Catch and Kill

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. This is live at Politics and Prose a program from Slate and Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C. featuring some of today’s best writers and top thinkers at some.

S2: It’s especially exciting to be hosting Ronan Farrow here this evening.

S3: He’s here of course to talk about his new book catch and kill. It’s been two years since Ronan writing in The New Yorker. And Jodi Kantor and Megan Toohey writing in The New York Times been two years since they published their separate exposes of sexual assault and harassment allegations against movie producer Harry Weinstein. Those stories encouraged many other women around the world to come forward with allegations against other powerful privileged and previously protected men and help give rise to them. Me too movement in both The New Yorker and The Times subsequently shared last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Public Service which honored the award honored the courageous breakthrough reporting of Ronan Jodi and Megan in catch and kill Ronan recounts his part in breaking the Weinstein story and details the institutional resistance the attempted intimidation and the threats he faced in doing so. The book which contains additional revelations is not just the work of investigative journalism but is itself a compelling and it’s instructive spy story. Ronan writes about not only the extreme tactics taken by Weinstein what Ronan calls a full on espionage operation but to stymie the coverage but also describes actions by executives at NBC News where Ronan initially pursued the story to keep it from being broadcast. I’m not giving away any spoilers because this has been widely reported since the book’s release. But Ronan speculates that NBC behavior was motivated by a desire to protect news anchor Matt Lauer who himself was subsequently accused of sexual misconduct and let go in the interest of fairness let me say NBC strongly denies that it sought to block Ronan’s investigation or tried to cover up Lauer’s misconduct. And Lauer maintains that his actions were consensual but Ronan stands by his account and if nothing else the controversy has certainly helped stir interest in his very revealing and very riveting book. Ronan of course is accustomed to public attention having lived a sort of boy wonder existence of the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. He started college at age 11 and graduated at 15 admitted to Yale Law School he delayed entry to work as a UNICEF spokesman for youth and after graduating from law school at age 21 he joined the State Department to work for Richard Holbrooke focusing on NGO is in Afghanistan and Pakistan and later became secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s special adviser for Global Youth Issues. In 2012 he went off to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. In 2014 NBC signed him to a contract handing him at age 26 his own daytime MSNBC program. The show lasted a year but the network kept Ronan on as an investigative correspondent in 2017 after NBC is lack of support for his pursuit of Weinstein. Ronan took the story to The New Yorker and finished it there last year. He came out with a well-received book War on peace lamenting the decline of U.S. diplomacy and earlier this year here in the city in international relations from Oxford all that and Ronan has yet to turn 32. Wrote Ronan will be in conversation with Sunny Hostin a former federal prosecutor who now serves as co-host of ABC Daytime talk show The View and she’s senior legal correspondent an analyst for ABC News. Sunny also hosts and executive producers truth about murder which is about to start on the pay TV network Investigation Discovery where she’ll be highlighting the stories of victims and their loved ones. Ladies and gentlemen please join me in welcoming Ronan and Sunny as.

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S4: You guys. Thank you. Thank you for doing this Sunny. Well I mean when when Ronan asked me to be here.

S5: I was thrilled because as you know I’m a big fan and this book is incredible. It is incredible. Thank you. It is incredible. So let’s let’s get right in.

S6: Let’s do it. OK. And as we launch into the conversation I just have to say I asked and was really excited and hoping that you could do it because Sunny has been such a powerful voice on this. I don’t know if you’ve seen the way she speaks up about issues of sexual violence and how it gets covered up by powerful people on The View including in contentious conversations sometimes and sometimes it’s really important. And it really shows guts and your whole history as a prosecutor and as a journalist has been about speaking truth to power. So I’m honored. Thank you. Thank you. Applause. Applause Let’s talk about the allegations about former Today Show anchor Matt Lauer.

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S5: And that made a lot of news. NBC claims that Lauer was fired in 2017 for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace and that they only found out about it. Very shortly before he was fired but in the book you write that they knew about his behavior for a long time. So I think it’s important to note here there are.

S6: Very salacious headlines around individual allegations and that’s not incorrect that those get a lot of attention. They’re very serious claims. They should start a conversation. But what is uncovered in this book and documented in a very carefully fact checked way is much bigger than any one network star network executive anyone network. It is about patterns of cover ups in corporate America and the way in which people get hurt if problems are swept under the rug with payouts and nondisclosure agreements instead of addressed. We’ve talked about this several times now. It was a component of the Harvey Weinstein case it was a component of the reporting I did on CBS News and it is a component of the reporting about NBC News. This is a company that had previously claimed that there were no sexual harassment settlements within the company and a 67 year period. The general counsel said that and I document in this book a paper trail of at least seven settlements that multiple people involved in each said were explicitly sexual harassment settlements with women with complaints about Matt Lauer and others years before Matt Lauer’s firing years before years before. And I personally spoke to senior executives at a leadership level of this company who were warned about a problem with Matt Lauer and you know this is not just coming from me in my reporting this is something that Ann Curry has said that she warned leadership at this company and that checks out with the reporting here and again you know that the point here is bigger than this company it is about people getting hurt when these problems aren’t confronted.

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S7: Now my understanding is that rather than call them settlement agreements they were called enhanced severance agreements.

