NBC executives need to reckon with the network’s culture after a new book draws into question its handling of an investigation into Harvey Weinstein and an alleged sexual assault by former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer, media analysts said on Sunday.
“I worked at NBC, there are a lot of people that I really respect there. I think they deserve to know exactly who knew what when,” Irin Camron, a CNN analyst and New York Magazine senior correspondent, told CNN’s Brian Stelter Sunday on “Reliable Sources.” “They deserve accountability.”
A new book by journalist Ronan Farrow, titled “Catch and Kill,” details Farrow’s efforts to uncover alleged sexual predation by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Farrow started the investigation at NBC but later took it to The New Yorker after NBC told him it wasn’t ready for air. In the book, Farrow suggests that Weinstein used his knowledge of Lauer’s alleged behavior — Lauer was fired by NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior” — as leverage with the network to oppose the story’s publication. Lauer has vehemently denied any non-consensual sexual conduct.
For its part, NBC has said a pressure campaign by Weinstein had nothing to do with the network’s decision not to run Farrow’s reporting on the former Hollywood mogul. Instead, NBC says Farrow’s reporting did not meet its standards for broadcast, and that he had no on-the-record, on-camera interviews with Weinstein’s accusers.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by individuals such as Weinstein, Lauer and others helped spur the #MeToo movement, which has led to the toppling of powerful men across various industries — including at multiple news organizations.
Farrow’s book also includes the first on-the-record interview with Brooke Nevils, the woman whose allegation that Matt Lauer raped her in 2014 led to his firing. Lauer firmly denied the allegation in an open letter last week, saying the relationship was consensual.
In an October 9 note to employees shared with CNN Business Sunday afternoon, NBC News Executive Producer Andy Lack said Farrow “uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.” The note said the network fired Lauer within 24 hours of learning of the allegation and that “any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.”
The network also says it has “taken significant steps to improve” its culture over the past two years.
On Sunday, the media analysts called for even more transparency from the network.
“There was never an independent investigation at NBC in contrast to CBS, which I reported on, which hired a law firm to do an independent investigation,” Carmon said, referring to a 2018 CBS investigation of alleged misconduct by former CEO Les Moonves and former TV host Charlie Rose, which both men have denied.
“It wasn’t a perfect process but you can see that at CBS, there are many new faces steering the ship. At NBC we really have yet to have a full accounting,” she said.
NBCUniversal’s general counsel did conduct an internal workplace investigation into Matt Lauer in the spring of 2018, which found no one in leadership at NBC News knew about Lauer’s alleged behavior.
David Zurawik, a media critic for the Baltimore Sun, criticized NBC for deciding not to run Farrow’s story on Weinstein, no matter what the network’s calculus was.
“It doesn’t matter why they did it. We know they shut down his reporting. And the big important thing about this book, I think historically, is it’s a granular account of what it takes when you take on patriarchy,” he said.
NBC denied the idea that it “shut down” Farrow’s story and has also said Farrow found additional sources for his Weinstein report after taking it to The New Yorker, which he did not have while at NBC.
Farrow’s book is set for release Tuesday, and he begins his book tour Monday on “CBS This Morning.”