Journalist Ronan Farrow’s award-winning investigative report on disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein not only highlighted the extent of sexual misconduct and abuse in the entertainment industry, it also played a huge part in launching the global Me Too movement, encouraging hundreds of thousands of women to raise their voice against their assailants and harassers.
Farrow also won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and the prestigious George Polk Award for National Reporting for his work, which was eventually published in the New Yorker magazine after NBC News, where the 30-year-old journalist used to work, refused to run the story.
Now, nearly a year after the Weinstein story made headlines, former NBC News producer Rich McHugh, who worked with Farrow on investigating the rape and misconduct allegations against the movie producer, opened up about how the network allegedly worked to kill the bombshell report.
“At a critical juncture in our reporting on Harvey Weinstein, as we were about to interview a woman with a credible allegation of rape against him, I was told not to do the interview and ordered to stand down, thus effectively killing the story,” McHugh, who left NBC earlier this month, said in the statement.
According to The Daily Beast, he “quit in protest” over the Weinstein story.
In an interview published by The New York Times, which also won a Pulitzer price for its reporting on the Weinstein scandal, McHugh said the order to put a stop to Farrow’s story came from “the very highest levels of NBC.” He also accused the network of “a massive breach of journalistic integrity,” claiming it was “resistant” to the story from the beginning.
“Is there anyone in the journalistic community who actually believes NBC didn’t breach its journalistic duty to continue reporting this story? Something else must have been going on,” he said in a statement provided by his attorney, Ari Wilkenfeld. “As a journalist for 16 years I do know that when you have an explosive story you never let it walk out the door. You keep digging for more so you can publish it at your network. NBC owed it to those brave women who spoke to us to get their stories out.”
In its report, the Daily Beast said NBC News General Counsel Susan Weiner threatened to smear Farrow if he continued to work on the story that eventually brought Weinstein down – a claim that the network has vehemently refuted.
“This is a ridiculous claim by all measures. Susan is a person of tremendous integrity, is respected by all her peers and would never, ever threaten someone,” said an NBC News spokesperson.
The media company also released a statement calling McHugh’s assertions “an outright lie.”
“In August of 2017, after NBC News assigned Ronan Farrow to investigate Weinstein and supported his reporting efforts for eight months, Farrow believed his reporting was ready for air. NBC disagreed because, unfortunately, he did not yet have a single victim of — or witness to — misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified. Dissatisfied with that decision, Farrow chose to leave for a print outlet that he said was willing to publish immediately,” it read. “NBC News told him ‘we will not stand in your way,’ and allowed him to take his reporting to The New Yorker, where, two months later, he published a strong piece that cited the following victims by name: Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Canes, Jessica Barth, and Sophie Dix. Not one of these seven women was included in the reporting Farrow presented while at NBC News.”
Moreover, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim told The New York Times the journalist was never told to drop the story.
“He was never told to stop in the way he’s implying,” he claimed. “We repeatedly made clear to Ronan and Rich McHugh the standard for publication is we needed at least one credible on-the-record victim or witness of misconduct. And we never met that threshold while Ronan was reporting for us.”
McHugh’s claims come at a time when NBC News is already facing scrutiny in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against former “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer who has since been fired.
Meanwhile, Weinstein has been accused of sexually assaulting at least 70 women and is facing at least three rape charges in Manhattan. He claims to be innocent and denies having non-consensual sex with any of the accusers.
Moreover, a Manhattan federal judge also ruled that a sex trafficking lawsuit against the former movie producer may go to trial.
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