S6: Yes they’re enhanced severance and you know what does that mean. Well it’s it’s a good question. I mean these are these are the kinds of euphemisms and contortions that you see when a problem is being covered up. And NBC News’s rebuttals to all of this are woven into the book and you can judge the facts for yourself against their responses and they continue to claim that these really were just severance packages and you know they just paid this woman seven figures vastly more than someone would normally get departing the company. And coincidentally she also had a sexual harassment complaint. It’s all just coincidence it’s coincidences and you know while we fairly relate me and the fact checkers and editors who worked on this made sure to put those responses in there it is very fair to NBC and other parties I report on here. You know it’s worth noting that this is what a cover up looks like. It is euphemisms. It is terms that allow you to avoid saying what the thing actually is and you know as an attorney and a former prosecutor when there is a sexual harassment or sexual violence related NDA it doesn’t say in big bold letters. This woman was abused by this person on X date. Now it’s it’s just binds someone to silence and tries to talk around the issue entirely and that’s why Nancy severance agreement. Right. So they this company found a way to consistently sweep this problem under the rug through these euphemisms.

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S8: Now let’s talk briefly about Brooke Neville’s because NBC says when they found out about her allegations that’s when it was too much.

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S5: That’s when that you know he had to go. Matt Lauer was fired. Her allegations if true were of rape. She says she was raped. She reported it to NBC.

S9: They fired him. It was not reported to the police. It was not reported to the DHS office. What exactly did she tell you happened to her.

S6: She describes unambiguously a rape by any legal definition of the term and her full story in all its complication is laid out in this book and I encourage people to read it in context rather than just reading the headlines about it. And you know Matt Lauer. His thinking is reflected in here too and he released a very fiery letter kind of slightly menacing tone towards women who might come forward with allegations and one of the points he emphasizes is that they had subsequent contacts.

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S10: Yeah I want to ask you about that. I do because he wrote a response letter.

S8: And he says that Brooks account is categorically false. He says his sexual encounter with her was completely consensual that she was an enthusiastic and willing partner.

S11: And he also says that all of these women that he’s had affairs with have abandoned shared responsibility but that she continued after this alleged rape to have a sexual relationship with him. And many people are questioning her because of that they’re questioning the rape. They’re saying well if you were really raped why would you go back and have a sexual relationship.

S6: And this is a recurring theme in the reporting in catch and kill it’s actually a response that Harvey Weinstein has to the allegations against him that in many cases these were women who went back in in various ways and he says at one point in these contentious calls when we’re fact checking this piece and seeking comment from him you know it’s not rape if they come back. Yes. And that that is not consistent with any legal definition of rape. It’s not consistent with any ethical definition of rape and indeed you would know better than I having worked on the criminal justice side of this. It is a very common facet of sexual violence that these are crimes committed by pastors and bosses and parents and there’s a similar dynamic with power dynamics that entrap people into ongoing contact with professional dynamics that make it very difficult to get away from someone and there was a machine that spun up from the moment Brooke Neville’s came into NBC and unambiguously described a nonconsensual sex act with potential criminal implications where this company despite the fact that her attorney very clearly signaled this is not consensual. And while she was not using the term rape she was describing one began to plant in the press and to discuss within that news organization the idea that this was an affair. And Matt Lauer in his letter says this was an affair an NBC PR continued to plant items saying this was an affair up to and including last week’s news cycle. Yes. And you know I understand that there is a strong incentive for certain executives at this company who are under scrutiny for not doing enough to stop this over the period of time in which people knew about and talked about these problems to downplay it suggests that if they knew they knew about something lesser. But the fact is that is what she described. And the follow on contacts that she describes. Are not consistent with any definition of an affair that I know. You know she as a junior employee at this company with the most powerful men at that company was in a dynamic that she described as entrapment when he said Come to my apartment for drinks right up to my office come to my dressing room right. And then at times as she struggled to get away from this in her narration of events was simply in situations where she was under orders from her bosses to go get something for purely professional reasons from Matt Lauer and he would be demanding sexual favors in his office or in his dressing room. And you know that is a difficult and complicated dynamic. And she describes a mix of consensual and nonconsensual interactions over the course of that. She readily concedes that there were periods especially early on after the alleged assault where she tried to put him at ease desperately and sent texts and made calls that sounded maximally enthusiastic because she wanted desperately to make this situation ok and to not anger this incredibly powerful guy with a lot of control over her career. But while all of those shades of gray are laid out they are not actually germane to this question of Was there a sexual assault. Exactly. And that’s important to note. You would understand that as a prosecutor. But Zach people see in the media cycle this discussion of an affair or not and follow on contact and they conflate it with these legal questions of what happened that night what happened after.

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S5: Has nothing to do with what happened that night. That’s right.

S6: And these kinds of follow on ambiguities are common but she very eloquently points out in this book that regardless of whether he thought she was flirting with him beforehand regardless of how he interpreted their interactions afterwards that night she was too drunk to consent she says. And she said no repeatedly to a sex act that he then proceeded with. And you know he denies that his denial is present in there but this is consistently how she has told the story from the beginning. Now what you describe also in this book is a culture of misogyny baked in to the very fabric of NBC and not only just NBC just in our culture. And you describe Noah Oppenheim. You say that was a little bit of Oh no I say it neutrally.

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S12: I said I said it’s really the book is very fair to NBC News executives. It goes out of its way to be generous and yes. And I mean the facts speak for themselves but the tone is is very measured and I’m paid your tone may not be measured after you.

S13: And he was I guess the head of NBC News at right time.

S14: And you write on page 186 that during his years as a writer at The Harvard Crimson he wrote some things that were pretty provocative. In fact he had some headlines titles reading Cliff’s Notes transgender absurd.

S15: He wrote to the angry feminists. There is nothing wrong with single sex institutions men just like women need to themselves. And then he adds women who feel threatened by the club’s environment should seek tamer pastures.

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S16: However apparently women enjoy being confined pumped full of alcohol and preyed upon they feel desired not demeaned.

