NBC reportedly threatened a smear campaign against Ronan Farrow if he reported Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment allegations

ronan farrowJournalist Ronan Farrow at the 2018 Time 100 Gala in New York in April 2018.(Daily Beast, citing unnamed sources)

  • Journalist Ronan Farrow was not allowed to publish his reporting on the sexual harassment allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein while working at NBC News.
  • A new report in The Daily Beast said that NBC News' general counsel called him multiple times and threatened to launch a "smear" campaign against him if he kept reporting.
  • Rich McHugh, a producer Farrow worked with on the story, also said he was "ordered" by NBC executives to stop reporting on the story.
  • NBC News has denied all those allegations, saying instead that it was concerned about Farrow's sourcing.
  • The reasons behind NBC's refusal to publish Farrow's reporting are not clear. 
  • Farrow ultimately took his reporting to The New Yorker. His stories won him a Pulitzer prize.

NBC News executives allegedly threatened to launch a smear campaign against the journalist Ronan Farrow if he continued reporting on sexual allegations against Harvey Weinstein, The Daily Beast reported on Thursday

Farrow, who at the time worked at NBC News, had started investigating allegations of Weinstein's inappropriate behavior toward women as early as November 2016, The Beast said, citing unnamed sources.

The network refused to let Farrow produce those stories for NBC News, but allowed him to take his reporting to another news outlet instead. Farrow ended up publishing his stories in The New Yorker, which won him a Pulitzer prize in public service last year.

Now, new details have emerged about NBC News' alleged cover-up of the Weinstein story.

Susan Weiner, the network's general counsel, made multiple phone calls to Farrow and threatened to smear him if he continued reporting on Weinstein, the Daily Beast reported on Thursday, citing multiple unnamed sources. The Beast did not provide any further details about the nature of the alleged smear.

Rich McHugh, a producer Farrow worked with at the network, also told The New York Times that he was "ordered to stop" reporting on the story by executives. He reiterated those claims in a statement, which was published on Friday morning.

McHugh left NBC News about two weeks ago, claiming in a Friday morning statement that it was over NBC's refusal to publish Farrow's reporting. Read his statement below.

NBC News has denied both the allegations outlined in the Beast and those by McHugh.

A spokesperson for NBC News, who was unnamed, told the Beast that the allegations of Weiner's threats were "absolutely false."

The spokesperson said: "There's no truth to that all. There is no chance, in no version of the world, that Susan Weiner would tell Ronan Farrow what he could or could not report on."

Farrow told the Times in a statement, in response to McHugh's claims: "Rich is a fantastic producer and journalist. He's a person of integrity, and he cared deeply about the investigative stories we worked on together and the importance of seeing them through."

Chris Francescani, a journalist who worked with McHugh at NBC News in 2016, also corroborated the claims. "McHugh and Farrow are telling the truth," he tweeted. "NBC News executives are not."

Business Insider has contacted Farrow and NBC News for comment on the allegations against Weiner, as well as McHugh's claims.

NBC News logoGetty

Why NBC News refused to publish the story

Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, has said that the network refused to publish Farrow's reporting because he didn't have a source that would speak on the record at the time.

He told the Times in response to McHugh's claims: "We repeatedly made clear to Ronan and Rich McHugh the standard for publication is we needed at least one credible on-the-record victim or witness of misconduct. And we never met that threshold while Ronan was reporting for us."

He added that McHugh "was never told to stop in the way he's implying."

Oppenheim also claimed at the time that Farrow had a conflict of interest in the story because Weinstein had helped revive the career of Farrow's estranged father, the director Woody Allen, according to a report by HuffPost published last November.

woody allenWoody Allen.Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

But the network's critics believe there's more to it. As McHugh said in his Friday statement: "Something else must have been going on."

Farrow suspected that Oppenheim might even have been communicating with Weinstein directly about the story, the Beast reported, citing its sources. Oppenheim had been moonlighting as a screenwriter in Hollywood, having written for films including "Jackie." It's not clear whether Oppenheim had been working on any films with Weinstein at the time.

In summer 2017, Oppenheim had mentioned to Farrow that Weinstein objected to Farrow's reporting - before Farrow had even asked Weinstein to comment on the allegations, the Beast reported. The anonymous NBC News spokesperson said Oppenheim never had a conversation about Farrow's investigation. Business Insider has contacted Farrow and NBC News for comment on this.

NBC News appeared so unwilling for Farrow to continue his reporting that it refused to let him mention his affiliation with the network or use its crew to interview Weinstein's accusers, HuffPost reported last November. Farrow paid for a TV crew out of his own pocket, the news site said. Business Insider has contacted NBC News for comment on this report.

The Times also noted that NBC did not devote any airtime to covering Weinstein's sexual harassment allegations on the day the Times broke a story about them, while other national news broadcasters like CBS and ABC did.

Court July HARVEY WEINSTEIN (1)Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Alleged threats from Weinstein's people

Both McHugh and the Beast's sources also described threats from Weinstein's associates to NBC News, McHugh, and Farrow.

McHugh told the Times: "Externally, I had Weinstein associates calling me repeatedly. I knew that Weinstein was calling NBC executives directly. One time it even happened when we were in the room."

According to the Beast's sources, Charles Harder, an attorney for Weinstein, also sent legal threats to Farrow and other NBC News producers, claiming that the network had assured him that Farrow would use any of the reporting he obtained from Weinstein while working for the network. Business Insider has contacted Harder, NBC News, and Farrow for comment on this.

The anonymous NBC News spokesperson told the Beast: "We immediately were clear with Weinstein's legal team that we disputed the characterizations."

Weinstein has repeatedly denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. He was charged with rape, criminal sex conduct act, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct in New York this May, and is not allowed out of the states of New York and Connecticut.

Farrow is currently writing a book, named "Catch and Kill," which is expected to detail NBC News executives' refusal to publish his story on Weinstein.

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