S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: Hello and welcome to the waves for Thursday November 7. The Ronan Farrow is on the line Ed.. I’m Christina Carter Ritchie a staff writer at Slate and host of the Slate podcast outward I’m Dan Thomas senior managing producer of Slate podcast. I’m Nicole Perkins writer and co-host of first aid kit.
S3: I’m Marsha Catlin a professor of history at Georgetown University.
S4: Before we get into our topics I want to cull out two of our listeners who wrote in about the segment we did on our last episode about mixed politics couples. Both of the listeners were gay and pointed out that we did not talk about gay relationships in our episode. Mea culpa totally should have brought that up. But both of the people who wrote in were in their own mixed politics relationships. One is Paul. He writes that he and Rick. These are pseudonyms by the way have been together for eight years. They seemed like they were politically aligned when they first got together but Rick got what he calls red pills in 2016 as Trump was campaigning. Paul says that you know we sort of drew a line in our segment between people who were always sort of Trump supporters and people whose politics changed because of Trump. Paul says that Rick was a case of somebody who truly had a political conversion because Trump hit all the right notes. Paul says they’re still together even though they have intense arguments every now and then. But they end up falling back on what Paul calls the only resolution possible. We have to agree to disagree on this because they fit so well together. They fill such vital roles for each other that a huge political disagreement just kind of pales in comparison. Thank you so much Paul for writing in. That was a very interesting perspective and I’m glad now that we have some mixed politics couples among our listeners. OK. Our topics this week we are going to start with Katie Hill the congresswoman from California who had dated one of her campaign staffers and she resigned last week after a couple right wing news outlets published a series of naked photos of her for a second topic. We’re going to review Mrs. Fletcher a new HBO series starring Kathryn Hahn as a single and divorced woman whose son goes off to college giving her room to explore her own sexuality. And finally we’re interviewing Ronan Farrow whose reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s long history of alleged rape and sexual harassment forms the basis of his new book catch and kill. That’s gonna be a great conversation. And Marcia what is our Slate Plus segment this week.
S3: Our Slate Plus segment this week asks Is it sexist that Delta Airlines cut out a same sex love scene as well as the word lesbian when it showed the film looks smart on its flights.
S4: If you’re not a Slate Plus member yet and you want to know whether that was sexist you can and should start your free two week trial of Slate Plus by visiting Slate dot com slash the waves plus all right onto the show.
S5: Katie Hill. She was a new member of Congress. She flipped her L.A. area district from red to blue in the 2013 election and she resigned last Thursday. Nicole tell us what happened.
S6: Representative Katie Hill is a bisexual first term Democrat Congresswoman and California as you just mentioned. She resigned after accusations surfaced that she’d been having inappropriate relationships with a campaign staffer who is a woman and a congressional staffer who was a man. She admitted to their relationship with the campaign staffer but denied their relationship with her legislative director Graham Kelly. You know as the situation unfolds and more details come to light it becomes a much more complicated. Hill felt compelled to resign after intimate pictures of her the campaign staffer and her husband Kenny Heslop together were leaked to a conservative pro Trump Web site named Red State. Hill and her husband are in the midst of a divorce and she believes he leaked the images as revenge porn in order to humiliate her. To complicate matters further. Hill accuses her husband of being abusive and leaked text between the campaign staffer Hill and her husband appear to accuse Hill of being abusive to the campaign aide. There’s so much here there’s bi phobia intimate partner abuse accusations revenge porn and workplace misconduct that seems to be creating a just a stew for the headlines and it’s a lot.
S7: We should also note that there are these new rules in Congress that it is forbidden to have a relationship with a staffer and the relationship with the campaign staffer is is not completely outlawed not by these house rules but that was kind of the reason that a lot that she’s there’s still there’s gonna be an inquiry like it’s felt that maybe it’s maybe it’s wrong to say that it’s the reason but it’s certainly part of the factor. Like even though she denies that there was a relationship with a staffer the relationship that would have been illegal it feels that kind of that was to me that feels like it’s a factor at least it’s not why she resigned. But it’s you know a lot of the commentary has said oh she’s the first person who’s had to resign because of these rules. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate but it’s kind of a factor in what’s going on.
S4: Yeah and the with the the relationship that she did admit to and that the photographs concerned or the relationship with the campaign staffer that’s a little complicated too. We’re trying to think about you know whether there was an ethical violation there because their relationship began before that woman was working on Hill’s campaign. So it’s it’s not quite like she began a relationship with her employee. It was she hired someone she was dating.
S8: Is a big growth mess. And I think one of my first thoughts is the way we need to look at relationships amongst people who work together whether you know when they’re consensual because when we’re in the workplace we’re together eight to 10 hours a day or longer we’re spending 40 to 60 hours a week together it seems kind of impossible to ask people not to grow close to one another and not to form perhaps intimate relationships. But again this situation is obviously different because of the nature of the relationships between Hill and the campaign aide.
S9: And you know and which brings in the husband and divorce and all this stuff.
S10: So my first reaction to this story is yikes. There’s so much going on here. And one of the things I think we lose sight of in talking about this sometimes is that this situation is it’s the manifestation of the extreme panic of the culture of it’ll all come back to get you. And so while I think there is a place for serious accountability and reflection what does it mean then to people who want to run for office.
S11: You know that someone like Nancy Pelosi says See this is why you can’t do X Y and c. And the problem with this situation if it was just about the pictures that were released as revenge porn I think it allows us for some conversation about you know what does it mean for things that happen an intimate relationship to be weaponized. But then the workplace misconduct thing is a separate issue but they’re all under the same giant tent so this is a really hard conversation to have. But all of this makes me think of if you remember a few years ago there was a young woman who wanted to run for Congress named Crystal Ball and she later became an MSNBC News correspondent. But part of the reason why she had to drop out of the race were some pictures were released of her during some silly stuff.
S12: I think at a holiday party and the way that she kind of became the face of the cautionary tale about securing your future as a young person interested in these issues I think we’re not around that corner yet of thinking about the ways that behavior is policed for the future and not for the present. And so I think the thing about the photographs is touching on a larger conversation that might get a little bit better but I don’t think we really kind of squared how we understand the fact that a lot of young people do have pictures of themselves in you know states of undress and what can this mean for the future.