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S6: Now this is the same person that would have been told about Brooke Neville’s he and who had the conversations with journalists at that organization immediately afterwards and said things like she did not describe a non consensual interaction and was part of that machine that when when she learned that this was being downplayed in this way she threw up. You know this the way that this was handled after the fact was extraordinarily traumatic. But there is a bigger point here about these patterns of corporate behavior she talks very eloquently about making the painful decision to come forward in this book and feeling that the women who came before her and had voiced complaints within this company about Matt Lauer carried a sense of guilt that her alleged assault happened and that she in turn carried a sense of guilt about anyone who might face violence afterwards. And that ultimately is why she wanted to speak to break the cycle and a sense of guilt because of the silence because the moment you have a set of legal structures to conceal these alleged crimes and to allow their perpetrators to stay in positions of power. You expose subsequent people to victimization. And that is a feature of so many of these stories I’ve reported of the Weinstein Company where there was nothing in his H.R. file that was technically about sexual harassment at Fox where Bill O’Reilly pointed out there was nothing in the H.R. file about it and where there were payouts happening over and over again to conceal that record. It happened at CBS News. This is not an NBC problem. This is a problem in our culture and in corporate America. And I think Brooke Neville’s is not wrong. It shouldn’t have been on her shoulders to break the cycle. It should have been on the shoulders of that company of the corporation. That’s right. But it is only now coming under scrutiny because she was brave enough to speak. And because a whole variety of sources there are seven claims about Matt Lauer there is a still wider group of claims about executives at the company and miscast serious misconduct. So a lot of people were really brave to expose the story that plays out in this book.

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S16: Now I ask you this on our show on the view. How do the folks like the open Himes Andy Lack who also you outline on page 213 and forward that he also had a history of preying upon people that worked for him while at NBC News.

S12: She has read this book did you hear that prosecutorial position can’t help myself. Page number you describe.

S6: Yes multiple women are on the record in this book saying that Andy Lack slept with underlings. It’s highly rated against them.

S11: Yes. And so how do they survive something like this when you have people like Megan Kelly and Gretchen Carlson Greta Van Susteren that are calling for an outside law firm to come in investigate these claims and are asking if it’s found to be true. They need to go. They need to be fired.

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S6: And it is pretty striking that again and again in this book the wonderful brave journalists at NBC many of whom are sources in this book and many of whom are holding their bosses feet to the fire now and demanding accountability which is a tough thing to do about your own bosses say over and over again to the executive chain of command and this company. Why don’t we do an outside investigation. They demand it. It has been demanded inside and outside of that company for years and they have flatly refused and this is another big broad important point about corporate America. Internal investigations self investigations are not investigations because if you ask me to grade myself I get an A every time right.

S12: And in your case rightly so.

S6: But but it’s it’s a real serious problem and you know that there are a set of techniques when a company is trying to conceal something including doing their own self investigation and then having outside firms kind of rubber stamp it without having any access to the evidence or process. And NBC has deployed that full set of tools but they have steadfastly said we will not do an outside investigation and I think that’s pretty telling that there is a very dramatic moment in the plot that unravels and catch and kill where. The journalists inside this building are so angry as this is all coming out. Yes. And there’s a meeting where the general counsel of the company Kim Harris sort of descends from the executive suites into the investigative unit and tries to do damage control and she’s getting all these contentious questions and someone a woman journalist in the room says you know what about an outside investigation even if we don’t like the outcome it’ll help us be transparent as a news organization and Kim Harris gets mad finally and says well if the press would just stop talking about this it’ll go away.

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S17: And another reporter says after a bit of stunned silence we are the press. Exactly. Well let’s talk about the Harvey Weinstein story because.

S5: You won a Pulitzer Prize for that story.

S18: It was magnificent.

S6: And thank God for the sources who spoke. I mean you must have spoke feel this about your prosecutorial record. You know when you are able to do something that hopefully helps the conversation and helps people’s healing and helps transparency and accountability you do it on the backs of and because of the bravery bravery of the source of this or the victims of the witnesses. That’s right question. That’s right.

S11: But you have that story at NBC. They refused to air it. In fact they caught it and killed it and they to this day say Ronan didn’t have enough. They didn’t his sources or his story didn’t meet journalistic standards. And then a few weeks later you publish the Pulitzer Prize winning story at the New Yorker right across the street. Did you have enough. What did you have when you were at NBC and if you had enough why did they kill it.

S6: Yeah of course we had enough now. I mean I think that’s no longer really in dispute and in the conversation and the working level producer on this story rich McHugh a very brave guy who resigned in protest over this. Did we get some applause for Mr. McHugh.

S19: That’s a rich McHugh fans here I am with you.

S6: That guy is a profile in courage and you know he says would everyone every journalist who looked at this said which is this thing should have been on air we had a recorded admission of guilt from Harvey Weinstein secure during a police sting operation. We had him admitting not just to a sexual assault but to serial sexual assault saying I’m used to that. We had multiple named women in every version of this story. It was an expansive body of reporting but that’s not even the point. You know it’s a distraction tactic to try to pull the conversation towards this question of wasn’t enough at a given point in time. You know as you say I brought it across the street and the judgment of that body of reporting was it was absolutely enough. And we within a few weeks it was the story that you’ve all seen. But the point wasn’t that it was done at any one of those points in time or that it couldn’t have expanded if they had wanted it to. The point is that they ordered us to stop. Yes. And that is the striking kind of smoking gun. Tell that this was not a journalistic decision that was happening we were told to cancel interviews with rape victims. We were told to stand down and not take a single call on this subject. I was threatened that I was going to be exposed as having been terminated and let go from the company if I ever disclosed that NBC had anything to do with the story. And in this book I over the course of several years of investigative reporting uncover what was happening at this company and the secrets that this company had that were under threat of exposure as Harvey Weinstein was bearing down on them in a whole slew of secret conversations and e-mails and contacts that were going on behind our backs. Well that’s the thing you outline in this story that.

