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NBC News says Ronan Farrow's draft story on Harvey Weinstein for the network contained misstatements

A 10-page internal report says Farrow's reporting for The New Yorker bore little resemblance to the material it chose not to report last year.
by Alex Johnson /  / Updated 

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NBC News alleged in an internal report Monday that the writer Ronan Farrow had taken a source's comments out of context in his reporting on sexual harassment claims against the movie producer Harvey Weinstein while he was working for the network and had misrepresented the source's willingness to identify Weinstein by name.

The allegation was included in a 10-page report sent to employees four days after The New York Times quoted Farrow's former NBC producer as having said "the very highest levels of NBC" ordered Farrow to stop his work on the investigation. The producer, Rich McHugh, left NBC News last month.

NBC News said it allowed Farrow to take his reporting to The New Yorker because he didn't have any individuals willing to go on the record. Responding to the Times' report last week, it said, "The assertion that NBC News tried to kill the Weinstein story while Ronan Farrow was at NBC News, or even more ludicrously, after he left NBC News, is an outright lie."

The internal report said NBC News had two investigative reporters and a senior editor review Farrow's draft script and its underlying reporting. It said the team "was again unanimous that NBC News did not yet have a story that was ready for broadcast."

It alleged that in a draft script, Farrow included an excerpt from an interview with a former employee of Weinstein's that misrepresented what the source said.

"After reviewing the full transcripts the Editorial Review Team discovered the script took his comments out of context, misrepresenting him as if he were willing to identify Weinstein when in fact he had only agreed to speak broadly of Hollywood executive behavior, and said on camera: 'I'm not comfortable' specifically naming Harvey Weinstein," the report said.

Farrow said in a statement early Tuesday that the NBC News report contained "numerous false or misleading statements," asserting that it was the network's idea that he take his reporting elsewhere, not his, and that "I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting."

Farrow said that the network's legal and standards departments both approved his reporting, "only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein."

He said he would have more to say "at the right time."

The New Yorker declined to comment. In a statement on Twitter, McHugh said: "I'm not clear how NBC's report can be considered objective and thorough given I was never interviewed for the report and only learned about it when asked for comment by reporters late last week."

The report also said that during an interview, Farrow misled Ken Auletta, The New Yorker's media critic, leading Auletta to believe that Farrow "had multiple women willing to be identified by name" while he was still at NBC News.

In fact, the network said, "there was not a single victim of — or witness to — misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified."

According to the report, Farrow interviewed two people on camera while he worked on the story at NBC News. Those people were Auletta — who it said was reacting to "misleading information provided by Farrow — and the actor Rose McGowan, who it said sent NBC News a cease-and-desist letter refusing permission for the network to use her interview, in which she refused to name Weinstein.

In February, McGowan confirmed to the Los Angeles Times: "I started a cease-and-desist at NBC. It was me that spiked it. It wasn't the place for it."

The network also alleged that Farrow told editors that two women had accused Weinstein of misconduct toward them, even though his own notes at the time showed that they had "made only general allegations and had yet to provide any specific details." Weinstein has denied all allegations of abuse against him.

Farrow took his reporting to The New Yorker in August 2017. The magazine published its article two months later, after Farrow went to the magazine with "very serious reporting already accomplished," the magazine's editor in chief, David Remnick, said last year.

Farrow expanded the piece "with extremely hard work, and with work with a lot of my colleagues here at The New Yorker," Remnick said.

The internal report contended that the final New Yorker article bore little resemblance to what Farrow had been pushing to report at NBC News.

The New Yorker article identified eight women by name. NBC News said seven of the women were never included in Farrow's reporting at the network, while the eighth refused to let her name be used.

"Throughout the eight months that NBC News had supported and guided his work, Farrow's editors repeatedly told him that the story needed at least one credible on-the-record accusation from someone willing to be identified — a standard he still had not met," the network said.

In a separate cover letter, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said: "Contrary to recent allegations, at no point did NBC obstruct Farrow's reporting or 'kill' an interview." Lack said the network had, in fact, repeatedly rebuffed efforts by representatives for Weinstein to interfere with Farrow's reporting.

"In each instance, their calls were either completely ignored or met with a boilerplate commitment to allow them to comment if and when something was ready for broadcast," Lack said.

"We will continue to pursue the toughest stories, in the most challenging circumstances, involving the most powerful people," Lack said. "And we will keep doing it while upholding the journalistic standards that have been the backbone of this outstanding news organization."

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