S4: Yeah. At Slate we’ve been having some pretty heated slack discussions about this specifically about the questions of journalistic ethics and whether it was right for Red State which not quite sure you could call that a journalistic outlet but especially because the piece that you know published the nude photos was written by an operative for the guy who Hill ousted from Congress. So there seems to be a conflict of interest there probably should have chosen someone else to write that post. But anyway we’ve been talking about whether it was in the public interest for these photos to come out and you know I did a little straw poll yesterday so I already know what June thinks about this. But I’d say we were pretty evenly split among us at Slate between people who thought that the photos should not have been published at all and people who thought that some of the photos were in the public interest because they were necessary to prove that Hill was having an unethical relationship. I think most people drew a distinction between the photos published by red state which you know showed a whole naked brushing the campaign staffers hair and the photos published by The Daily Mail which were included a lot of nude photos of her that did not add any information to this claim of abuse of power. But you know I questioned like do we need to see those photos to have evidence of or know that there is an unethical relationship going on and some people were saying like readers don’t believe you if you just described photos they need to actually see the photos. I’m not sure I believe that. I I don’t think that we needed to see this revenge porn to understand that she was in a relationship with her campaign staffer and not knowing anything about red states reportorial process. I wonder if Hill might have admitted to the relationship if she were confronted with the photos and if the photos were described to her and if she was asked point blank about the relationship. I also don’t think the photos show abuse. No one has alleged abuse the text that you referred to Nicole. The only person who’s saying abuse there is Hill’s husband who she says is abusive and is releasing all this information to try to humiliate her and ruin her career. You know it seemed to me reading those texts that he was trying to seed that idea in the campaign staffers had like oh Katie’s abuse. Like what about that. You know and she was like you know talking about yeah. I feel extremely terrible she’s like isolated me because I was in politics this was my job and now like I it hurts me every time I think about her did it. But no one has said that that there was abuse going on. So I feel like there needs to be a greater threshold of harm to warrant the publication of nude photos like I think that the damage done by publishing these photos was far greater than whatever ethical violation. Katie Hill committed by hiring someone she was dating which like I actually do think that probably was worth resigning from Congress. I think that is an ethical violation. I don’t think that that says anything good about that person’s capacity to lead in an ethical manner. But the I I think that whatever sort of ethical breach she committed pales in comparison to the violation that was committed by showing these nude photos of her. Well do you guys think she should have resigned.
S8: I kind of do. Yeah I think so. The like you said hiring someone that you’re already in a relationship. I mean that’s very murky. And to continue their relationship and then what. I don’t know if it ended and that’s part of the mess as well. But yeah I think she should have resigned. I think she would have been too much of a distraction as people tried to get to the heart of the matter. The real truth of everything. My concern is if it had been a congressman who’s nude pictures had leaked would you know would we have more care about them being leaked and shared and published in various news sites. And I think yes I I I think I I’m thinking about Anthony Wiener and his pictures that. Yes they were leaked but it was also just kind of swept away very quickly as people delve more into the details of his affairs and all of that. So I I’m just wondering if you know if this had been a man would we have so much access to his pictures as we do for for KTLA.
S13: I think you’re right. I don’t know if male nudity pictures would be shared but I have a kind of a metal question about nudes.
S3: It’s a lot like the pictures that were taken were in the context within a relationship and there are a number of people who have nude pictures of themselves that are shared in the process of establishing rapport or establishing a relationship with someone. If there was no if this was the only scandal where just the photographs. Do you think she would have been able to survive that and keep her position.
S4: I think no because she I think she’s saying that she resigned to make it stop because she was so humiliated and probably didn’t want more photos to come out. I I have seen accounts of you know there’s hundreds of photos out there that have been sent to Republican operatives you know across Congress and the media. And I think she resigned to prevent outlets like The Daily Mail from publishing anymore photos. I don’t think that the ethical violation of you know hiring somebody that she was dating was part of it at all because it wasn’t actually against the code of conduct set forth in Congress. I mean I guess it’s possible that she’s lying about the alleged relationship with her legislative staffer and she didn’t want that inquiry to continue. But I think she would have resigned anyway even if it was just the photos because it’s like the amount of power granted to the person who released these because outlets were willing to publish them. Is is far greater than whatever power she has just by staying in office.
S8: Right. I think the word extortion was tossed around. But again it’s hard to find you know the threat to polls to find the root of it but to go back to what’s going to happen when people who have come up in the age of social media who have come up in the age of oversharing start to get into these political wants to run for political office or even wants to get into executive roles and their jobs. What does it mean when these images are their tweets are you know they’re blog posts. If people are still blogging you know if they come back to haunt them some kind of way because you know they say the Internet is forever even if you scrub. Even if you delete all of your tweets they’re still I don’t know that like the wayback machine there’s still ways of trying to find your history and if someone wants to find dirt on you I think that they can. So I think this will start part of that wave of concern of people wondering should I delete my social media should you know especially when you have something like all of the privacy concerns with Facebook and our information being leaked every other day it seems from you know the the apps that we use. So I’m I wonder if this is just going to start like people becoming much more concerned about their social media presence and thinking about the future like what Marcia mentioned earlier and I think in 2014 2045 the presidential campaigns just as right now we as like these are their positions on the issues.
S7: It will just say there’ll be also another category 4. Check out the news like it will just be.
S14: On the campaign was absolutely horrible. They willfully it’s their concentric Oh. Oh my God. Absolutely absolutely. But it will be just like that. Sure.
S11: Check out my notes. I’m just curious like the revenge porn aspect of it. Are there any consequences for that.
S8: Yes. Because there are at least 41 states including California and Washington where it is illegal to release you know images for the purpose of humiliating someone. And you know as we’re calling it revenge porn and I think if I understand correctly Katie Hill is seeking legal action against the publications who released the pictures and I’m not sure if what she’s gonna do in terms of her relationship with her husband.