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S9: Harvey Weinstein was really Weinstein was blackmailing NBC News over the Matt Lauer allegations.

S6: Well I’m very I’m very careful to only go as far as the facts go and it is true that we have multiple sources at both NBC News and at EMI the parent company the National Enquirer and NBC denies this and that denial is in there saying that there was a threat communicated of the type that you just alluded to. But there’s also a bigger point which is indisputable which is these secret settlements and the high level conversations about Matt Lauer’s predation created a situation where. NBC News was dealing with a lot of secrets that were about to come out. And when I document these you know at least 15 secret calls between the top executives at NBC and Harvey Weinstein where they have admitted these calls happen and where they promised to kill the story ahead of any journalistic decision being made it is very clear when you look at those calls that these were executives who felt cornered and felt like they did have secrets to guard and who were simultaneously brokering and enforcing secret sexual harassment settlements while telling me that their legal judgment was that we could not report on secret sexual harassment settlements that Harvey Weinstein had made. And they as it turns out I can now reveal they were parroting a talking point given to them by a hostile subject to the reporting. Harvey Weinstein. Yes. So my hope is that by exposing this there is a conversation about how to prevent this from happening to other people within a company who might be targeted in violent acts by individuals cloaked by these kinds of legal practices and a conversation about how to prevent this from happening to any other journalist with a tough lead.

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S8: Well that’s that’s the thing you also discuss in this book that Harvey Weinstein went to great lengths to keep this story under wraps.

S9: He went so far as to hire spies to follow you and other reporters so much so that you felt your life was in danger and people advise you to get a gun multiple sources advised me to get a gun.

S6: I moved out of my apartment. I was very stressed out and not getting a lot of sleep. Looking over my shoulder a lot. And you know I am like you know someone with a legal training background and I am naturally inclined towards skepticism and there are many points in the plot that plays out in this book where I’m the last to admit OK something bizarre is happening here. But even then you don’t expect that the answer to the bizarre thing that’s happening is an international espionage plot involving former Mossad agents the Russian spy subcontractors outside of your apartment. And like an international femme fatale all posing as the source. Yes these are all things that happened in actual life.

S20: Unbelievable.

S6: And people are kind of reading the book and you know picking their jaws up off the floors.

S13: I did. I was like this is not the mole right.

S6: And there’s a lot of reviews that have now said like it reads like a spy thriller which is in a way sort of glamorizing after the fact but first of all I didn’t feel that way at the time.

S10: I felt extremely shitty.

S6: And you know I was scared and like my poor mom I had to stop telling her about what was happening and I’m like sleeping at my desk rather than go home. It’s like the same car outside every night and I going into my apartment before I moved out of it with my keys out out.

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S20: So I’m not good at self-defense despite the target practice I do. But.

S6: And I would just point out it’s it isn’t glamorizing and it actually is a sign I think of just how far over the line this behavior is. These are tactics that should be reserved for spy thrillers. Yes they should not be thrown at journalists in real life pursuing tough stories in a country with the protections of the first amendment. It’s unbelievable. And. As. This is.

S13: Seems to be the nature of where we are these days.

S6: And I do try to imbue that threat of the plot with a real sense of perspective. I am very aware of and grateful for the fact that I am not a journalist in Pakistan or Russia or any of the places where when you’re reporting on power you’re just dead the next day a lot of the time you’re journalists are killed in the line of their work every single day. And their work is so important and so precious and it’s important and precious in our democracy to yes and all of these stories about exotic and underhanded tactics deployed by powerful and wealthy people about the ways in which news organizations get subverted to become instruments of suppression for powerful people. All of it goes to these questions about our access to free and transparent information in our democracy and the stories we tell ourselves as we enter our next election cycle and make leadership decision yes.

S4: This matters it matters.

S6: And I never want to see the kinds of life or death stakes that I just described around the world transpire here in our country.

S9: Now I often think that’s why it’s the first amendment because it’s the most important.

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S6: Yeah yeah it’s the only profession that is explicitly and specifically protected in the Constitution and that is true for a reason and that the book is in so many ways a love letter to fellow journalists. Their stories were all through this and and and also to the sources who continue to speak and refuse to stop even in the face of opposition. There’s an incredible whistleblower named sleeper. Yes name who comes forward in this very dramatic turn of events and helps me expose this whole espionage operation. There is this one of the kind of thing occasionally slightly bumbling spies from the former Soviet Union who were outside my apartment and chasing me around.

S10: They actually chase a neighbor who looks like me by mistake for a while and then they’re like Is it him and they they call me on myself. I pick up the other side of town and hear cursing in Russian. They’re like they’re pulling long hours and peeing into bottles.

S6: But what one of the spies who was on my tail actually has this incredible evolution that I won’t reveal all in the course of the book but becomes pivotal to the story in unexpected ways and starts to talk about having grown up in a police state and knowing what it’s like to have the press controlled by the powerful and how people can suffer as a result and therefore feeling invested in turning around his involvement in it. Yes. And it’s very moving to me and I hope that those stories being present in these pages means that you close the back cover of this book. I mean you all have it right. Did you go to get your copy.

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S4: It’s wonderful.

S6: I’m honored by anyone who takes the time to read it and who cares about these issues and I hope you will finish it and feel optimistic as I do at the end. Absolutely.

S16: You know one thing that struck me you know we share friends in common. One thing that struck me was some of the the stories that you write about Lisa Bloom who is also an attorney and how you felt almost tricked by by Lisa.

