NBC News president defends losing Weinstein story

  • NBC News president Noah Oppenheim blocked NBC network contributor Ronan Farrow from pushing ahead with an expose on Harvey Weinstein
  • Farrow had already secured interviews with Weinstein's alleged victims
  • He ended up taking the story to The New Yorker who gladly published his work
  • Oppenheim is also a screenwriter and is rumored to be keen to move back to LA
  • He wrote the screenplay to the 2016 film Jackie among others
  • Oppenheim insists the reason the network did not run Farrow's story when he approached NBC the summer was because the story was not complete 

By Dailymail.com Reporter

Published: 17:19 EDT, 11 October 2017 | Updated: 21:49 EDT, 12 October 2017

NBC News has been accused of deliberately spiking a story about Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual assault allegations because the president of its own news division had designs on making it big in Hollywood.

Noah Oppenheim has worked as a screenwriter in the past, but when Ronan Farrow, one of the network's own contributors came forward with a damning exposé, it put him in direct conflict with the powerful movie mogul.

Some have suggested that the budding screenplay writer instead went against basic journalism ethics by intervening in the editorial process and putting a stop to Farrow's story, killing it off. 

Now the Peacock network is also refusing to answer whether its president, Mr Oppenheim has any actual business ties to Weinstein which would have placed him in an awkward position. 

NBC News is refusing to answer whether its president, Noah Oppenheim, who moonlights as a Hollywood screenwriter, has any business ties to disgraced mogul movie Harvey Weinstein
NBC News is refusing to answer whether its president, Noah Oppenheim, who moonlights as a Hollywood screenwriter, has any business ties to disgraced mogul movie Harvey Weinstein

NBC News is refusing to answer whether its president, Noah Oppenheim, who moonlights as a Hollywood screenwriter, has any business ties to disgraced mogul movie Harvey Weinstein

On Wednesday, NBC News defended itself as to whether at the very least the organization had fumbled its response or at worst had been coerced into dropping the story. 

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said that the network reached a point this summer where it didn't feel all the elements were in place to air the story but also didn't stand in Farrow's way when he wanted to take his reporting elsewhere.

In the end, Ronan Farrow broke the story in the The New Yorker magazine instead of the network he usually appears on.

Farrow's story, released by the magazine on Tuesday, offered new details about Weinstein's alleged behavior with women that followed an investigation that was published last week in The New York Times.

Reporter and NBC contributor Ronan Farrow pursued leads about Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment and assault claims for months - before being told to drop the project

The Times' story led to Weinstein's firing from the film company that bears his name. 

Oppenheim, in remarks he made at a town hall meeting Wednesday that the network released publicly, said that Farrow had greatly expanded the scope of his reporting after taking it to The New Yorker.

'The stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday, was not the story that we were looking at when we made our judgment several months ago,' he said.

Oppenheim is also an active screenwriter who is writing a movie about the escape artist Harry Houdini for Lionsgate, a rival studio. He also wrote the 2016 film Jackie. 

He has also told a number of colleagues that he would like to return to Hollywood full time when he reaches the end of his tenure with NBC News.

 NBC's president Noah Oppenheim said that when Farrow came to NBC with the scoop it was not 'broadcast-ready' or in a position for it to be put on-air
 NBC's president Noah Oppenheim said that when Farrow came to NBC with the scoop it was not 'broadcast-ready' or in a position for it to be put on-air

 NBC's president Noah Oppenheim said that when Farrow came to NBC with the scoop it was not 'broadcast-ready' or in a position for it to be put on-air

Oppenheim's representatives at CAA, the world's leading entertainment and sports agency,  who handle his movie deals, are refusing to say if Oppenheim and Weinstein had any sort of business relationship.

TV historian and Syracuse journalism professor Robert Thompson told Fox News that Oppenheim should have stepped aside from making decisions about Weinstein if the two men had a business relationship, or if there was a potential for future relationships.

