The head of NBC News reportedly sent the network’s employees a point-by-point rebuttal of Ronan Farrow’s book “Catch and Kill,” which alleges that the network tried to cover up serial sexual abuse by former “Today” host Matt Lauer and that those efforts factored into NBC’s derailing of Farrow’s reporting on disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“We have no secrets and nothing to hide,” NBC News President Noah Oppenheim wrote in a Monday memo obtained by several news outlets ahead of Tuesday’s planned release of Farrow’s book.
The memo characterized the book as “Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News,” claiming that he had “an axe to grind.”
NBC News has forcefully pushed back after several explosive excerpts were released last week alleging that the network paid settlements to multiple employees who spoke up about Lauer and that the accusation that led to his 2017 firing involved him raping a then-NBC News employee, Brooke Nevils.
According to Farrow’s book, Oppenheim and NBC News Chairman Andy Lack tried to downplay Nevils’ allegation by falsely “emphasizing that the incident hadn’t been ‘criminal’ or an ‘assault.’”
In Monday’s memo, Oppenheim reportedly said he felt “absolutely terrible” about “Matt Lauer’s horrific behavior.”
“But the facts do not support Farrow’s allegation of a ‘cover-up,’ and he offers no further evidence,” Oppenheim continued.
“Catch and Kill” details Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein’s alleged serial sexual abuse, including threats and surveillance he faced from Weinstein and his associates. It also accuses NBC News, where Farrow was working when he began investigating Weinstein, of trying to dissuade him from reporting on the Hollywood producer and later quashing the story. Farrow’s story was eventually published by The New Yorker.
“Farrow takes the first false allegation — that we knew about Lauer’s offenses — and uses it to sustain another, that we obstructed his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. Attached is the detailed accounting of that reporting, which we released in September 2018,” Oppenheim wrote in his memo, referring to NBC’s internal investigation of the matter following Lauer’s firing. “Once, again, we stand by every word of it. In the meantime, Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind. It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies.”
A spokesperson for NBC News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Farrow has repeatedly stood by his reporting, saying that his book was extensively fact-checked and includes documentation for his claims.
“These are now repeated claims made specifically by those with the most to lose from the truth,” a representative for Farrow said in a statement Monday. “We stand by the reporting in the book, 100 percent, and believe that it discredits this attempt by NBC to rewrite the facts.”
Responding to Oppenheim’s memo on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, he accused NBC of defending itself with “untruths” and “lies,” arguing that the network’s efforts demonstrate the larger pattern laid out in his book: powerful people and institutions trying to attack and obstruct reporters.
Farrow’s allegations of a cover-up have reportedly disturbed employees at NBC. At a Q&A session last week, they questioned Oppenheim about the network’s handling of the rape allegation against Lauer. Staffers told CNN that the conversation was “heated” and “the most contentious exchange I have ever seen between staff and management.”
Oppenheim has come under fire himself for sexist commentaries he wrote in college. NBC staffers circulated the Harvard Crimson columns last week, according to the Daily Beast. In one column, Oppenheim lamented the firing of NBC sportscaster Marv Albert in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to sexual assault. (Albert was later rehired.) In another, Oppenheim wrote that “apparently women enjoy being confined, pumped full of alcohol and preyed upon.”
In a Los Angeles Times interview on Sunday, Oppenheim apologized for the Harvard columns, calling them “totally inappropriate.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Farrow.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.