews with Weinstein’s alleged victims, especially on-the-record interviews, to produce a story that could legitimately be broadcast by a major television network. Meanwhile, it was decided that the sting tape, absent context, could not be the basis for a stand-alone story. …
According to a television-industry insider familiar with Farrow’s NBC News project, however, “Farrow and his producer had been working this for 10 months. They had eight interviews on camera, with a mix of silhouette and not-silhouette—so eight women speaking. They had an NYPD audio tape, and they had enough for a story. And NBC did everything they could to delay it, complicate it, and ultimately Noah [Oppenheim] killed it. NBC shut it down.”
This person continued: “It is what it is, and everybody can see it. It’s crazy. There’s no reason, journalistically, for the story to have been killed. Obviously, there was some other reason—and I don’t know what that is.”
HuffPost has a shorter piece on NBC’s decision to spike the story, with less depth than Grove’s report but with a killer tag line:
Journalist Lynn Hirschberg, who has covered Hollywood for years, told HuffPost that Farrow had called her seeking help for the story. “He said he was doing a special for NBC News,” she said. “He had somebody who was willing to be on camera. He definitely never said a word about the New Yorker….”
The issue, she said, wasn’t with Farrow’s journalism, but with that of NBC: “It’s really a question about NBC’s courage.”
Seems like there’s more to this story than simply a lack of intestinal fortitude. Weinstein spent decades building top-rank political, industrial, and personal connections, and it might just be that any or all three of them had the effect of shielding Weinstein from scrutiny. The question will be whether media outlets will pursue that possibility.