Rich McHugh, a producer who worked with reporter Ronan Farrow on his bombshell Harvey Weinstein exposé that won Farrow a Pulitzer and helped send Weinstein to jail, has left NBC and is speaking out about the network’s alleged attempts to kill the story.
According to a Thursday New York Times report, McHugh said that executives at NBC tried to quash the story many times, raising suspicions that they were in contact with Weinstein and working on his behalf.
NBC has vigorously denied these claims, maintaining that the story was not ready for publication.
McHugh said that when he and Farrow were headed to Los Angeles to tape an interview with a victim of Weinstein, he was told by executives to cancel the trip.
Noah Oppenheim, NBC News president, denied the claims, saying that the story lacked requisite on-the-record interviews and that, by this point, Farrow had already decided to take his reporting to the New Yorker, where it was ultimately published.
Farrow characterized the event differently, implying in a previous interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he took his story to the New Yorker because he knew it wasn’t going anywhere with NBC. “I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier,” he said.
By this point, according to a Daily Beast report, Farrow already had an on-air interview with actress Rose McGowan saying she was attacked by a Hollywood executive (she declined at this point to name Weinstein on air, though she would later), and a tape from the New York Police Department on which Weinstein admitted to groping model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.
Farrow also was allegedly contacted by NBC’s general counsel Susan Weiner, who sources told the Daily Beast threatened to smear Farrow’s name if he published the story.
“I think it’s fair to say that there was a point in our reporting where I felt there were obstacles to us reporting this externally, and there were obstacles to us reporting this internally,” McHugh told the New York Times. “Externally, I had Weinstein associates calling me repeatedly. I knew that Weinstein was calling NBC executives directly. One time it even happened when we were in the room.”
Also damning, when the Times broke the first piece on the Weinstein allegations (Farrow’s New Yorker piece would follow a few days later), NBC handled the story very differently than did its counterparts. Per the Times, CBS and ABC ran the story in their evening news packages. NBC did not.
Farrow has signed a book deal to write “Catch and Kill,” expected to detail NBC’s actions during his Weinstein reporting.