S15: I mean that’s where the newsworthy news comes in right. I mean if they are newsworthy and if we consider these sites meet the media then it becomes it becomes a different consideration. You know it’s newsworthy there’s an exception. I’m also super curious about. I mean you mentioned earlier Nicole the BI phobia like it. It’s a we should just take a moment just to pause to sort of talk about this the like. It astonishes me that we’re no. Like just talking about a ripple like in the headlines that there’s a there’s a certain mind blowing this part of this to me which I honestly I felt too I’ve been like Oh my God I can’t believe this is in the mainstream. No. I mean clearly it is not cool that it’s happening in the context of exploitation and in a very sort of nasty destructive way. But there’s something about this that I feel like this is a very significant moment. This something important has happened right now.
S4: Yeah like maybe if it had been if there was an ethical violation involved and it was just a revelation that a Congress person was in a triad that that would be OK for the first time. All right. I think that’s all the time we have for this. Listeners let us know whether you think the photos were newsworthy should they have been published. We’d love to hear what you think. You can reach us at the waves at Slate dot com All right our next topic is Mrs. Fletcher a new seven part series on HBO based on a novel by Tom Perata. Jim what’s the deal.
S7: So as you say some parts series the star of this show is Kathryn Hahn beloved actress always in good stuff. She plays Eve a mom who I mean it’s funny I feel weird something erupts within me when I describe a woman as a mom but that don’t don’t limit. It’s very important to this TV show because she is single and divorced. And at the beginning of the show at the beginning of episode episode 1 effectively concerns her packing up her son’s stuff and taking him off to college when he eventually gets there. She goes home and it’s the kind of prototypical empty nest she is alone in an empty house. And she finds herself looking at porn and there begins a sort of journey of self discovery sort of. And she basically the rest of the show is her trying to figure out what comes next and figure out also what it is that she wants. She has a lot more time she has a lot more kind of like it feels like her world is starting over and she has to figure out what she’s going to do with it. And desire is kind of what the show focuses on. What is she going to do with her erotic and emotional life and what do you think of it. I find it dull unfortunately. I love Kathryn Hahn. I am very sorry to be so bored by it. It felt that it just didn’t really I don’t know. It was all about her and yet I felt like I didn’t really know much about her. Even after I only watched five of the seven episodes and I think if we hadn’t been talking about it I would have given up after one because it just was not grabby to me. And again there’s lots of actors in here that I really like in general and who you know were perfectly good I just didn’t think that the the story just didn’t convince me somehow I appreciated that you know the focus on desire and sex made sense to me because hey that’s one thing when you when you feel dissatisfied in your life seeking satisfaction in that area can feel more doable can feel more achievable. But that’s kind of in my head. I didn’t really get that from the show. It just felt like it was it was impenetrable in a way that I didn’t really want it to be. But I have to also say Katharine home was amazing. What did you all think.
S8: OK. So the series is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta and all the episodes are directed by women but that still does not stop the fact that you can tell that this is a man writing a woman’s sexual exploration.
S16: And because what really turned me off part of the pain is the fact that every time Eve sexual exploration moved away from home moved away from watching porn it ends in humiliation or dissatisfaction.
S8: And it’s like she is punished for her sexual exploration. And I always just like this is ridiculous. I can’t deal with this. This is awful. There has to be at some point where she has something good that happens when it comes to her trying to figure out what she likes.
S17: You know I was just like I could predict every major turn. I did predict every major turn that happened in the episodes. I was I finished all seven and I’m just like this is just telegraphed from episode 1 and I I wanted to say I hated it but I don’t hate it I just hate that we still have to get this vision this view of a woman’s sexuality through a man’s eyes.
S9: And no matter how many women touch the script are directed the episodes it’s just very clear that it’s just it could have been better.
S4: Perrotta was also the show runner we should note so you know there’s a lot of power in television although I did read that he got overruled quite a few times in terms of the turns that the script should take including some departures from the plot of the book. But but I I agree with what you said Nicole Marshall what do you think.
S13: I really enjoy it as well as I thought I would.
S18: There’s a parallel storyline that runs in this as Mrs. Fletcher kind of rediscovers herself absent of her child being home. He’s away at college and this show does the kind of lazy. Oh you know this generation with their political correctness and their sexual politics stuff that is so boring and inaccurate and unable to actually helpfully think about what does it mean for someone to also kind of discover their sexuality in different ways in the context of being away from home and in college as a young adult. And so I think that everyone in this is doing the best they can with the material. But I think that it’s supposed to be this kind of slow journey into these people’s lives. But I think it takes a lot of lazy shortcuts so it’s a really lingering narrative that doesn’t really use its time well. And this idea that the Catherine Hunt character could be so just so absent for herself and for her own sexuality I think rings true. But the roots that she uses to kind of get there and the fixation on porn it makes me wonder has this woman never seen pornography has never had an orgasm. Mike I need a little bit more to understand how all of this stuff is due to her in a way that just seems a little ridiculous.
S4: I saw it sort of reframing the midlife crisis narrative as a coming of age narrative and in a way that felt slightly new to me like it felt a lot like a coming of age movie that we would normally watch about teenagers like someone discovering masturbation somebody you know having a slow motion dance scene to I’ll stop the world and melt with you. And like finding transcendence in in that song and in you know getting drunk for what seems like the first time based on how she conducts herself. I agree with a lot of what you guys are saying. I kept wanting things to happen and nothing kept happening and then when things did happen I predicted what would happen like two episodes earlier and I usually really like Kathryn Hahn and I think she does a good job in this but I found it’s her very painful to watch because she’s so uncomfortable throughout the entire thing she’s like you know very uncomfortable in her own skin she’s awkward in and sort of swallowing herself and every interaction she has in a way that felt overdone to the point where like nobody could ever be that uncomfortable with themselves. You know like middle aged well-adjusted person would be that uncomfortable with themselves in every situation and B it was it just gave me like a low key sense of anxiety throughout the entire show. It also made me wonder whether it was trying to take seriously this idea that women can become more full of desire as they age instead of less or whether it was trying to make fun of it like there were a lot of little gags like you know she’s masturbating and cookies are in the oven she’s baking cookies for her son and she has to decide what the timer is going off like is she going to have an orgasm or is she going to save the cookies from getting burned or like you know she practices spanking herself she’s playing both roles in like a little s and m scene she’s doing with herself like it. I appreciate a laugh but to me those just felt like they were making fun of her and I wanted to see more of her being taken seriously and finding herself the juxtaposition with the college story. It did make me a little bit sad in thinking that maybe some people go directly from like terrible sex with drunk boys who only care about themselves and like are have no idea what they’re doing to like a monogamous relationship with a man who also doesn’t quite care about your pleasure and you don’t ever get to decide what you actually like until you’re in your late 40s and divorced and your son moves away.
