NBC News chief defends network's handling of Weinstein story

NBC News chief defends network's handling of Weinstein story
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NBC News President Noah Oppenheim defended the network's decision not to air a bombshell report by Ronan Farrow detailing sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. 

In remarks made at an internal meeting, a transcript of which was obtained by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Oppenheim rejected the notion that NBC News sought to quash the allegations against Weinstein by passing on the story, which was eventually published on Tuesday by the New Yorker.

"The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us," Oppenheim said. "Like pretty much every newspaper and magazine in L.A. and New York, The New York Times up until last week, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, you name it, we were on that long list of places that chased this thing."

He said the network had decided over the summer to pass on the story, because "we didn't feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it." After that, Farrow offered it to the New Yorker, Oppenheim said.

"He greatly expanded the scope of his reporting," he said. "Suffice to say, the stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday, was not the story we were looking at when we made our judgment several months ago."

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Oppenheim's comments followed an interview of Farrow by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday.

When asked by Maddow why he had ultimately decided to take the story to the New Yorker, Farrow said that she would "have to ask NBC and NBC executives."

“I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosive reportable piece that should have been public earlier,” Farrow replied. "And immediately, obviously, the New Yorker recognized that, and it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable."

“In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC,” he added. He also suggested that the threat of lawsuits could have played a role in the network's decision not to run with the story. 

Farrow said that, during the course of his reporting, Weinstein had threatened to sue him, and that other news organizations that had pursued the story similarly faced pressure from the powerful film executive. 

After The New York Times published an investigation last week detailing decades worth of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, the Hollywood executive threatened to sue the paper for defamation, with his attorney contending that the report relied on "mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report."

David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, told the Washington Post that Farrow "had a lot of material" when he approached the magazine about publishing the Weinstein story, and defended the journalist as "an honest person who has worked extremely hard."

Farrow previously hosted a show on MSNBC that ended in 2015. He stayed on at the network, however, under a nonexclusive deal that allowed him to also work for other news outlets. 

NBC News also faced scrutiny last year, after The Washington Post published the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE could be heard boasting in 2005 about kissing and groping women without their consent. Because NBC produced the show, some critics questioned why its news division did not air the recordings earlier.