S6: What do you mean by that if she has in recent days she apologized to me and other reporters on the West End story that she she came on our show and also you know apologize has done a bit of an apology tour. I would say justifiably yeah she should perhaps consider apologizing to some of the women that she victimized as. And she has said in recent days as the furor around this book has heated up that she never lied to me in our calls. And you know if she really believes that. Then I don’t think she understands the spirit of honesty in conversations amongst friends or attorneys or just individuals with common decency. Because Lisa Bloom in this story is a double agent. I mean she is not disclosing that she is representing Harvey Weinstein and she is having conversations where she is presenting herself as an ally. She is someone who for years appeared on my cable news program advocating for victims of powerful men who presented herself as an activist on women’s rights who wrote op ed’s defending my sister and the credibility of my sisters claim against Woody Allen. I admired Lisa Bloom and respected her. And Lisa Bloom cashed in on the admiration and respect that she had built to work for Harvey Weinstein to gaslight and undermine and attack women and to squash reporting efforts. And you know she will have to reckon with the consequences of that but I think that her behavior specifically with me where you know I had said look I know we’re not under attorney client privilege here. We’re both attorneys but just as two lawyers who work in a profession whose bedrock is respecting confidences. Yes. If I’m going to answer your in retrospect suspiciously probing questions as I’m working with you know I need to know that I have your assurance that you are not going to disclose to the person I’m reporting on or anyone around them you know his people and said absolutely yes I swear and I. When I told her that I was working on Harvey Weinstein and immediately afterwards Harvey Weinstein’s machine targeting me began wrapping up in his machine targeting these women begin wrapping up. I became increasingly suspicious. But it was only later that I confronted her and said You know Lisa you promised at this point I had received a number of legal threat letters from Harvey Weinstein with her signature hunk him you know her name is at the bottom as a co counsel. Yeah. On letters that included among other things arguments that my sister had been brainwashed and was crazy you know things that directly contradicted years of writing. She said she’d put her name on those and and these are threats to wipe me out too from a from a friend. Yes. And I said to her you know you gave me your word as an attorney and as a human being that you would not tell his people. And she said Ronan I am his people and yeah that was my reaction to the shocking. It is shocking. And you know Jodi Kantor and Meghan Tuohy of the New York Times have done excellent reporting uncovering things like memos promising to demolish these women and expense reports where she was planning opposition operations against me and Rose McGowan also was a target as well. Absolutely. Rose McGowan was a target from Lisa Bloom who and Lisa Bloom did disparage Rose McGowan in conversations with me but also from this whole international espionage operation. Yes she had a an undercover agent. Pose as a women’s rights activist and become her best friend to the point where Rose McGowan finally said there’s no one in the world that I can trust except you and this woman was secretly recording rose and sending those recordings to her alleged rapist. So you know there most of this story is about women who are real examples of bravery and ethics. And also there are. A lot of men and women in these pages who are I hope cautionary tales about just how depraved and ethically bankrupt you can become when money and power are at stake.

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S5: Now you mentioned your sister and I think she’s very brave as you know. Thank you. I agree. I agree. And that.

S6: Has always been significant coming from you because you know you do look incisive look at the facts of cases like this. I know you said it from a perspective of being read in I think you know when people return to that case with fresh eyes and look at the facts it’s pretty shocking. It is. There was a miscarriage of justice no question.

S16: What was also shocking to me is that Wainstein called Your estranged father Woody Allen. He tried to argue that the situation with your sister. Who’s accused Woody of molesting her. Though Woody maintains his innocence.

S21: Says Weinstein says that you had an agenda because of that.

S9: And Harvey Weinstein tells you on the phone you couldn’t save someone you love. And now you think you can save everyone there. There are a lot of instances in this book and beyond and stories I work on where.

S6: Personal and painful things get weaponized against me you know these are occupational hazards for us as journalists when you go up against tough stories. A lot of stuff gets thrown at you and one common playbook is how personal can you get. And Harvey Weinstein sent legal threat letters that were full of things like you know extensive discussion of an uncle I have. He was convicted of pedophilia who I’ve never met you never met knowledge right but it was very unclear how this was relevant to the many women accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape. But you know I guess the idea was to kind of convey some sense of hypocrisy like he’s got some of this near him too.

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S22: True I’d be the first to say it.

S6: And similarly you know this very painful effort to weaponize my sister’s allegations suggests that I had some ax to grind. No journalist has ever thought that looking at the facts right. You know reporters who become deeply invested in investigative work do have an obsessive quality and that’s a real theme in this book. One of the characters in it is Ken Auletta the wonderful New Yorker writer who is this great kind of genteel old guy from another era. Your talks in this very stately way and for years struggled to break the Harvey Weinstein story and didn’t get it over the finish line. It was really generous with me and I think I’d describe him as being like the the homicide beat cop kept up at night by the case that got away and he used words like you know obsessed and fixated. And as I kind of got these arguments thrown at me you know I really question Is there any truth to the idea that you can be too close to the story and. Sure if you have an actual conflict of interest a business deal gone bad. Some of your reporting on of course that’s another matter. But on a matter like this where there’s no factual links between the stories but there is a link in terms of caring about and understanding the issue that is not only a positive but in some ways necessary to some extent. You know every one of us as journalists brings to the table our investment in the issues we’re reporting on. And that doesn’t mean that you have a stake in the facts. Shaking out one way or another on an individual story. I was adversarial with the sources with accusations against Harvey Weinstein. I grilled the hell out of them. I was skeptical at all times and willing to go wherever the facts may lead and those pieces are very fair to Harvey. Yes. That said I understood how crucial this issue was because of my sister’s experiences and how important it was to the culture that these women were doing this brave thing.

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S9: And speaking now the theme of trusts comes up over and over and over again in this book. I wonder and I get asked this. I got asked this question often when I was prosecuting cases. How do you get witnesses to trust you. How did you get these women to trust you.

S6: Well I would like to hear about your process.