S16: Yeah I want to talk about Brendan. Yes because this is also such a signpost for well now or straight cis white men bad is it bad to be you know like I think he literally said yes because OK Brendan realizes that it’s not enough for him to be this boorish person like he in high school he was the man just because he made himself the man you know.
S8: But in college everyone is kind of like you’re not intelligent you refuse to adapt to the language that we use you know things like that and he’s realizing that he’s not the God that he thought he was and that his white male mediocrity is just coming out like an and. And it’s nobody wants to deal with it. His roommate avoids him. He has a dalliance with a woman. That is rather terror terribly for her. And he doesn’t he still doesn’t understand it. You know like he’s trying to process what happened and he knows that he’s the bad guy. But I don’t think he understands how or why he’s the bad guy in this situation.
S4: I found it very unlikely that this generic state university would not have a predominant culture of like white male Jock hood. It it it felt extremely like wrong to me that this random state college campus was like so queer like 100 percent queer and progressive and here was like the only white guy who didn’t know not to say you know a slur Well there was like this one scene where he chose to go to the jocks table and they’re talking about climate change as hos like what is he supposed to do now because.
S16: All he wants to talk about is how to surf the tsunami you know in this situation.
S7: So I don’t know Brendan who from the first second that you see him he’s a horrible guy. He’s repulsive. He’s the ultimate and you know entitled young white man. And the thing that never really seemed to be dealt with is the fact you know not the parents are responsible for whether their children are wonderful or awful completely. But if you are the white mother of a white son it kind of is on you to not make him be an entitled jerk. And so that did feel like a huge failure for Eve. And that was never grappled with. It was like she was effectively this wonderful person and her husband or ex-husband was a shit at least to her and mostly to Brendan. And yet while she is responsible. Why. Why was that never reckoned with. And that felt like a big. When the show is about Mrs. Fletcher Why did we why did they never deal with that.
S17: I watched all seven episodes and one thing that stood out to me was the very careful ways that the show hid penises. But we saw Eve’s full body naked several times and we see other people naked.
S8: We see actual scenes of porn where women are completely naked and we’re seeing everything that we need to see. No point scene.
S16: And so it just struck me as very odd and jarring to see the way that the show continued to hide dicks because like we’re seeing everything else and it’s not necessarily Oh give me the Dick I want to see it you know like it’s not like I’m like Feeny for but it’s it’s not fair it’s just like why do we have a show about a woman’s sexual exploration.
S9: And you put her body on display but we don’t see the men that she is involved with when they are naked. We don’t see Brandon we see him naked a couple of times but again his stuff is very carefully hidden. So I that’s another thing I’m like you know just be fair.
S7: Well the other thing I mean to state the obvious to like I think there’s one black person like even in the background of the show. So interesting location. I mean there’s a black character who’s somewhat central but there are no other black people like even in the background.
S14: Well Chloe you know Chloe’s as well so she’s Yeah. Yeah. So she’s a woman of color. And that is also something that I noticed that there was no woman of color who you know enjoyed any kind of sexual pleasure in in the show.
S17: But I can’t hold it against the show because I don’t think anybody achieve sexual pleasure in the show except for the white man. Yes exactly.
S19: All right. Well that’s a rousing recommendation from the Braves listeners. If you disagreed with us maybe you loved the show. I think there’s two episodes out on HBO right now. Let us know what you think.
S4: You can reach us at the waves at Slate dot com Ronan Farrow was one of the reporters who last October broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged pattern of sexual assault and harassment. He’s published several pieces in The New Yorker about it and his new book catch and kill came out last month. The book not only explains how Ronan did his reporting but it gets into the truly flabbergasting lengths Weinstein went to in order to keep those stories from getting out. With help from private investigators duplicitous lawyers and a few executives at NBC where Roone was working when he started his investigation were so happy to have him here with us today to talk about the book catch and kill. Ronan welcome to the waves.
S20: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
S4: Your book to me read sort of like a treatment for a psychological thriller like you’re being stalked. You’re battling a conspiracy you’re putting your notes in a safe deposit box with a letter about what to do in case you disappear. What made you want to focus on that part of the story about you know Weinstein’s efforts to stop your reporting and NBC as cowardly failures rather than just sort of expanding on your reporting on Weinstein’s alleged abuse.
S21: Well built into the plot that unravels in the book is this struggle that so many of us have as journalists as not wanting to be the story and this odd tension where Harvey Weinstein weaponized some very personal stuff from my past and kind of makes me the story and then the shutdown of the story starts commanding all this interest from good tough journalists who kind of grill me about it. And you know there are these scenes where I sit there and dodged questions for us because I’ve you know told NBC that I would do my best to dodge questions. I always said I wouldn’t lie. But you know for a time I’m trying to save my job and wondering if it’s really significant enough that I need to be talking about it. And then it’s partly the critical mass of sources coming forward talking about these vast systems designed to shut down stories and these cultures of depression that NBC and EMI and CBS and other places have reported on that convinced me that this was a story as important as any other that I’d reported on.
S4: And you know that meant making it a personal narrative in part and that meant making it a book that embraced being a book and therefore being more narrative in full at what point did you start sort of keeping track of your own experiences with the intent of making that its own story.
S21: You know I was working as a journalist at the time so automatically my posture was probably more about keeping meticulous notes and records than maybe the average person in those circumstances. But a lot of it is just having that wealth of material and then only realizing after the fact. Oh. Every single day here is documented to the degree with no recording and no. And transcript and part of the process of writing the book was not just the no taking it to the time and all of the record keeping but also a very exhaustive process of going through and making sort of a bible of what had happened. Day by day through essentially a two year period and then there’s the fact that you know that that narrative in the book extends into almost the present day. I mean the final scene in the book take place in mid 2019. So I was both kind of meticulously assembling all of the material from the recent past and then also living out to the end of the plot at the same time there is this weird situation where you know I was getting calls about like movie adaptations and I just kept telling people I am still in the plot. It’s like I can’t I can’t talk about that but finish several years of crazy intensive reporting first.
