- Ronan Farrow is an American investigative journalist known for his reporting on sexual abuse allegations, particularly those against Harvey Weinstein.
- In 2017, Farrow was investigating allegations against Weinstein for NBC News, but the network ultimately declined to publish his reporting.
- In October 2017, Farrow published his Weinstein investigation in The New Yorker instead, which helped launch the #MeToo movement and later won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
- Since then, Farrow and Rich McHugh, his former investigative partner, have alleged that NBC tried to kill the story because of pressure from Weinstein’s lawyers and also to prevent sexual misconduct allegations against former “Today” show host Matt Lauer from becoming public.
- In his book released October 15, 2019, “Catch and Kill,” Farrow alleges that Weinstein knew about allegations against Lauer and used that knowledge to pressure NBC executives to stop investigating him.
- NBC has denied discouraging or obstructing the Weinstein reporting. The network claims it did not know of Lauer’s behaviour until 24 hours before he was fired from NBC.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In October 2017, two separate investigations into allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, one published in The New York Times and the other in The New Yorker, helped launch the global #MeToo movement.
Both publications went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their Weinstein reporting.
Ronan Farrow, the investigative journalist who reported the story for The New Yorker, has been ensnared in a heated back-and-forth with NBC since he left the network in 2017. Farrow was originally investigating Weinstein for NBC News in a freelance capacity, but the network ultimately declined to publish his reporting.
NBC did not respond to Business Insider’s specific questions for this story, but a publicist for the network passed along two internal memos – one from October 9, 2019, the other from October 14, 2019 – written by NBC executives to employees, refuting many of Farrow’s allegations.
Here’s a complete timeline of the tumultuous saga, from Farrow’s early reporting on Weinstein, which allegedly prompted surveillance and legal threats from the Hollywood producer himself, to the publication of Farrow’s book.
Ronan Farrow’s newly released book, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” hit bookshelves October 15. In the book, Farrow alleges that Harvey Weinstein used his knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer to pressure the network into dropping the investigation.
Farrow, along with one of his former NBC News colleagues, Rich McHugh, has accused NBC of trying to kill the Weinstein story.
NBC denies that it obstructed or discouraged Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein.
“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,” an NBC News representative told Business Insider in a statement in September 2018.
The story of Farrow’s reporting starts in 2016 and involves several key players, both within NBC’s network and outside it:
- Ronan Farrow: freelance investigative journalist who investigated Harvey Weinstein
- Noah Oppenheim: president of NBC News
- Andrew Lack: NBC News and MSNBC chairman
- Harvey Weinstein: former Hollywood movie producer awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault and rape. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty.
- Matt Lauer: former NBC “Today” show host, fired in November 2017 after being accused of rape. Lauer has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
- Rich McHugh: former NBC News producer who worked with Farrow on Weinstein investigation
- Rose McGowan: actor who has accused Weinstein of rape
- Emily Nestor: a former Weinstein Company employee who accused Weinstein of unwanted sexual advances
- Ambra Battilana Gutierrez: a model who accused Weinstein of groping her and recorded audio of Weinstein admitting doing so as part of a police sting operation
Here’s a timeline of how key events unfolded.
Late 2016: Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow and NBC staff producer Rich McHugh pitch a story to NBC News president Noah Oppenheim about Hollywood’s “casting couch,” or the practice of powerful men exchanging sex with women for film roles.
McHugh, who worked with Farrow on the investigation for months, wrote in an October 11, 2019 Vanity Fair report that Oppenheim responded to their pitch by suggesting they start with interviewing Rose McGowan, who had alleged in a series of October 2016 tweets that she was raped by a Hollywood executive.
NBC confirms that Oppenheim assigned the Weinstein investigation.
“As he now acknowledges, NBC assigned Farrow the Weinstein story and actively supported it, editorially and financially, for seven months,” Oppenheim wrote in a memo to employees in September 2018, a copy of which Business Insider obtained.
During Farrow and McHugh’s reporting on Hollywood, one name kept coming up: Harvey Weinstein.