S9: Oh you know I was one of the prosecutors that was willing to go into people’s homes and knock on the door and say I care. I want to hear your story and I will do everything I can to bring justice to you. I will do everything in my power. But I need to hear your story.

S23: I want to tell her my story and I don’t even have one to tell. I was there that Yeah yeah. I mean that that it takes time though to build that trust of course.

S6: And you know the role of a prosecutor in the role of journalist are very different in some ways but this is a point of commonality. It is about steady trust building and giving someone agency and not browbeating them into anything. You know when people make a life altering decision like coming forward with a very serious claim about a powerful person whether tremendous brave forest whether it’s in a journalistic context or a criminal context it takes tremendous bravery and it it really does take grappling with the realization that your life may never be the same again. I think a lot about the story of Annabella Shira yes who had an incredibly upsetting allegation of violent rape about Harvey Weinstein. And. I think has good days and bad days as most survivors of trauma do to this day. And it was almost impossible on a physical level for her to get that story out and articulate it and almost impossible to listen to on some level too I think for me as a reporter and eventually for the public I mean these are unfathomable horrors. And she did a brave thing after a long time of not being sure she was going to. Which included for instance and she let me tell this story eventually picking up the phone when I first contacted her and panicking and saying I don’t know anything I don’t know anything which is another common starting guess. So these conversations. And she not only decided ultimately to tell that story but has now volunteered to testify. And Harvey Weinstein is a criminal case which is upsetting and re traumatizing. And again thrusts her up against a dynamic where she knows that her life will never be the same her public profile will never be the same. Now she’s an actress but she’s an actress who loves her work and never wants to be known for anything but her work. And it’s not in the tabloids. And she talked during our reporting conversations and some of this is in the book. About knowing that she would now be walking into restaurants with her kids or walking out on the street and people would know this incredibly invasive personal horrible demeaning thing about her. And I hope that she has come to some feeling that. They also know something about her bravery and that she is standing up for something much bigger than herself. And that is so important to so many other people out there but none of that makes it easy.

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S9: Well I talk about this almost every day on our show The View. But Trump is involved in this book too.

S6: Oh yes.

S16: Which was not so shocking to me. See you tell the story of American Media Inc.

S13: And the National Enquirer keeping us safe filled with top secret and sensitive Donald Trump related documents. That was abruptly shredded in 2016.

S12: Look at how excited she is as she talks with credit.

S20: But you saw some of it. Oh yeah I decide. All right.

S6: So this is the first time that a reporter has seen this list. They made a master list during the election of all the Trump Tower that the Enquirer had over the years and you know as with so many stories about the Enquirer and American media egg. This story is in the process that played out around that was more than it is about the contents. I mean there were. Five affairs on this list. About 60 items was called you know 60 items. It was called Donald Trump. Killed in a reference to killed stories in the top and it included a reference to about five affairs some of which have become public some of them not. And you know as far as I can see from the headline descriptions there were allegations of misconduct. There are so who cares on some level. There was discussion in those files of at least one allegation of misconduct which the Jill Hart case. Oh that’s right. Which has subsequently become public. So you know I want to be clear to not overblow it’s not that what we discovered on that list was Here’s some brand new smoking gun about Donald Trump. And it should also be pointed out that was supposed to be a complete list of dirt that was the design of the list but it doesn’t necessarily represent the full universe of the Enquirer’s knowledge about Trump. Right. Which makes another fact that we uncover in this book and the fact checking team and so forth. Which is it makes that another fact kind of even more relevant because either files on that list or other files that have not been identified at all were destroyed by the Enquirer in the days leading up to the election. And we have a multiple source well documented account of a shredding party at this company which has now admitted in an agreement with prosecutors that it may have violated election laws to try to swing the outcome of the 2016 race by burying these stories and the trail of clues that led me from the Enquirer burying stories for Harvey Weinstein to a series of stories that I break and a brand new one involving Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein. That has not been disclosed until his book came out. It is a saga that I think has a lot of significance not just for the media world but for the way the political future of our country played.

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S9: Now these stories really are about a culture I think of sexual harassment have hit so many companies. We’re talking about CBS vice Bloomberg Weinstein Warner Brothers Pixar. Now NBC. Do you think there’s more to come.

S6: I think it is indisputable that there’s more to come. And I don’t just say that as someone who gets a lot of leads in my inbox every day. So I know there’s more to come. I say it because of the vastness of the systems that we’re talking about. I mean it was always very clear to me that this story was not significant just because Harvey Weinstein is a big deal. This was about more than any one producer. More than just the entertainment industry. This is about patterns of power protecting power in every industry and all around the world. And we are just beginning to see a conversation about that. And you know you talked about the unique significance of the media and how it shapes the future of our nation. So I am very glad that that conversation is now happening across multiple companies in the media including NBC. But that’s not the only area we need to focus on. And it will take brave sources and whistleblowers continuing to speak and brave reporters continuing to not back down in the face of all of these intimidation tactics. If we want to see a march towards accountability.

S5: Should I go to these guys. Sure we have questions from the audience. I’ve been given is now a good time.

S6: How tough are your questions guys.

S10: I think some as long as the sun is out.

S6: Sonny is a prosecutor so let’s say this could get contentious.

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S15: Our public narrative has been shaped by predators and their enablers in the news media and Hollywood.

S9: What can we do as the public and as journalists to reclaim that narrative. That’s a good question.

S6: Well I think that every journalist speaking out about this and continuing to report on this is a part of that solution. We’ve seen in response to the reporting I did on CBS News a whole lot of people step up and be forthright about addressing the problem. We eventually saw leadership change at that company precisely because the great journalists there refused to shut up about it. You know right after I reported on multiple allegations of sexual assault against Les Moonves at the time the head of that company and very much a darling of Wall Street and someone that a board had protected for years and years even when they knew he was under criminal investigation you know you saw people like Stephen Colbert get on air and say I demand accountability from my boss even though he’s my boss. Yeah in the wake of this NBC reporting you have seen multiple NBC reporters do the same thing. CHRIS HAYES I don’t know if any of you saw that Chris Hayes program.