S7: This book is a chronicle of very intensive reporting very intense reporting and the story also because you put you know you put yourself in your own story you reveal that the level of connections that you had with people like Noah Oppenheim of NBC who was key to kind of closing down the story. MATT LAUER You know you were on the Today show with him and you know what’s clear and interesting to me was that you are so good unlike the systemic problems that we’re facing here that this is an old boys club. You are also unlike the authors of she said You are a guy a white guy. Did you ever have the feeling that you were you were being kind of offered entree into that old boys club. Did you ever have the sense that they were kind of tempting you into complicity in their world. Nothing to do with the abuse that many of these men are accused of. Did you ever kind of deal with that sense of like please join our club.
S22: Yeah. There are many themes in the book where you know men are talking about women in a certain way or talking about the expedience of killing a story in a certain way. And these questions of kind of is it worth it. I mean for what it’s worth some of those characters you mention are incredibly frank about their motivations in the book. You know that they openly say like you know it doesn’t really matter. Is it really that bad what Harvey White is doing. You know girls like that say a lot of things. You know there’s some pretty nasty things that get said nakedly and openly. I think partly because they assume that I am part of that boys club that you mentioned and there are moments then where kind of the temperature in the room changes in themes in the book when I push back on that and then become something of an outsider and a pariah and in a funny way. While I can’t claim to understand the systemic sexism that gets directed at so many of my sources over the course of this book I get a kind of halo effect from it where suddenly I’m being called you know hysterical and too emotional and too close to things and all of these things that women get called when they speak out about these issues.
S8: How has your reporting changed the way you see the intersections of power and performances of masculinity and have you become more aware of men who have such extreme difficulty separating status from their masculinity.
S21: You know sometimes in conversations that I have with men accused of serious crime of sexual violence those two things are strikingly entwined. Is that a person’s data. Lead to a set of misapprehensions for rationalizations after the fact about their actions.
S23: Whether that is someone who has maybe had a life experiences that involves getting rejected by people they were making sexual advances on and power became a a cudgel to get what they couldn’t get by consent or the reverse case where someone by dint of their power and charisma is used to people saying yes including people who work for them and people they have complete control over.
S22: And I’ve seen the scenario where someone seems to be convinced that it’s impossible that anyone could say no. You know in both of those extreme lead to a situation where power has kind of corrupted and led to this kind of criminal activity. On the other hand you know some of that is people’s psychology themselves after the fact. It’s rationalizing and you know no matter how powerful someone is I think they know when they’re engaged in criminal activity.
S13: One of the things I really enjoyed about the book is the way that you unmask the deep connections among media and entertainment companies.
S24: And so at various turns when you know Ronan roving reporter goes out to try to report this story you realize how many people have this close relationship with Weinstein or his companies. And so when we think about the way forward it’s not just a story about people being brave enough to talk about their experiences. It’s also about how power has just been consolidated in these industries. What do you imagine is possible in the wake of the exposure of this type of stories in terms of how these various circles interact with each other or do you think we’re kind of stuck with these weird relationships among the press and the entertainment industry and the publishing industry.
S23: This gets back to the first question in the conversation. You know one of the reasons why this was a separate important story was because it explains how powerful interests throttle the flow of information in our culture and how that can affect our democracy. You know one of the threads in this book is me following these clues from Harvey mine King’s relationship with the National Enquirer to Donald Trump’s relationship with the National Enquirer and potential violations of election law that resulted from them burying stories for Trump. You know this is important stuff. Who controls the news who tells our story and at who is the head and the deep web of alliances between the media and powerful people accused of terrible crime. Absolutely has distorted news coverage at some of our greatest news organizations. You know there’s a there’s a straight line through that reporting I’ve done on the Enquirer on CBS on NBC some of those are great news organizations and some not. But they’re all media companies that enjoy the protections of the First Amendment and rightly so. And I think one of the most powerful things we can do is have an honest conversation about how to hold ourselves accountable especially at our our great media organizations. But even at our tabloid media organizations how to ensure that people who are supposedly in the business of imparting knowledge aren’t instead becoming instruments of depression and I refused to think that we are stuck with those circles of mutual protection and suppression of information. I think that the fact that media is becoming more diverse and fragmented is actually a good thing in terms of loosening the vice grip. Powerful people have held on the media for so long. And I think that the bravery of sources like the women in catch and kill and the bravery of the reporters they talk about in catching hell. You know Ken Auletta. Ben Wallace you know Jodi Kantor and Meghan Toohey. That all leaves me with a lot of optimism about our willingness as a culture to continue to confront complicity in the media along those lines.
S4: You know you mentioned a couple other reporters who had worked on this story before and you also mentioned that you know it took sources willing to talk and willing to come forward in order to get the story out there so I feel like there’s you know when. When I think about why this story and our story is I guess came out when they did. There are maybe a couple of reasons why that might be part of it is you know great reporting by folks like you and part of it is a willingness on the sources part. What do you think played in to the ability of you know both of those forces combining to finally get the story out there after so many thwarted attempts by by previous journalists and previous women.
S23: Well I had the luxury of doing my work in a cultural moment where some of these things were being reassessed. It was still almost impossible for so many of my sources to imagine that they might speak and be heard. But I was able to convey to them that there were some hidden precedent beginning to emerge. You know that the accusers of Bill Cosby had refused to shut up and that that story had bubbled up repeated that Gretchen Carlson and others at Fox News had done what they did and blown that scandal wide open. There were a couple of examples I could point to where there was at least some suggestion that the dam might break and that in turn rests on a whole wider history of feminism and activism. You know things that have nothing to do with including Toronto Burke’s wonderful work. You know she coined the term me too and it’s still so instrumental to mobilizing people. I’m a reporter I don’t have anything to do with movement building or activism but I certainly was able to work in a climate where activists had created a more of a space for women to speak their truth on this subject.
S8: When women became more vocal about speaking out against sexual harassment a lot of times their male colleagues would say things like oh I can’t tell you you look good today or so I’m going to get fired you know to try to cover up their discomfort or anything. You know something like that. And I wonder if your colleagues have changed their behavior when you come around now are they are they joking with you like oh I’m not on next on the list am I. You
S16: know but it’s also kind of like a little is there a little bit of fear in those jokes.
