Published 2:41 p.m. UTC Sep 4, 2018
Chairman Andy Lack is defending NBC News against allegations that the network tried to hinder Ronan Farrow's investigation into Harvey Weinstein.
In a staff memo NBC provided to USA TODAY, Lack called the reports that have dominated headlines in The New York Times and CNN this past week “baseless speculations."
“Contrary to recent allegations, at no point did NBC obstruct Farrow’s reporting or 'kill' an interview,” he wrote, denying any wrongdoing.
"For the past nine months, it has been our belief that the ‘story’ here is about Harvey Weinstein’s horrendous behavior and about the suffering and bravery of his victims, rather than a back-and-forth between a reporter and his producer and a news network. However, we’ve watched with disappointment as unfounded intimations and accusations have traveled through media circles.”
Lack, 71, said the network decided not to run Farrow's story because it wasn't ready for publication.
"We spent eight months pursuing the story but at the end of that time, NBC News – like many others before us – still did not have a single victim or witness willing to go on the record. … So we had nothing yet fit to broadcast,” Lack said in the memo. “Farrow did not agree with that standard. That’s where we parted ways – agreeing to his request to take his reporting to a print outlet that he said was ready to move forward immediately.”
The NBC chairman said the decision to allow Farrow to publish his work elsewhere was "undertaken honorably" and made with "good intentions toward Farrow and his work," and was not influenced by Weinstein in any way.
“It will surprise no one that (Weinstein and his attorneys) were dishonest in their dealings with us, often mischaracterizing our brief conversations," he continued. "But in each instance, their calls were either completely ignored or met with a boilerplate commitment to allow them to comment if and when something was ready for broadcast. None of this was kept secret from Farrow.”
Lack provided a 10-page "fact sheet" to employees that detailed every conversation NBC News executives had with Weinstein and his legal team, which notes most calls and emails weren't answered or returned.
Former NBC News producer Rich McHugh, who left the network recently, told CNN and The New York Times that the decision not run Farrow's explosive report came from "the highest levels of NBC," describing it as "unethical" and "a massive breach of journalistic integrity."
McHugh said the decision came "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."
Noah Oppenheim, NBC News president, denied the accusations in a statement to the Times, saying McHugh "was never told to stop in the way he's implying." Lack elaborated on the interview McHugh referenced in his accusations.
"Immediately after Farrow had parted ways with us, he asked for NBC cameras to record another anonymous Weinstein victim," he wrote in the memo. "Farrow conducted the interview but we declined the request for a crew because we believed filming another anonymous interview would not get us any closer to clearing the threshold to broadcast, and because he had already informed us he was pursuing the story for another outlet."
Contributing: Bill Keveney, Gary Levin and Sara M. Moniuszko
More: Harvey Weinstein scandal: Ronan Farrow on suit threat, Susan Sarandon on power imbalance