NBC News Staff Upset With Leadership After Allegations In Ronan Farrow Book

Oct 11, 2019
Originally published on October 11, 2019 8:24 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Staff members at NBC News are upset at their leadership this week after more detailed allegations emerged involving the firing of "Today" co-host Matt Lauer. Lauer was dismissed nearly two years ago after what was then described as inappropriate sexual behavior with a subordinate. Now a new book, " "Catch And Kill," reveals the identity of the woman who made the complaint, and she says Lauer raped her at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The book is by former NBC News reporter Ronan Farrow, who also alleges that NBC executives caved to pressure from Harvey Weinstein to stonewall Farrow's reporting on the Hollywood mogul. Our own Weekend Edition Sunday host Lulu Garcia-Navarro sat down with Ronan Farrow earlier today to talk about the book, and Lulu's here with a preview of that interview.

Hi.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: Matt Lauer has put out a lengthy statement denying that he raped Brooke Nevils, the former NBC News producer.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He has.

SHAPIRO: You asked Ronan Farrow about his reporting on her allegations. What did he say?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Farrow says he stands by his reporting. It was, quote, "fact-checked to the nth degree." Lauer is claiming that the first incident between him and Nevils was consensual, not rape, and the beginning of an affair. Now, Farrow says she was forthcoming about her continued interactions with Lauer but clearly saw things very differently.

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RONAN FARROW: She readily concedes that there were communications where she was trying to not make him angry, where she feared for her career, where she was trying to make it OK in her own narrative to herself and stay cheerful about it, but that this was never something she described as an affair. This was a painful, agonizing process.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Farrow says Lauer's behavior towards women at NBC was an open secret. He reports in his book and told me that there were multiple nondisclosure agreements dealing with sexual misconduct well before his firing, and he says he spoke with multiple NBC executives who had heard about it.

SHAPIRO: So to pivot from Matt Lauer to another #MeToo story, Harvey Weinstein, Farrow says that NBC executives, including the president of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim, tried to stop his reporting on the Weinstein story. He ended up doing that reporting for The New Yorker and won a Pulitzer for it. What did Ronan tell you about that?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Farrow told me that Harvey Weinstein was calling Oppenheim and other top brass at NBC frequently. Farrow says his reporting shows they gave assurances to Weinstein that they would kill his story. He has reporting to back it up. And then there's also this - comments Oppenheim allegedly made to Ronan Farrow during his reporting about Weinstein, asking, how serious is this stuff, really? He says there were six times that Oppenheim told him to actually stop his reporting.

Also, Farrow includes excerpts from columns Oppenheim wrote in college at Harvard - anti-feminist writing, including this line. Quote, "Apparently, women enjoy being confined, pumped full of alcohol and preyed upon. They feel desired, not demeaned."

SHAPIRO: Wow.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I asked Farrow why he thought these columns were relevant.

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FARROW: I go to pains to say Noah Oppenheim was young when he wrote that. However, it's worth noting that in the context of the book, it becomes relevant because his behavior does not evince the thinking of someone who has grown and changed in the way that I readily say is possible, and even hopeful, over the years. You know, this is someone who is making very similar arguments in the present day as a rationale for shutting down this story, saying, you know, this is simply not news. This does not matter.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should note NBC is completely denying Farrow's version of events, but there are reports that Oppenheim is facing really tough questions right now at NBC.

FARROW: And then perhaps related to the Weinstein story - Ronan Farrow told you an anecdote involving an interview request he had with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Tell us about that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. He said Hillary Clinton had committed to doing an interview with him, but then she suddenly got, quote, "busy," or that's the story her press person told him after referencing his continuing reporting on Weinstein. Now, Weinstein raised funds for Hillary Clinton. She has described him as a friend, and this is how he describes - how he views this interaction.

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FARROW: I don't suggest that she was of paramount importance in terms of the machine of complicity around Harvey Weinstein. I do think that she was part of the broader circle of powerful interests that were allied with him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, Farrow does say he eventually did get that interview with Clinton, but he said to me that he had to tell her that he was going to disclose the nature of that conversation, and that is what led to that interview being given to him in the end. And we should also say that Clinton's press person, Nick Merrill, says the timing of the postponement of that initial interview was a coincidence.

SHAPIRO: Of course, we'll hear more of your interview with Ronan Farrow on Sunday morning on Weekend Edition.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro, thank you for talking with us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.