February 2017: Rose McGowan goes on the record with Farrow and McHugh accusing Weinstein of rape.
McGowan was the first woman who went on the record accusing Weinstein of rape, according to Farrow, McHugh, and the actress herself.
As McHugh alleges in his Vanity Fair op-ed, NBC executives knew at the time that McGowan had given an on-camera interview, named Weinstein on the record in a subsequent off-camera interview, and agreed to another interview in which she would name Weinstein on camera. According to McHugh, Oppenheim “initially refused to approve” that additional interview.
NBC noted in a September 2018 memo to employees that McGowan ended up calling off the second interview and having her lawyer send the network a cease-and-desist.
According to McHugh, she only did so “because she sensed that the network, which had ordered us to ‘pause’ our reporting, was dragging its feet.”
A representative for McGowan did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment for this story.
As Farrow and McHugh get deeper into their investigation, they say, NBC executives begin to bring up concerns about their reporting.
Farrow and McHugh interviewed multiple women and were given audio from an NYPD sting operation in which Weinstein can be heard admitting to groping model and aspiring actor Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.
But according to McHugh, the network started raising “strange and convoluted concerns” about the reporting, including bringing up the idea of a conflict of interest because Weinstein had worked with Farrow’s estranged father, film director Woody Allen.
June 2017: Farrow and McHugh conduct an on-camera interview with former Weinstein employee Emily Nestor, in which her face is kept in shadow. In the interview, Nestor accuses Weinstein of unwanted sexual advances.
Nestor later agreed to name Weinstein on the record, she said in a September 2018 statement. She had initially filmed her interview with her face obscured, but after she heard McGowan had pulled out of the story, Nestor told Farrow and McHugh that she was willing to shoot a second interview naming Weinstein on the record.
NBC, she says, was “not interested.”
Throughout Farrow and McHugh’s reporting, they say their phones were hacked and they were surveilled by private investigators hired by Weinstein.
Farrow, the son of actress Mia Farrow and actor-director Woody Allen, said he was followed by private investigators from the Israeli surveillance firm Black Cube throughout his reporting on Weinstein.
According to Farrow, Weinstein even attempted to use his connection with Hillary Clinton to quash his reporting. In his book, Farrow writes that he received an email from Clinton’s publicist, Nick Merrill, in 2017 while he was investigating Weinstein.
In the email, Farrow said Merrill told him that the “big story” he was working on was a “concern for us.”
As Business Insider’s Ashley Collman reported, Clinton has received $US26,000 in political donations from Weinstein since 2000, which Clinton later said she would donate to charity.
Merrill did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, and NBC did not respond to a request for comment asking whether the network was aware of such an email from Merrill and how it responded.
McHugh wrote in an October 11 Vanity Fair op-ed that he believes his cell phone was hacked and that somebody broke into his home and tampered with the telephone wires.
NBC did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment about their response to the alleged surveillance.
August 18, 2017: NBC ends the investigation into Weinstein.
“Noah [Oppenheim] was very, very clear,” Greenberg said after calling in McHugh for a 4 p.m. meeting, according to McHugh. “No further calls. You are to stand down.”
The journalists and NBC executives have offered different explanations for why NBC did not proceed with the story and the timeline of events. As outlined in the September 2018 memo to employees, NBC maintains that Farrow and McHugh did not have a single source who was willing to go on the record accusing Weinstein.
Both Farrow in his book and McHugh in his op-ed dispute NBC’s claim that they did not have sources willing to go on the record. Accusers McGowan and Nestor confirmed in separate statements that they had both agreed to name Weinstein on the record for NBC.
In the September 2018 memo, Oppenheim writes that Farrow left NBC for The New Yorker on August 17. In Farrow’s book, Farrow does not provide a specific date for his departure from the network but writes that it was after a meeting with Oppenheim during which the NBC executive told Farrow he had to stop reporting.
Late August, 2017: Farrow takes his investigation to The New Yorker.
David Remnick, Farrow’s editor at The New Yorker, said the reporting was advanced but not quite ready to be published at the time Farrow brought it to him, The Washington Post reported.
