On Tuesday night, NBC scrub Ronan Farrow went on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” and gave NBC a black eye. Well, it’s Wednesday and NBC President Noah Oppenheim isn’t taking Farrow’s sucker punch laying down.
At a NBC and MSNBC townhall meeting Wednesday, he struck back against the jarring remarks Farrow made about his blockbuster Harvey Weinstein exposé that ran in The New Yorker. In contrast, Oppenheim was firm but remarkably kind in his remarks about Farrow and his piece, making it abundantly clear to his employees that NBC did not turn away Farrow’s story for flimsy reasons or because the company was somehow trying to protect a powerful person like Weinstein.
NBC provided a transcript of the meeting to The Mirror.
“The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us,” Oppenheim told his employees. “Like pretty much every newspaper and magazine in LA 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, tried to nail it but weren’t ultimately the ones who broke it. We reached a point over the summer, where as an organization, we didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it.”
Farrow squarely contradicted Oppenheim’s assertions.
He told Maddow that he solidly had the story, but NBC refused to play ball.
Maddow asked, “Why did you end up reporting this story for The New Yorker and not NBC News?”
Farrow replied, “You would have to ask NBC and NBC executives about the details of that story. I’m not going to comment on any news organization’s story that they did or didn’t run.”
Maddow suggested that NBC felt his story wasn’t ripe enough.
The snappy Farrow flatly told her this was not true.
“I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosive reportable piece that should have been public earlier,” he said. “And immediately 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.”
Oppenheim said Farrow was not working for NBC exclusively when he began reporting the Weinstein story for NBC. “We are proud of that,” Oppenheim explained awkwardly. “We launched him on that story, we encouraged him to report that story. We supported him and gave him resources to report that story over many, many months.”
But in the end, NBC said no.
“Ronan very understandably wanted to keep forging ahead, so, we didn’t want to stand in his way and he took it to the New Yorker and did a ton more extraordinary work,” Oppenheim continued. “He greatly expanded the scope of his reporting. Suffice to say, 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.”
Despite Farrow behaving like a spanked child who tattles on his parents, Oppenheim praised him.
“We couldn’t be prouder of him, and I think all you need to know about our feeling about the importance of the story is that we have been putting him on our air throughout the day yesterday, and this morning, ever since,” Oppenheim said.
“And booking accusers and covering the story really aggressively. …We are going to keep digging, 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. …I think we should all be proud of being an organization that is at least in the hunt… So, thank you.”
Oppenheim stressed that he wanted to “proactively address some of the noise” that has been wafting in the air about Farrow’s big Weinstein scoop.
“It would pain all of us who were involved in that, and involved in investigations, if anyone at this organization, thought there was anything to be ashamed of in that decision making process,” he said. “In fact, quite the contrary.”