NBC News defends its decision not to air Ronan Farrow's reporting on sexual-misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein

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  • NBC News sent out an internal memo on Monday defending its decision to decline Ronan Farrow’s reporting on the sexual-misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
  • The 10-page memo, sent to employees by NBC News’ chief, Andy Lack, follows allegations that Farrow and his producers were “ordered to stop” by executives.
  • The memo says NBC News spent eight months pursuing the story with Farrow but chose not to move forward because he did not have sources willing to go on the record and his reporting “did not hold up to scrutiny.”
  • Farrow ultimately took his reporting to The New Yorker, where it included on-the-record sources and won him a Pulitzer Prize.
  • Farrow responded to the memo, saying his story was initially “cleared” but was later “blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein.”

NBC News sent out an internal memo on Monday defending its decision not to broadcast Ronan Farrow’s reporting on the sexual-misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

The 10-page memo, sent to employees by NBC News’ chief, Andy Lack, follows allegations that Farrow and his producers were “ordered to stop” by network executives.

The memo said that NBC News spent eight months pursuing the story with Farrow but that a review of his work concluded it was not “yet fit to broadcast.” It then said “Farrow did not agree with that standard.”

The broadcaster said central to its concerns was that Farrow’s reporting did not feature sources willing to go on the record. At the time, Rose McGowan, now a prominent voice against Weinstein, was willing to be identified for the story but refused to publicly call out the film producer.

The memo also said that a draft script of Farrow’s misrepresented an interview with an employee of Weinstein and that editors “found several elements in Farrow’s draft script which did not hold up to scrutiny.”

NBC News allowed him to take his reporting to The New Yorker, where his stories from last fall won him a Pulitzer Prize.

The memo added that Farrow’s initial New Yorker article, published two months after his departure from NBC News and days after The New York Times first reported on allegations against Weinstein, “bore little resemblance to the draft script he produced at NBC News.”

Rich McHugh, the former NBC producer who worked with Farrow on the story and has criticised NBC News’ handling of the situation, responded to the memo on Twitter.

“When you have an exclusive audio recording of Harvey Weinstein admitting to sexual assault, in addition to a rape survivor scheduled for an interview in three days, what journalistic ‘ethic’ would cause a news outlet to cancel that interview, not air the audio tape, and let one of the most defining stories of this decade walk out the door?” he said.

McHugh, who began speaking out against the network after recently leaving it, said in a statement that he was told to “stand down” from interviewing a woman “with a credible allegation of rape.”

“That was unethical, and a massive breach of journalistic integrity,” he said.

Farrow, who had avoided commenting on the matter, said on Twitter that the memo contained “numerous false or misleading statements.”

“Their list of sources is incomplete and omits women who were either identified in the NBC story or offered to be,” he wrote.

“The suggestion to take the story to another outlet was first raised by NBC, not me, and I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting.”

Farrow added that his story was “cleared and deemed ‘reportable'” by legal standards but was later “blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein.”

“There’ll be more to say at the right time,” he wrote.

Emily Nestor, a former Weinstein Company employee who was on the record for Farrow’s New Yorker story, said in a statement that she was prepared to go on the record for the NBC News piece but that the network was “not interested.”

Nestor wrote that she, along with the model Ambra Gutierrez, had been willing to allow Farrow to use their on-camera testimony in his reporting.

“NBC further claims ‘…We wondered then, and still wonder now, whether the brave women who spoke to him in print would have also sat before TV cameras and lights.’ The condescension dripping from this phrase is despicable,” she wrote.

“The implication that these ‘brave women’ were just not ‘brave’ enough to go in front of a TV crew undermines all of the dangers, uncertainties, and obstacles we faced in coming forward in the New Yorker piece.”

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