The chairman of NBC News, Andrew Lack, pushed back Monday against reports last week that questioned whether the network gave in to pressure when it rejected Ronan Farrow’s story on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. In a memo to NBC News employees Monday evening, Lack clearly explained why the news network felt it could not air the allegations against Weinstein, insisting Farrow did not have the goods. Attached to the statement was a long document detailing the reporting process.
“We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News—like many others before us—still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record,” Lack said to staffers in the memo. Lack sent the memo shortly after a producer who worked with Farrow told the New York Times that NBC News moved to kill the story, which is what led him to take it to the New Yorker. Separately, the Daily Beast reported that NBC News General Counsel Susan Weiner threatened to “smear” Farrow if “he continued to report on Weinstein.”
Lack, however, insists none of this is accurate. He says that when Farrow objected to NBC News’ unwillingness to go forward with the story, the network “convened an independent group of the most experienced investigative journalists in our organization to review his material with fresh eyes.” They were all tasked with figuring out what, if anything, could be broadcast. “But their conclusion was unequivocal,” Lack wrote, “this story is not ready for air.”
Lack goes even further, saying it’s disingenuous to suggest Farrow merely took the reporting he had done at NBC to the New Yorker. “Farrow’s award-winning New Yorker article about Weinstein—published nearly two months after he left NBC News and five days after The New York Times piece—bore little resemblance to the draft script he produced at NBC News,” the statement said. While the New Yorker piece cited several victims by name, none of them had been included in the reporting Farrow presented to the higher-ups at NBC News, according to the network.
In the statement, NBC also detailed the contacts that Weinstein and his representatives had with the network. Although Weinstein and his people did “repeatedly” try to contact people at NBC News, none of it had an effect on the reporting. “They were aggressive and persistent. This is a dynamic NBC News is quite familiar with as a home to investigative journalism and had no impact on the editorial process,” reads the statement.