S25: I I definitely had a lot of those jokes and you know mostly the calls they make guys are her you know supportive calls working with sources who are willingly giving me information it’s a very small subset where I’m kind of adversarial calling to grill someone about out serious allegations against them. But you know it cuts both ways. I think the reputation that I’ve acquired you know leads a lot of people to pick up the phone and that’s great. And hopefully that flows from people having some sense that I’m trustworthy as a journalist. There are also plenty of people maybe in the same category you’re talking about who hang up the phone really quickly. I’ll take all. And you know who is doing it about something terrible and I there’s a funny dynamic right. And I’ve had to develop a language where if I’m calling a you know a prominent man in my reporting and they’re not accused of something terrible I have to say very quickly like this is not about anything about you.
S26: I’m just seeking information about someone else which is an odd position to be in in this current moment.
S13: What is it like for you to then. I don’t know exist in this space of journalism because I imagine you’re persona non grata in a lot of other places.
S3: What did this do to you in terms of thinking about your own both professional and personal relationships with people who felt like you had expose their complicity or expose their bad behavior.
S22: Well I try to be very aware of and to check myself about my privilege. You know at every turn and was always very conscious of the many ways in which I was privileged as I was living through these events from know not being a journalist in Pakistan or Russia or any of the many places where journalists just wind up dead for doing this kind of work at all the way to you know just simply being a guy in our culture. And therefore in some ways being more seen it. That said it was a scary turn of events that I’m very frank in the book about the ways in which you know I really had to make a decision to see my career go away in the course of telling the story and that was more difficult for people at a working level like my producer at NBC rich McCue who’s an incredible guy and a really emergence of a portrait of bravery in this book because he has four little girls to support and you know is living in the suburbs and dealing with his mortgage and has a lot more on the line than I do as a young man at the time. No single person in a wonderful supportive relationship that you know without any dependents and yet people people putting their careers on the line like you did. That’s a real cost and feel anxiety inducing. And I try to bring people inside my own experience of that hopefully to teach people something about the wider community of people whistleblowers journalists who who go through those kinds of fears. That said I do try to focus on the positive. And I have been incredibly fortunate and in a frankly unusual position in that you know my career has come back and I’m doing OK. And yes I get attacks of various kinds like legal and even threats to my personal safety and yes as you say I’m persona non grata in some circles in the media world. And I’ve been blacklisted in various places and so forth. And that’s all you know described in the book and has been confirmed now by other reporters. But I’m making a living and doing well and immensely grateful at all times for how much support I’ve gotten in the wake of all of this.
S23: And I guess I try to highlight both of those sides it because not everyone has that luxury.
S27: Not everyone has that kind of public profile and is able to rally the kind of public support around this kind of controversial work.
S4: Yeah. Thank you so much Ronan. We really enjoyed the book and it was great to get to chat with you about it.
S27: I’m so grateful for you guys calling attention to it and thank you for the work you all do and the smart conversation.
S26: Thank you. Take care guys. Bye.
S4: All right I want to talk a little bit about our our own takeaways from the book. What did you all get from it.
S17: Well I was surprised at how much of a page turner it was for me particularly since I don’t typically read these kinds of I want to call it a tell all but this kind of investigative nonfiction slash. I don’t I don’t know what else it could be called but I don’t typically typically read this. And I found myself enthralled and I I really appreciate it the way that he was able to balance the facts of what was going on with the need to keep the readers attention because that can be a very delicate line to walk.
S8: And a lot of people will go more towards the sensational side and you know make it exploit the situation exploit the experiences that the victims were having.
S9: But I think he did a really good job of making sure that we were aware that this is these are real life events that are happening and and that have happened and that we need to understand the seriousness of all these different situations.
S7: I agree. And I also find it a complete page turner. I was surprised this is the kind of book I tend to read for like oh you know behind the scenes like how did he do the reporting kind of thing and she revealed that. But it also really was just like gripping. I really appreciated the way that he really focused on the systemic aspects like sure there are some bad guys around. But it’s there are so many of them and they’ve been there for so long and they’ve been covering up for each other and it really you know we can call it an old boys club as I have been doing but you know it’s a culture of keeping quiet and and and the other thing that was terrifying honestly and something that also came up in all the coverage of the Theron o scandal that we’ve been hearing in the last year year and a half was this of deployment of the a very expensive legal help to threaten and to try to silence people either within days or just threatening them with legal action. And you know involving people who are faking personalities like just it is terrifying to think to stop a story coming out that’s just this entire you know like spy operations happening. I mean really like it is a real life spy story in many ways and that’s terrifying.
S4: For me it was a little bit surprising and perhaps also telling that for a story that was that’s essentially about you know the abuse of women and then the bravery of those women. It was a very very male heavy story. And I mean almost all of the people in it. Amen. You know the people reporting the story the people making decisions about whether or not that reporting gets on air. You know the people editing that work producing that work that people spying the people doing the abusing like it was just a very male story. Yeah. Which I think helps explain why these stories haven’t come out that for so long they were just sort of like pooh poohed as like oh that’s a personal matter. There were a lot of people you know up and down the hierarchy at NBC who are like well is that really so bad. Or also sort of objectifying and commenting on the appearance of the survivors of Weinstein’s abuse in our recent. Is it sexist segment we talked about the way Bob Woodward talked about. She said Megan Tuohy and Jodi Kantor’s book about you know Weinstein’s abusing their reporting about it and how he was like well isn’t it about sex at its very core. And I think this book does a really good job of explaining how sex is actually kind of a small part of it. And it’s you know if it was just about men wanting sex there wouldn’t it’s not just like men are horny and can’t help themselves like if it was just about that there would not be hundreds of millions of dollars. And and you know global spy operations harnessed to protect these men. This is this is about throwing power around and maintaining a hierarchy of power that benefits you know the men at the top of NBC and all these law firms as much as it does. You know Weinstein who who gets to do you know for decades got to stay in his position of power.