According to the Post, the story was published within seven weeks of Farrow bringing it to The New Yorker.
Farrow reportedly missed his sister’s wedding on October 7, 2017, in his race to get the story published the next week.
September 2017: It is around this time, Farrow and McHugh now — as of October 2019 — allege, that NBC executives assure Weinstein that the network is no longer pursuing an investigation into his alleged behaviour.
Farrow writes in his book that there were “at least fifteen calls between Weinstein and three NBC executives” – Lack, Oppenheim, and MSNBC president Phil Griffin – including one in which Lack told Weinstein’s attorney: “We’ve told Harvey we’re not doing a story. If we decide to do a story, we’ll tell him.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Farrow described the calls as Weinstein “laying siege to NBC.” He added, “… I think what is inappropriate is the way in which they continued to take those calls, and in some cases meetings, and to engage with him in a warm and friendly way that was then concealed as they killed the story.”
In a memo sent to employees and obtained by Business Insider, Oppenheim said his only call with Weinstein was in August 2017. At that time, Oppenheim maintains, the producer “ranted about Rose McGowan’s credibility and was told, again, only that he’d be given the chance to comment when we had a story ready for air.”
October 5, 2017: New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey publish a bombshell report entitled, “Harvey Weinstein paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades.”
The investigation detailed multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein dating back to 1990. It also found that the Hollywood producer had reached at least eight settlements with women following allegations that included sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact.
While McGowan did not comment for the Times report, it was reported that she had reached a $US100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997.
The Times reporters published a book about their investigation,“She Said,” in September 2019.
August-September 2017: In a phone call between an NBC lawyer and Farrow, the network attempts to distance itself from Farrow’s reporting on the Weinstein case.
Farrow told The Hollywood Reporter that a top lawyer for NBC called him and told him to stop representing himself as an NBC reporter or the network would “publicly disclose” that he had been “terminated.”
“She used the term ‘terminated,’ which was not something I had been told before,” Farrow said. “Subsequent to that, I did appear [on air] with my full job title, so I don’t know what it meant. But that is not a news organisation that is eager to get the story and just couldn’t.”
NBC did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the nature of these phone calls, but an NBC spokesperson told The Daily Beast last year that the “sole point” of the conversation was “to make sure he wasn’t still telling sources that he was working on the story for NBC since he had moved on to The New Yorker.”
October 10, 2017: The New Yorker publishes Farrow’s investigation entitled: “From aggressive overtures to sexual assault: Harvey Weinstein’s accusers tell their stories.”
Farrow’s story, which was published five days after the Times report, included accounts from multiple women on the record, including Nestor, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, and Mira Sorvino, alleging instances of harassment, rape, and other forcible sexual contact by the movie producer.
McGowan was not named in the story.
Farrow cited the Times report by Kantor and Twohey in the opening of his story, adding, “The story … is complex, and there is more to know and to understand.”
The evening the investigation is published, Farrow tells Rachel Maddow on air that he took his story to The New Yorker after NBC News passed on it.
“I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public,” Farrow told Maddow. “In fact, there were multiple determinations at NBC that it was reportable.”
He was also “threatened with a lawsuit personally by Mr. Weinstein,” he told Rachel Maddow the night his New Yorker investigation was published.
NBC said in the September 2018 staff memo that Farrow stopped reporting for the network on August 17, 2017. Farrow, however, told The Hollywood Reporter that he was in ongoing conversations with NBC about possibly airing a follow-up to his piece in the New Yorker.
Autumn 2017: Farrow continues reporting on Weinstein at The New Yorker.
In the fall of 2017, Farrow continued to dig into his Weinstein investigation, publishing stories for The New Yorker that included “Weighing the Costs of Speaking Out About Harvey Weinstein” and “Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies.”
November 28, 2017: NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer is fired for “inappropriate sexual behaviour” after the network received a complaint from a former NBC employee.
Savannah Guthrie, Lauer’s colleague on NBC’s “Today” show, made the announcement of Lauer’s firing on air.