S4: Wonderful. And that’s a really hard thing to do.

S6: It is to stand up and call out your bosses. Yeah. And thank God there are journalists who have that backbone. And so that’s part of the answer and I think all of us in the public to you know in the decisions we make about where we consume media and how stridently we demand accountability from media companies can influence that decision.

S9: I mean in terms of NBC News the parent company is Comcast. Yes. So don’t you demand that Comcast be a good corporate citizen and investigate NBC News.

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S6: You know I’m a reporter not an activist on this issue and my part of the job is to very fairly interrogate the facts and I am so grateful that now that those facts are out in the world they are prompting things like this letter sent by all of these reporters saying there needs to be an effort from this parent company to ensure that people aren’t getting hurt. No question in this news organization and that the coverage is independent and fair. I can’t be you know a part of that push but or say that I know what the outcome of it should be. But I can say that I’m inspired by anyone who takes the facts and acts on them and tries to translate it into change.

S9: Here’s another question. I was disturbed by NBC his decision to sit on its infamous Access Hollywood tape for several days.

S16: I was disturbed as well in 2016 until someone leaked it to The Washington Post has your reporting unearths any trends in unfortunate editorial decision making that extend beyond Weinstein.

S6: I would say that a significant portion of this book is devoted to exactly that that it is a trend and it does extend beyond any one example and the backdrop of the Access Hollywood tape being sat on by these same executives at NBC News and the effect that had on the culture is very prominent in this story. And it was a part of the backdrop of the reporting conversations I had over the course of these events that women I was talking to especially were kind of fed up with the situation over and over again that would come up as a as a theme that people were saying enough. Because there had been this moment in politics where people looked the other way in response to that. And news organizations seems to have been sitting on or suppressing or not ensuring that the public’s saw and reacted in a full some way to this.

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S24: People were frustrated and rightly so.

S9: Thank you Theresa for your question as a sexual assault survivor I’d like to say thank you for shining a light on such a pervasive problem. As a journalist I’d like to ask how do you separate yourself from the work. I imagine it’s hard. Thank you Teresa.

S6: Yeah.

S4: Thank you to us and thank you for everyone who is brave enough to be forthright about this stuff. It’s really hard.

S6: Yeah. And the question is a good one. There is a struggle that plays out in this plot and I think it’s worth pointing out it is a it is a story with a beginning a middle and an end. I made the decision to not do a book that was you know a survey piece or as a string of different pieces of reporting it’s about a specific set of characters and a series of emotional up and ups and downs and part of that is a chronicle of a very low point in my life that where I have to be personal and honest and transparent about the ways in which I let down people around me and ways in which I felt vulnerable and frightened and that was a hard decision to make. And I chronicle how for a long time I resisted it and just wanted desperately to not be the story. And I think particularly for someone like me who you know I’m yes I grew up amidst a lot of scandal and turmoil and some painful things but mostly I focus on the incredible privileges and opportunities that I had and really earnestly wanting to pay those forward when I can. But because of that background you know I’ve really wanted the work to stand on its own and been very kind of sensitive about being in the long shadow of some of those personal things. And so when I came into this situation where I was on air every day and good journalists were asking me you know why are you talking about the way you were targeted why are you talking about the shut down of your reporting. And I would say well I want the underlying story to have its moment in the sun and these brave sources and the focus should be on them and none of us wants to be the story and they would say no this the story of these stories not being told is significant in and of itself and in the end I struggle with that and decide they’re right they were right to grill me and I did have to spend a couple of years investigating this and to really tell it honestly I had to tell the full arc of my involvement in it.

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S5: You had spies chasing you right.

S6: So you know what moral of the story is if you have spies chasing you you’re gonna become the story a little bit and you know I think it is possible to both be transparent about your role in the story and rigorous about reporting on it. And I think this book has been received in the spirit of people understanding that it does both.

S9: She didn’t. How did you manage to juggle this book reporting and your dissertation.

S17: Because I’m wondering how did you do that. I mean it says mad props. Thank you. Who gave that question. Thank you very much.

S25: I am a big nerd. I guess that’s probably already clear. And I did finish AP HD earlier this year. Congratulations. Thank you. Thank you.

S26: Applause and I had to like fly to.

S6: I did my doctorate at Oxford and I had to fly to England this Oxford and know how big I had to fly to England in the middle of book deadline and crises around stories I’m doing and you know it took me. I honestly think a full seven years to do this PHC. So I was not like.

S22: One of my fact checkers sent a gif of the poke him on slow King described my progress so I’m not like a wonder candidate moving fast through doctoral degrees.

S6: But I did finally get it towards the finish line and multiple times over the course of this process I had to go out to England to kind of kiss the ring and yeah tell the professors I was still working on it has various but they have rounds of oral exams you have to go through and each time we’d have conversations where they’d say kind of.

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S22: So you appear to be anchoring an American television show every day. And I would say yes but that is a side project and my passion my academic pursuits.

S27: All the time at Oxford.

S6: And more recently going for my final oral exams at the end the degree you know seem to have put a Pulitzer Prize in the last.

S22: Are you doing other things this time.

S27: This is my main priority.

S22: I love it. And God bless them. They put up with me my bullshit and and you know I did in the end have to work really hard.

S6: It’s something like you know 450 pages and I really it’s a Foles you know social science dissertation kind of schema teasing whether there’s a correlation between the level of deception and relationships the United States has with proxy armies and the cost of those relationships just not as boring as it sounds stop laughing It’s very serious.

