In mid-August, Ronan Farrow, an NBC News contributor, had secured an interview with a woman who was willing to appear on camera, in silhouette, her identity concealed, and say Harvey Weinstein had raped her, according to four people with close knowledge of the reporting. It was a pivotal moment in a testy, months-long process of reporting a story that had bedeviled a generation of media and Hollywood reporters.
Farrow had a lot of material already. In March, he had acquired a damning and much-coveted audio recording in which Weinstein admits to having groped an Italian model. He had interviews with former executives and assistants who’d worked closely with Weinstein who spoke about the culture of harassment and abuse he perpetrated. And now he had someone ready to accuse Weinstein of rape, on camera.
But at that moment Farrow was also caught in the pincers of an NBC News edict. He had been told by executives at NBC News that he didn’t have enough reporting to go on air with his Weinstein story, according to four sources, and he had been told by the network to stop reporting on it. NBC tried to put a stop to the interview with the woman accusing Weinstein of rape. The network insisted he not use an NBC News crew for the interview, and neither was he to mention his NBC News affiliation. And so that was how Ronan Farrow wound up paying out of his own pocket for a camera crew to film an interview.
As a project for NBC News, Farrow’s story was effectively dead. Later that month, he received permission to take his reporting to another news organization. The story that resulted, published Tuesday by The New Yorker, was a blockbuster: multiple women accusing Weinstein of rape and other sexual misconduct, accompanied by the audio of Weinstein admitting to sexual assault.
At an NBC News town hall Wednesday, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said: “The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us. We were on that long…