'If you've got somebody who is making major decisions about whether or not to run stories about people who might ultimately buy their properties, then I think that's certainly worth investigating as a potential conflict of interest,' Thompson said. 'It's certainly an ethical question.'

NBC also declined to answer whether Weinstein reached out to Oppenheim in an effort to get the NBC story killed. 

Weinstein was widely known to contact editors directly if he had objections with coverage and would even put people on his payroll in return for friendly coverage.

Oppenheim said 'the notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us,' noting other news organizations that had tried but failed to get the story.

The NBC News leader said NBC had nothing to be ashamed of its decision. Still, questions will remain about why it essentially gave up on the story at that point instead of urging Farrow forward.

NBC News executives were so resistant to Farrow's reporting, according to HuffPost, that 'it became difficult to tell where the Weinstein team's attempts to discredit the story left off and NBC News' editorial forbearance began.' 

'We are going to keep digging,' Oppenheim said. 'We are going to keep pursuing these stories. We are not always going to be the ones that get it to the finish line, but I think more often than not, we will be.'

Harvey Weinstein was widely known to take his objections to his press straight to the top, and, to offer various forms of remuneration in return for friendly coverage

Farrow, meanwhile, who had a short-lived daytime show on MSNBC, had been working on the Weinstein story for NBC News. 

He told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that earlier this year, he had a woman who granted an on-camera interview about Weinstein's behavior.  

Farrow said on MSNBC that he 'walked into The New Yorker with an explosively publishable piece that should have been reported earlier and immediately The New Yorker recognized that.' 

He said there were 'multiple determinations' at NBC News that he had a story ready to report.

Farrow said that he had personally been threatened with a lawsuit by Weinstein. 

He explained that many news organizations that cover Hollywood have faced questions about why it took so long to report on conduct that had allegedly been occurring over many years. 

Farrow acknowledged that it was a difficult story that took bravery for women to come forward with details against one of the most powerful men in their industry.

NBC has come under scrutiny for missing out on an opportunity to break the Harvey Weinstein scandal over the summer - despite one if their top reporters pursuing leads about the sexual harassment allegations for months. He is pictured in 2011
NBC has come under scrutiny for missing out on an opportunity to break the Harvey Weinstein scandal over the summer - despite one if their top reporters pursuing leads about the sexual harassment allegations for months. He is pictured in 2011
Rose McGowan is one of the women who has come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment
Rose McGowan is one of the women who has come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment

NBC has come under scrutiny for missing out on an opportunity to break the Harvey Weinstein scandal over the summer - despite one of their own pursuing the story. Weistein, pictured left in 2011 and right with one of his most vocal accusers Rose McGowan

Oppenheim told Farrow what Weinstein’s lawyers had said in complaint to NBC: that Farrow had a conflict of interest because Weinstein had helped revive the career of Farrow’s estranged father, director Woody Allen. 

NBC was also initially reticent about reporting on other news outlets’ stories on Weinstein too. 

When the New York Times first broke the story of Weinstein’s long history of alleged sexual abuse, both CBS and ABC carried the Weinstein tale on their evening programs, but NBC did not despite having seven hours to put together a story.

Even the following morning, both ABC and CBS morning shows ran lengthy pieces on the subject but NBC's Today show simply had the anchor do a brief read from the teleprompter including Weinstein’s pushback on the allegations made in the Times.

For NBC News, these questions came a year after another news organization broke the story of then-candidate Trump making lewd comments during a taping of 'Access Hollywood,' remarks that had been in the archives of the NBC-owned entertainment show for years.

Trump, meanwhile, was furious with NBC on Wednesday for its story about the president's nuclear ambitions as reportedly stated in a national security meeting this summer. 

NBC last week broke the story about Secretary of State reportedly calling Trump a 'moron' this summer.

Trump disputed the truth of Wednesday's story in a tweet, wondering, 'at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license?' The Federal Communications Commission regulates what television stations have access to the nation's airwaves.