NBC News’ chairman, Andy Lack, said in a statement that he’d “received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace by Matt Lauer.”
The statement said it was the first complaint the company had received about Lauer but that NBC had “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
Lauer has denied that there was any non-consensual sex.
April 16, 2018: The New Yorker wins the Pulitzer Prize for public service for Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein.
The organisation, which also awarded a Pulitzer to The New York Times’ reporting by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, said it was recognising the two publications for “explosive, impactful journalism that exposed powerful and wealthy sexual predators, including allegations against one of Hollywood’s most influential producers, bringing them to account for long-suppressed allegations of coercion, brutality and victim silencing, thus spurring a worldwide reckoning about sexual abuse of women.”
May 9, 2018: NBC’s legal team wraps up an internal investigation that it launched after Lauer’s firing. It concluded that no one in NBC leadership had received a complaint about Lauer’s behaviour at work before November 27, 2017.
“We found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or Today Show leadership, News HR or others in positions of authority in the News Division received any complaints about Lauer’s workplace behaviour prior to November 27, 2017,” the report concluded.
NBC’s decision to investigate itself rather than bring in an outside party came under fire from staffers in the investigative unit during a meeting with Oppenheim, McHugh wrote in Vanity Fair.
May 25, 2018: Weinstein is arrested early in the morning on criminal charges including rape and sexual misconduct after turning himself in to police in New York City.
“I have to admit I didn’t think I would see the day that he would have handcuffs on him,” she said.
Later that day, Weinstein’s attorney, Ben Brafman, wrote in a statement that Weinstein maintains he has “never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour with anyone.”
Brafman added that Weinstein had entered a “not guilty” plea.
August 17, 2018: NBC producer Rich McHugh resigns from the network in protest of the handling of the Weinstein story, one year to the day he says he was told to stop reporting it.
McHugh called NBC’s handling of the story “a massive breach of journalistic integrity.”
He told The New York Times in an interview that “the very highest levels of NBC” had ordered McHugh and Farrow to stop reporting on the Weinstein story.
“Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to LA to interview a woman with a credible rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein, I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman,” McHugh said. “And to stand down on the story altogether.”
NBC has repeatedly denied that it discouraged the Weinstein reporting.
September 2018: NBC News sends out an internal memo defending its decision to not publish Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein.
Lack sent a 10-page memo to employees that said NBC worked on the story with Farrow for eight months before ultimately deciding it was not “yet fit to broadcast.”
Lack echoed NBC’s repeated claim that their main concern was that Farrow’s sources did not want to go on the record. The memo also said that editors “found several elements in Farrow’s draft script which did not hold up to scrutiny.”
In response to the memo, McHugh wrote on Twitter on September 3, 2018:
“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?”
Weinstein accuser Nestor responded to the memo with a statement to The Hollywood Reporter saying she had been willing to re-shoot the interview and name Weinstein on the record, but that NBC was “not interested.”
October 9, 2019: Almost two years after Lauer left NBC, Farrow’s new book reveals that the former “Today” show host was fired from the network after former NBC employee Brooke Nevils accused him of rape.
According to Variety, which obtained an advance copy of the book, Nevils says Lauer raped her in his hotel room at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
Lauer has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. In an open letter to Insider on October 9, 2019, the former “Today” host said that the sexual encounter between him and Nevils was consensual.
In his book, Farrow alleges that Weinstein was aware of allegations against Lauer before Lauer’s termination, and that he used those to pressure NBC into dropping the investigation against him.
“Weinstein made it known to the network that he was aware of Lauer’s behaviour and capable of revealing it,” Farrow writes in “Catch and Kill,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Farrow also accuses the network of paying settlements to silence NBC employees who had complained about Lauer’s behaviour before November 2017, which NBC denies.
In an October 14, 2019 memo to employees obtained by Business Insider, Oppenheim wrote, “Not only is this false, the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.”
October 11, 2019: Former NBC producer Rich McHugh publishes a Vanity Fair op-ed entitled, “‘You are to stand down:’ Ronan Farrow’s producer on how NBC killed its Weinstein story.”
