By: Anika Reed – usatoday.com – October 14, 2019
NBC News president Noah Oppenheim is rejecting allegations made in Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill.”
The NBC News chief condemned Farrow’s upcoming book in a memo sent out to NBC News and MSNBC staffers Monday morning, writing that Farrow took the allegations against ousted “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer and spun them into a “lie.”
Details from the book have emerged in the lead-up to its Tuesday release, including a new allegation from previously unnamed former NBC News employee Brooke Nevils, whose initial complaint led to Lauer’s firing from “Today” in November 2017. Nevils alleges Lauer raped her at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Lauer has denied Nevils’ allegations as “categorically false.”)
Farrow said Friday on “Good Morning America” there were accusations brought to NBC regarding Lauer’s conduct prior to the 2017 complaint that led to his ouster.
However, Oppenheim is pushing back against that claim, writing to employees, “Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind.”
“Matt Lauer’s actions were abhorrent, and the anger and sadness he caused continue to this day,” Oppenheim wrote. “As we’ve said since the moment he was fired, his abuses should never have happened.”
He continued: “Ronan Farrow’s book takes that undeniable fact and twists it into a lie – alleging we were a ‘company with a lot of secrets.’ We have no secrets and nothing to hide.”
Oppenheim said after reading Farrow’s book, it’s evident that “his smear rests on the allegation that NBC’s management knew about and took steps to hide Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November of 2017. Without that, he has no basis on which to rest his second conspiracy theory – that his Harvey Weinstein reporting was squashed to protect Lauer.”
Farrow has adamantly maintained his investigating and reporting on the disgraced movie mogul was met with intimidation tactics, and NBC News impeded his work.
Oppenheim called Farrow’s allegations that employees reported Lauer’s behavior prior to November 2017 and were paid settlements to silence them “false” and says “the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.”
The NBC News exec goes on to list three people – a woman who is named in the book, an “on-air personality” who departed in 2012 and a “senior member of the ‘Today’ show team” who departed in 2017 with a “seven figure payout” – who he said are “the only three examples we can find that Farrow alleges are Lauer-related before 2017, with even minimal detail” that “involve employees who by their own admission made no complaint to management, and whose departure agreements were unrelated to Lauer and completely routine.”
Oppenheim said that all three signed a “completely standard separation agreement,” including a “routine confidentiality clause that was designed to protect proprietary company information,” but that was not used to “prevent an employee from reporting misconduct, nor has it ever been used that way.”
“I feel absolutely terrible that these three employees were subjected to 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 wrote.
“There is no evidence of any reports of Lauer’s misconduct before his firing, no settlements, no ‘hush money’ – no way we have found that NBC’s current leadership could have been aware of his misdeeds in the past,” Oppenheim wrote. “We can all agree those misdeeds should have come to light sooner, and that we should have had a culture in which anyone who knew about his abuse would have felt comfortable telling management. And if anyone on any past management team knew, they should have taken action. But we cannot undo mistakes that may have been made by people who have long since left the company.”
Oppenheim ends the letter with nine “egregious examples” of Farrow’s “effort to defame NBC News,” and includes fact-checking for each of the claims made in the book.
USA TODAY has reached out to Farrow for a response to Oppenheim’s memo.
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