Reliable Sources: NBC responds to ex-Farrow producer allegations

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. ...

Posted: Aug 31, 2018 12:38 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2018 12:38 PM

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Greetings! This is Oliver Darcy here, and I have a quick housekeeping note before we get started. The Reliable Sources newsletter will be going on a vacation for the holiday weekend. Brian Stelter will be back at the helm on Monday.

Ex-Ronan Farrow producer breaks silence

Within a few minutes of each other, The Daily Beast and the NYT dropped big new stories about NBC's mishandling of Ronan Farrow's reporting into Harvey Weinstein. NYT's John Koblin had the first interview with Farrow's producing partner, Rich McHugh, who left the network earlier this month. And the Beast had new details about "back-biting inside the network" and more.

McHugh told Koblin that NBC was "resistant" to the Weinstein reporting all along. And there's much more. The network disagrees...

McHugh's statement

Stelter emails: Here's what McHugh told me in a statement Thursday night:

"NBC has some of the finest journalists in the business -- this is not about them. This is about the leadership at NBC. At a critical juncture in our reporting on Harvey Weinstein, as we were about to interview a woman with a credible allegation of rape against him, I was told not to do the interview and ordered to stand down, thus effectively killing the story. Those orders came to me from the highest levels of NBC. That was unethical, and a massive breach of journalistic integrity."

McHugh added: "Is there anyone in the journalistic community who actually believes NBC didn't breach its journalistic duty to continue reporting this story? Something else must have been going on. As a journalist for 16 years I do know that when you have an explosive story you never let it walk out the door. You keep digging for more so you can publish it at your network. NBC owed it to those brave women who spoke to us to get their stories out."

"Something else must have been going on."

Stelter adds: That's the key line in McHugh's statement. "Something else must have been going on." What else was going on? What spurred NBC to shelve the story? I think we'll finally find out when Farrow's book "Catch & Kill" comes out... No word yet about a publication date though...

Ex-McHugh colleague: NBC execs not telling truth

ABC News reporter Chris Francescani tweeted NYT's story Thursday night, writing, "I worked in the @NBCNews Investigative Unit in the fall of 2016. @RichMcHughNBC and @RonanFarrow are telling the truth. @NBCNews executives are not."

>> Josh Elliott, another McHugh colleague, tweeted: "@RichMcHughNBC is, simply, the most forthright and unassailably ethical producer I've known. He was my partner for years at @abcnews and afterward, and there is no more honest—or talented—a journalist. The work he's done has meant so much to so many, and I'm proud to know him."

NBC News fires back: "Outright lie" we tried to kill story

An NBC News spokesperson said in a statement Thursday night, "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."

>> The NBC News spokesperson added: "In August of 2017, after NBC News assigned Ronan Farrow to investigate Weinstein and supported his reporting efforts for eight months, Farrow believed his reporting was ready for air. NBC disagreed because, unfortunately, he did not yet have a single victim of -- or witness to -- misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified. Dissatisfied with that decision, Farrow chose to leave for a print outlet that he said was willing to publish immediately. NBC News told him 'we will not stand in your way,' and allowed him to take his reporting to The New Yorker, where, two months later, he published a strong piece that cited the following victims by name: Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Lucia Evans, Emma de Canes, Jessica Barth, and Sophie Dix. Not one of these seven women was included in the reporting Farrow presented while at NBC News."

When will Ronan break his silence on NBC?

It's getting more and more difficult for Farrow to stay silent about his experience reporting on Weinstein while at NBC. I checked in with a spokesperson for The New Yorker to see when he might address the matter. The spokesperson would only say that Farrow was on a plane as the NYT and Daily Beast stories dropped and had no comment beyond what Farrow told NYT in Thursday's article. "He's focused on other reporting," the spokesperson said.

Read more of Thursday's Reliable Sources newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

>> Keep in mind: Farrow is working on a book titled "Catch & Kill." As Stelter tweeted, it's going to detail his experience reporting on Weinstein while at NBC News. It's only a matter of time before we hear his side of the story...

For the record, part one

-- Ben Smith's latest is a must-read: "I helped create insider political journalism. Now it's time for it to go away..." (BuzzFeed)

-- Ashley Parker in Friday's paper: Trump's assertions are "bound by one unifying theme: All of his perceived opponents are peddling false facts and only Trump can be trusted..." (WaPo)

-- CNN does not intend to reveal other source in network's Michael Cohen story... (Business Insider)

-- Forbes chats with Fox Business Network President Brian Jones about the network's rating success... (Forbes)

-- Several media professionals have launched a 2.5 minute newscast exclusively for Facebook... (Axios)

Trump attacks the press at another rally

CNN's Noah Gray shared this from the rally: "The same night President Trump spent much of his rally attacking the news media and referring to reporters in the crowd as 'fake news,' he told the crowd that the Trump administration is committed to 'standing up for free speech.'"

Trump said his admin is "standing up for the free speech rights of all Americans." He called out Twitter, Facebook and Google by name, saying, "We're not gonna let them control what we cannot see, read and learn from..."

Man charged for anti-press threats

A California man was charged on Thursday for allegedly making threats against Boston Globe employees. According to court docs, the man called the Globe's newsroom on August 16 and the 22nd and made threats. Tom Kludt has a full story here...

>> The August 16 threat: "You're the enemy of the people, and we're going to kill every f***ing one of you. Hey, why don't you call the F, why don't you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out buddy. ... I'm going to shoot you in the f***ing head later today, at 4 o'clock."

Chuck Todd: Don't miss work Friday

Chuck Todd had some advice for journalists on Thursday: Don't skip work on Friday, or you could miss a potential bombshell. "Here's what I've learned about Bob Mueller," Todd said. "Not a single person that has known him, been with him, worked with him, wouldn't say that he would have ended this investigation if there was no collusion. He would have already ended this investigation."

Todd then added that he believes Mueller will likely keep quiet between Labor Day and Election Day. Which led the "Meet the Press" host to this conclusion: "I'm not missing work tomorrow. I wouldn't miss work tomorrow. Tomorrow is the last business day of the pre-Labor Day to Election Day window." Mediaite has video of Todd's advice here...

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