S28: I think that the way that the book is written also there’s a level of self-awareness that Farrow embodies as he’s talking about his greater opportunities at NBC that some of the people we meet who are in the position to control not only what types of stories are available to a larger public but what kind of reporting he can do. You know there’s all this signposts that there’s something a little off about these guys. And what I think is really interesting is that the people who are determining whether the Weinstein story should run if they’re not friends with him they have also engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior as well. And so he’s creating a really compelling through line about the ways that people some with great privilege some with moderate amounts of privilege how they’re trying to prove themselves in a system that has already determined that sexual harassment is not a big deal. And you see his growing awareness of his relationship to the system as the story gets deeper and deeper. And I appreciate that there wasn’t this kind of I think sometimes people who write these stories can sometimes feign a little bit of innocence of like I can’t believe that you know my hero in this organization would do this. But just a real grappling with coming into this awareness and having to hold oneself accountable and still trying to make it work in a system that is so deeply deeply toxic.
S4: It was also a vindicating text for women who’ve been told they’re paranoid for thinking that there was like a global conspiracy to keep these kinds of allegations under wraps like Rose McGowan in particular. And you know I I’ve been a little bit critical of her book in a piece I wrote for Slate. And you know I I don’t completely agree with the ways that she’s gone about you know activating in this I the ME2 era if you want to call it that but you know she she she’s completely written off as paranoid and crazy and hysterical. Meanwhile a woman has been posing as her best friend when when really you know working for the spy operation hired by Weinstein in order to get dirt on her like it’s I don’t know if I know I called it vindicating I’m not sure if that’s exactly what it is but it certainly validates a lot of people’s suspicions that there are you know entire industry is full of men and several women working to protect these people just because I don’t know they’re they they love money that much like it we can guess about their motives all you want but you know to help keep these alleged abusers in power yeah that’s all the time we have for catch and kill. If you read the book we’d love to hear what you think. Email us at the waves at Slate dot.com area. It’s time for our recommendations. Who wants to go first.
S7: I can’t. I want to give a rousing recommendation for Mark Morris’s memoir. Say that six times first which is called OutLoud. Mark Morris of course the dancer and choreographer. And you know dance and especially modern dance. Well actually all dance is it is kind of the area of arts and culture that I am that I know least about that I see least and yet I find Mark Morris a very interesting person because he’s these kind of load you know like the like the title says he’s he’s somebody who is brash and and just kind of out there. And I was just curious to hear the story of his life. And first of all it’s very compellingly written it’s written with a co-writer but it feels like I don’t know him so I don’t know if that is his voice but this voice feels like it would be the voice of Mark Morris is very sassy and sharp and you know he doesn’t hold doesn’t hold back. And I also just learned a huge amount about both dance and choreography and just like the work that goes into making dances to forming a company and becoming a dancer in all of these things that were hidden to me and now I feel like I have a sense of them and it was just a really fun and interesting book to read so outloud by Mark Morris sounds really good.
S29: Marcia would you have I have a podcast again this one is called that that don’t kill me and it is a non inspirational look about illness and disability from two people who had chronic illness since they were young and it really delves into the stories that we often don’t hear about anxieties about dating about going out and you can’t drink because of your medical situation. How much do you tell co-workers about your disability or your illness. Being a kid in the hospital and I just think that these conversations are so thoughtful and are really just in the service of honesty and not again inspiring people which I think is really fantastic. And so the podcast is that that don’t kill me with Kendall ceasefire and James and rich.
S17: That sounds awesome. Nicole let’s hear it. OK. So I had one recommendation and then am watching Mrs. Fletcher. I changed it. So my recommendation is a music band called Duran Jones and the indications.
S9: There was a song that plays in a particular moment in the in the series and I just kept I kept rewinding the scene just to hear the song.
S30: So it is a old school soul pop sound kind of group. And when I say old school I’m saying it’s a little Smokey Robinson and Frankie Lyman Otis Redding.
S17: There’s just really really good. I strongly recommend it. I know there’s an album on Spotify and they’re all on social media where you know wherever you want to find them. And I think that they’re a perfect band for when you want something soulful but with much more care with the lyrics and musicianship than what is currently happening in RB right now. So that is Duran Jones and the indications.
S19: Wow. I’m so glad he got something that they did have a very good soundtrack. There was also a queer dance party that for some reason Brendan got to go to where they were playing like JD Samson and man and Tegan and Sara and I was like excuse you give me this playlist. All right I am going to recommend this is the first time I’ve ever recommended an action movie to anybody I think I’m going to recommend Terminator dark fate. It’s a Terminator movie for those of you not familiar with the Terminator series or unfamiliar with this latest entry into the series. It’s apparently it disregards several other Terminators that have come before apparently like the lead woman character Sarah Connor who’s played by Linda Hamilton.
S4: Like it was implied or maybe said that she died at some point. Well she didn’t die. She’s back in this movie. She was she starred in the first two Terminator movies and this is the first one she’s back for. The film also stars Mackenzie Davis who is a queer icon for her role in San Junipero the acclaimed Black Mirror episode and also Natalia Reyes is in the movie. She’s really great too. I recently wrote a piece about this because a little birdie had told me that it was an incredibly queer and feminist text and it definitely is first of all there’s basically no says men in it. I’m not counting the two Terminators one of whom was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger the other of whom is played by another guy. But B I don’t consider them says men because they’re robots wearing sort of like masculine presenting skins. So the only real says men in it are have very small parts and they die. And so it’s a very like woman led movie that’s also incredibly queer even though it’s mostly but like a very loud dog whistle there’s there’s no explicit acknowledgment of a sexual relationship between the two characters who seem like they’re together but they’re definitely more than platonic.
S19: I actually wrote a piece about it that you could find at Slate dot com or link to it on this show’s page. It’s also like a critique of masculinity a little bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character like I’ll be back.
S4: Perhaps some of you may have heard that famous line from this movie that he he’s sort of a reformed character where he is learning to perform emotional labor which is not does not come naturally to either you know the the masculine ideal presented in the film series or to a robot. He has a family a non-sexual relationship with his female partner but they co parent a child together and are romantically involved. He is like performing housework decorating the home. I also think it’s being marketed to the wrong people because I found it really fun and and kind of sexy and just an enjoyable movie but it’s bombing at the box office because I think it’s the Terminator fans are going to see the movie and are sort of disappointed that there are no salesmen in it and that like the heroes are all women and it’s super queer and like all these people online are like the work Terminator like f this work Terminator movie. But for people who liked watching the Terminator because Linda Hamilton did pull ups which my wife says that’s what made her gay you’re going to love this movie you should go see it. It’s called Terminator dark fate. I hope that people new to the Terminator series as I was go to see it because it was great. OK now it’s time for our slate plus. Is it sexist. Segment Marcia take it away.