In the article, McHugh describes in detail what he calls “NBC’s determination to kill our reporting about Weinstein.”
McHugh accuses NBC executives of burying the story and lying to him and Farrow.
“They not only personally intervened to shut down our investigation of Weinstein, they even refused to allow me to follow up on our work after Weinstein’s history of sexual assault became front-page news,” McHugh wrote. “As the record shows, they behaved more like members of Weinstein’s PR team than the journalists they claim to be.”
October 14, 2019: The day before Farrow’s book is set to be released, NBC management sends a memo to employees accusing Farrow of trying to “smear” NBC and refuting several specific allegations in the book.
The memo, of which Business Insider obtained a copy, opens with Oppenheim calling Lauer’s actions “abhorrent.”
“Ronan Farrow’s book takes that undeniable fact and twists it into a lie – alleging we were a ‘company with a lot of secrets,'” Oppenheim writes, calling Farrow’s allegation that NBC quashed Weinstein reporting to protect Lauer a “conspiracy theory.”
In the memo, Oppenheim vigorously denies that NBC stopped pursing the Weinstein story in order to protect its “secrets,” and he pointed to its track record of covering sexual misconduct that has involved Silicon Valley, Fox News, Bill Cosby, and more.
“The notion that this one story, among all the others, equally sensitive and difficult, would be handled differently is illogical and absurd,” Oppenheim wrote.
Farrow’s publisher, Little, Brown and Company, released a 10-page memo responding to the memo Oppenheim released “fact checking” Farrow’s book, The Washington Post reported.
“If NBC is so certain of their facts, why not release the women [who signed nondisclosure agreements with the network] and let them speak for themselves?” the memo asks, according to the Post.
The evening before Farrow’s book release, MSNBC host Chris Hayes addresses his company’s “very public controversy.”
In his closing statement, Hayes summarized the controversy and noted that NBC denies the allegations by Farrow.
“One thing, though, is indisputable,” Hayes said. “Ronan Farrow walked out of NBC News after working on the Weinstein story and within two months published an incredible article in The New Yorker that not only won a Pulitzer but helped trigger a massive social and cultural reckoning that continues to this day.”
October 15, 2019: Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” is released by Little, Brown Book Group.
Excerpts from the book have already been published in The New Yorker and several publications reported on advanced releases.
In an October 15, 2019 tweet, McGowan said she was the first to go on record accusing Weinstein and that NBC is “bald face lying. I offered to do a second interview where I said it on camera, instead they killed the story,” she wrote.
While Oppenheim and Lack remain at their respective positions at NBC, Weinstein is awaiting trial on charges of sexual assault and rape.
After quitting NBC in August 2018, McHugh went to work for Al Gore’s “24 Hours of Reality” broadcast on climate change. He’s now freelancing and working on a documentary project with Lionsgate Television.
Following the revelation that Lauer was accused of rape – first reported by Variety based on previews of Farrow’s book – new accusations against the former “Today” show host also have come to light.
Former “Today” show booker Melissa Lonner reveals in Farrow’s book allegations that Lauer exposed himself to her at a company cocktail party in 2010, Marisa Guthrie reported for The Hollywood Reporter.
Lauer’s attorney, Libby Locke, denied the accusation. “Matt never exposed himself to anyone,” Locke told Insider’s Ashley Collman.
Another woman, an unnamed former on-air personality at NBC, told Farrow in the book that Lauer and a senior NBC executive made unwanted advances toward her before she left the company in 2012. Locke told Insider that in his 25 years at NBC, Lauer “did not have a single complaint brought to his attention until November 28, 2017.”
When asked about the nature of Farrow’s departure from NBC – including whether he was terminated and whether he is still welcome to appear on its shows, a representative told Business Insider: “His contract ran out in September 2017. (This was the contract he signed in 2013 when he was an anchor).”
Farrow remains a contributing writer The New Yorker and is also producing documentaries for HBO about the abuse of power by individuals and institutions. Farrow did not immediately reply to a request from Business Insider for comment on this story.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit
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