WEINSTEIN'S ACCUSERS 

Angelina Jolie said she had to turn down Weinstein's advances as a young actress
Angelina Jolie said she had to turn down Weinstein's advances as a young actress

Angelina Jolie said she had to turn down Weinstein's advances as a young actress

Gwyneth Paltrow: The star told the New York Times that Weinstein touched her and suggested having joint massages in the bedroom before she started shooting Emma. She said she told her then boyfriend Brad Pitt about the incident and he confronted the mogul.

Angelina Jolie: Jolie told the Times she had to turn down advances from Weinstein in the late 1990s and she chose never to work with him again. She said she warned other women about him.

Louisette Geiss:  Actress was called to a late night meeting with Weinstein. He allegedly emerged in a bathrobe and told her he would green light her script if she watched him masterbate. She left the meeting.

Judith Godreche: The French actress says Weinstein tried to massage her and pull off her sweater after asking her up to his Cannes suite to see the view in 1996.

Dawn Dunning: Aspiring actress says she was called to a meeting about future film projects. When she arrived Weinstein presented her with three scripts for his next three movies which he would let her star in, only if she had three-way sex with him. She fled the hotel.

Tomi-Ann Roberts: Weinstein met her when she was serving tables and told her to meet him at his home. When she arrived he was in the bath and told her she would give a better audition if she was naked. She says she refused and left.

Asia Argento: The Italian actress has accused Weinstein of forcibly performing oral sex on her when she was 21. 'He terrified me, and he was big. It wouldn't stop. It was a nightmare.'  She said she went on to have consensual sex with him over the years that followed. She documented the alleged attack in her 2000 film Scarlet Diva.

Katherine Kendall: The Swingers actress was told Weinstein had to stop off in his apartment to pick something up after a screening. He changed into a bathrobe and told her to massage her. When she resisted she said the mogul returned naked and chased her.

Lucia Evans: Aspiring actress claims Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him. Speaking to the New Yorker, she said that she suffered years of trauma after the incident which occurred in a 'casting meeting' in a Miramax office in Manhattan.

Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that Weinstein attempted to get her into a hotel bedroom and massage her when she was 22
Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that Weinstein attempted to get her into a hotel bedroom and massage her when she was 22

Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that Weinstein attempted to get her into a hotel bedroom and massage her when she was 22

Mira Sorvino: The Mighty Aphrodite actress told the New Yorker that Weinstein tried to massage her in a hotel room at the 1995 Toronto International Film Festival. He then went to her home in the middle of the night but she called a male friend to protect her. She said turning down the mogul adversely affected her career.

Rosanna Arquette:  The actress also said her career suffered after she rebuffed Weinstein's advances. At a hotel meeting he tried to put her hand on his erect penis, she claims.

Rose McGowan: The actress, who made her breakthrough in 1996 in the Weinstein-produced slasher revival movie Scream, reportedly sued Weinstein after he assaulted her in 1997. She signed a non-disclosure agreement at the close of the suit and has only referred to him obliquely in social media since. On Sunday she referred to being abused by a 'monster' and has previously referred to being raped by a studio head.

Career suicide: Mira Sorvino revealed how her career nose-dived after she turned down Weinstein's advances 
Career suicide: Mira Sorvino revealed how her career nose-dived after she turned down Weinstein's advances 

Career suicide: Mira Sorvino revealed how her career nose-dived after she turned down Weinstein's advances 

Ashley Judd: Judd's film roles include the thriller Kiss the Girls - and says that during the filming of that movie Weinstein repeatedly asked her to watch him shower. She was one of the women who spoke out to The New York Times this week, saying: 'Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it's simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.'

Emma De Caunes: French actress Emma de Caunes said that she met Weinstein in 2010, soon after he told her he had a script he was producing based on a book with a strong female character. Weinstein offered to show her the script, and asked her up to his hotel room, where he began to take a shower. He then emerged naked and with an erection, asking her to lay down with him on the bed and telling her that many had done so before. 'I was very petrified,' said de Caunes. 'But I didn’t want to show him that I was petrified, because I could feel that the more I was freaking out, the more he was excited.'