S20: I love it.

S9: Okay. This comes from Peter how do you propose. Goodwin how do you prepare for interviews. Do you prepare and sequence your questions in advance so this really varies.

S6: I’m a big preparer and I saw you preparing for this and it warms my heart because Sunny is a big prepare.

S15: I am herringbone.

S12: It’s great. It’s great.

S6: And that is something to be proud of I think in just about any profession. I do a lot of scripting and preparing when I’m doing broadcast interviews. Yes. And that’s a very different discipline. If you’re doing a live interview versus if you’re doing a taped interview and I’ve done things like you know an hour with Malala or Angelina Jolie or something and it’s you know if it’s gonna be a special you have one set of priorities and then also if you’re doing a contentious cable news interview with a politician it’s a whole other arc that you’re constructing but you are kind of thinking ahead and trying to plot a series of satisfying reveals. Right. And there’s a little more kind of brazen showmanship to the live TV cable news type interviews. True. I say cable especially because those tend to be on the view. One thing I love about the format. I really enjoyed that intro. You get you get space to breathe you know and I think people don’t talk about the seriousness with which this particular group of women on this version of the view imbue those proceedings. Some people don’t enjoy our interviews well that sounds like a badge of honor. I mean you’re tough on some people. And rightly so and you raise serious issues and that’s really important and it’s important to get that to the audience that you guys have because it’s a position of power that comes with some responsibility but those tend to play out over a slightly longer form as if you have a two minute three minute even a six minute cable segment you’re really like getting in the hits. Exactly. And by contrast when you’re doing television investigative reporting you have all the time in the world and very often you’re actually you’re doing a lot of ramp up that’s never gonna make it on camera. And then trying to get to a soundbite and you’re kind of thinking in terms of individual puzzle pieces much more than the whole.

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S7: And that’s the thing if you have it all in a sequence and all right now sometimes you’re not listening to your answer and then you can’t build off the answer I found.

S6: Absolutely and you kind of have to I find both things helpful. Yeah. A lot of planning and a blueprint of where you could go. And then the willingness to really be in the moment. Yeah and kind of enough familiarity with the blueprint. And then he notes you have in front of you that you can not focus on it just have it there as a reference and use it as a jumping off point as topic areas. Right. And you might jump around you might go in a new direction that you don’t expect.

S24: Yeah I agree. Oh I think that was it. Did I have anymore. To get additional cards maybe are you guys feeling satisfied with the number of questions now.

S22: You good. All right. They’re good. I think they’re good. They didn’t want us a clock on stage. You know we’re only human. I have my. Right. I’m right on time actually. Like a true prosecutor. Running I just have one more question.

S9: What’s next for you.

S6: You know I get asked that question a lot and I never know how to answer it and not original. You can hear me buying stalling for time cause I don’t know. I have been so immersed in getting the reporting in this book airtight and I have so much respect for anyone who writes a book. I mean books are really hard. How many people in this audience have written a book.

S22: We’ve got a couple of book writers. I am there with you.

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S4: God bless you heart.

S10: It’s like it’s hard for the writer it’s hard for everyone around the writer.

S6: I was such a nightmare to put up with during a whole lot of the events described in this book and art. God bless my wonderful partner. Put up with me. This whole thing.

S19: Is there’s some drama fans here. It’s great isn’t it is hard.

S6: It’s really hard. And I you know this particular book and I guess any investigative book you’re doing several difficult things at once. One of which is you’re doing a multiple year very contentious investigation that’s getting you a lot of threats including legal threats and it’s a high wire act and you’re going to powerful people with very difficult revelations and fact checking and it’s it’s you know very very precise almost legalistic work. And then at the same time you’re doing a completely different and difficult thing which is creating a dramatic work. Yes. Where the plot moves at the right pace and there’s hopefully real nuance and interest in the characters and everyone that’s in the book has a coherent arc with a beginning and a middle and an end and this book in particular is a little bit of a Chinese puzzle box of a lot. Right. Like you there’s threads that are braided together and converge in hopefully satisfying and unexpected ways and it’s been such a relief after years of trying to fine tune this piece of intricate machinery to put it out into the world and be like are they going to like my baby and everyone’s I mean it’s been critically acclaimed.

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S4: I’m sorry I am so grateful already for the reviews.

S6: Yeah and the way the public has rallied around it and both on a reportorial level where people have really rallied around these brave sources in it and cut through a lot of spin and B.S. and legal threats like for instance got it banned in Australia for several days because the head of the National Enquirer Don’t clap for that bad this book and burn the book The head of this national enquirer guy Dylan Howard who worked for Weinstein and for Trump did not want people reading this book for reasons you can probably add to it and hired lawyers in every region of the world and Amazon Australia caved and didn’t.

S22: Yeah. You can boo at that one.

S6: And you know a couple of other big Oh I love the hit a couple of big retailers weren’t selling it and now it’s kind of a moving tribute to the importance of free speech you know Australians like rushed out in force and got it from independent booksellers and imported it and now those those chains including Amazon are selling it in Australia. So free speech wins. Exactly. But all of which to say it’s meant a lot that people have rallied around it in this way and and also at the same time understood that it is a yarn that’s about more than the headlines and more than just the sum of its parts. Right. And I’m so excited for you all to read it and I’m so grateful that you took the time to talk about it. My pleasure. It’s my honor. Excellent feeling’s mutual so my honor. Mr. Ronan Farrow.

S28: Sunny Hostin. Thank you. Thank you guys. Thank you. So.

S1: Live at Politics and Prose is a co-production of the bookstore and Slate dot com. For information about upcoming Politics and Prose events visit politics dash prose dot com and please let us know what you think of this program. Our email is podcasts at Slate dot com.