S31: Today’s is a sexist question comes from the airlines. Delta Airlines made the decision to edit out scenes in the 2019 film book smart that included two women engaged in sexual activity as well as the word vagina and a conversation about urinary tract infections. So was it sexist for Delta to use its editorial discretion in removing these scenes.
S7: Hell yes it is. I think maybe I’m wrong I’m sometimes wrong about this but this seems like an easy one this week. It is very clearly sexist and homophobic. Also there’s a long history of not only in companies that airlines use to kind of boldly rise movies but also just in the way that like the ratings the NBA holds any same sex conductor speech or R are or relationships too much that they consider them much more threatening to children’s mental health than regular relationships and just the fact that as the director Olivia Wilde pointed out like this company that did the editing for Delta left in a lot a lot of fucks left in like a you know a soft sordid and semi explicit sex scene that involved a man and a microphone. It was clearly targeted at words that are about female genitalia relationships that involve women together. This one doesn’t seem like to have a lot of nuance to it. Yes this is sexist.
S9: Yeah I think it’s sexist as well and definitely homophobic. I mean when I’ve been on airplanes I’ve seen people watching very violent films. So when you know the excuse of You want to be family safe or whatever that’s B.S. because if you can see people getting their heads chopped off or you know these very gross and gruesome battle scenes in movies then you can see two women kissing two women talking about sexual health and things like that so it’s definitely sexist and homophobic.
S19: I just want to say though I think every airline I know every airline is different because my partner recently watched the book smart on an airplane and I asked her about this and she was like Nope.
S4: I definitely saw everything all of that and I just I am going to push back a little bit on the sexism of this just because I am a super prude and don’t think that any sex scenes should be shown on airplanes. I feel extremely uncomfortable when I’m watching a movie and a sex scene comes on and I feel almost even more uncomfortable when I’m watching somebody else watch a sex scene on an airplane especially knowing what we know about the prevalence and impunity of people who sexually harass and assault people on airplanes. And you know how ill equipped airline employees are to deal with that. We know what happens if somebody gets groped in midair or something. I feel like there should not be any sex scenes shown on that can I just exist.
S7: That’s just to say I agree completely even though I have enjoyed my share of HBO shows on other airlines. I find it absolutely mortifying when I’m as you say when I’m seeing other people watching you know it just shows that I love like insecure has a lot of sex scenes. I realized when I was watching when I was watching other people watch it on the airline like this was a case though where there was a like it wasn’t evenly applied. Certain things were allowed. Other things were not. And I don’t think we can call it like utilize sex scenes but I’m actually with you in your underline right there.
S19: Yes. Like also especially the fact that they took out the word vagina but not the word fuck like vaginas. Not a bad word especially you know kids. If anything kids use the word vagina more than adults because they’re being taught. Well you know kids with good parents who are teaching them proper words for things. Maybe I’m speaking just from experience with my own sisters and friends kids we’re like as when kids learn the word vagina they’re like that looks like a vagina. Like they’re just saying it all over the place. I feel like that’s way more appropriate for them to hear than the word fuck. And also what child is gonna be watching you know book smart on the plane without their parents permission. But yeah. So I feel like the the uneven application of it was sexist but I’d like to advocate for fewer sex scenes on a plane.
S32: Marsha what do you think. I don’t know. As someone who is constantly on an airplane and coming to you from Hawaii I appreciate your analysis Christina because there is something really weird about how explicit the content is in the entertainment section. I for one have watched really disturbing stuff more like documentaries about Jonestown.
S33: And like sad French documentaries on planes and even that I’m kind of curious about what kind of market research they’ve done to determine what people want to watch while other people are around them.
S34: I find that fascinating but all of that aside I think I think that some of the editing choices for book smart also coincide that it’s supposed to be a movie about teenage girls rather than adult women in the kind of framework. And so I’m curious of that also informed how the edits were done and that if a film like American Pie that it’s about guys if there would be fewer edits. I’m just really curious about how this as a high school girl movie also impacted some of those choices. So yes it is sexist and I think we should watch nothing.
S19: Only Mona. I did watch more on unemployment true. It’s a really good plain movie. I mean you know especially in Hawaii. Marsha give it a watch.
S34: Well I have to say emotionally like I tried to watch an episode of This Is Us and I was such an emotional wreck on the plane that I was like This is not appropriate. And then I turned towards Coco. Oh my God.
S16: And I couldn’t do that.
S19: There should be no sexual no explicit like Maury explicit and no entertainment on porn. Go to sleep. Nature documentaries but that do not address climate change because that’s also emotional. All right let’s give us a score. June you went first.
S35: What’s your score. Ten. Nicole.
S30: You kind of made me want to lower my score. But I will I will say a nine.
S36: OK. I’m gonna give it a.
S4: Not knowing exactly how Delta’s company at its other movies. I’m going to give it an eight. Wait I’m changing I’m going to give it. God. Hang on let me do my calculations again. I changed my mind again. I’m going to give it a seven point eight.
S37: It’s so specific. I want to be accurate. I’ll give it a nine point five. Wow. That’s low for you low for me. This is based on my remembering watching. This is us on a plane feeling all right.
S4: It’s a nine point one pretty sexist not entirely sexist and we should note that Delta did change its editing after Olivia Wilde complained.
S5: All right. Thank you to Delta and thank you listeners for your Slate Plus membership which keeps us alive. Please keep sending us your is it sexist question so you can weigh in. Our e-mail address is the waves at Slate dot com. All right. That’s our show for today. Thank you to Sara Birmingham who produced this episode. RACHEL ALLEN Our production assistant and Rosemary Belson who provided production assistance in D.C. for Marcia Chaplin Nicole Perkins and June Thomas.
S19: I’m Christina Carter G. Thanks for listening.