Zelda Perkins was 25 when, as an assistant of Weinstein's in London, she reportedly confronted the mogul for harassing her and 'several' other women; she later settled out of court
Zelda Perkins was 25 when, as an assistant of Weinstein's in London, she reportedly confronted the mogul for harassing her and 'several' other women; she later settled out of court

Zelda Perkins was 25 when, as an assistant of Weinstein's in London, she reportedly confronted the mogul for harassing her and 'several' other women; she later settled out of court

Lauren O'Connor: A former employee of The Weinstein Company, she told executives there in the fall of 2015 that there was 'a toxic environment for women at this company' after one of her colleagues told her that Weinstein had pressured her into massaging him while he was naked, the NYT said.

Ambra Battilana: An Italian actress and model, she told the NYT that in March 2015 Weinstein invited her to his New York office. There, she said, he asked if her breasts were real before grabbing them and putting his hands up her skirt. She reported the alleged incident to police, but they did not press charges. According to the NYT, Weinstein later paid her off.

Laura Madden: An ex-employee, she told the NYT that Weinstein had asked her to give him massages from 1991 onwards, while they were both in London and Dublin. 'It was so manipulative,' she told the NYT. 'You constantly question yourself - am I the one who is the problem?' Weinstein denied knowledge.

Emily Nestor: Nestor was a temporary employee of the Weinstein Company for just one day in 2014 when Weinstein approached her and offered to boost her career in exchange for sex, the NYT reported.

Zelda Perkins: An assistant of Weinstein's based in London in 1998; then 25, she reportedly confronted Weinstein after she and 'several' others were harassed and later settled out of court.

Elizabeth Karlsen, an Oscar-winning producer, said a female executive told her almost 30 years ago that she had found Weinstein naked in her bedroom in a Miramax-rented property
Elizabeth Karlsen, an Oscar-winning producer, said a female executive told her almost 30 years ago that she had found Weinstein naked in her bedroom in a Miramax-rented property

Elizabeth Karlsen, an Oscar-winning producer, said a female executive told her almost 30 years ago that she had found Weinstein naked in her bedroom in a Miramax-rented property

Elizabeth Karlsen: The Oscar-nominated producer of Carol and The Crying Game, among others, told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday that almost 30 years ago, an unnamed young female executive who had worked at Miramax with Weinstein had found him naked in her bedroom one night. The exec was in a house rented by Miramax at the time to cut its overheads.

Liza Campbell: A freelance script reader, she told the UK's Sunday Times that Weinstein had summoned her to his hotel room in London before telling her to get in the bath with him.

Lauren Sivan: The former Fox news host said that Weinstein trapped her in a closed restaurant and masturbated in front of her to completion in 2007. He took her to a closed restaurant beneath a club she had visited and attempted to kiss her, then when she refused he cornered her and made her watch him touch himself, according to The Huffington Post.

Jessica Hynes: The British actress, best known for her roles in the Bridget Jones movies and for co-creating and co-writing the sitcom Spaced, said she was invited to audition for Weinstein when she was 19 - in a bikini. Hynes, formerly known as Jessica Stevenson, said she refused to wear the skimpy item - and lost the job.

Romola Garai: British actress Romola Garai said she felt "violated" following a meeting with Harvey Weinstein in his London hotel room when she was 18 in which he was in a bathrobe. Garai, best known for her role in "Atonement", said she had already been hired for a part but was told to audition privately with the Hollywood mogul because 'you had to be personally approved by him'. "Like every other woman in the industry, I've had an 'audition' with Harvey Weinstein," she told The Guardian. 'So I had to go to his hotel room in the Savoy and he answered the door in his bathrobe. I was only 18. I felt violated by it'.   


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