'Absolutely false and offensive': NBC News chairman denies protecting Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

NBC News leader Andy Lack addressed accusations, published Wednesday in The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the release of Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book, Catch and Kill, that he and his department had protected producer Harvey Weinstein and former Today host Matt Lauer.

Farrow, a former NBC News contributor, alleged in his book that Lack made it difficult for him to report on sexual misconduct accusations against Weinstein. Moreover, Farrow said Weinstein successfully threatened to go public with allegations against Lauer if the network aired stories about him. He also told the story of Brooke Nevils, a former assistant to Meredith Vieira, who claimed staffers in the news division and colleagues (not human resources) long ignored her claim that Lauer raped her in 2014.

(Both Weinstein, who was fired from his company in October 2017 and faces a sexual assault trail in January, and Lauer, who was fired in November 2017 the day after Nevils took her complaint to the human resources department, have denied the sexual misconduct allegations against them.)

In a memo to staff, obtained by Yahoo Entertainment, Lack called the new details “deeply disturbing.”

“Matt Lauer’s conduct in 2014 was appalling and reprehensible — and of course we said so at the time,” he wrote. “The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours. Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.”

Lack said the company conducted an investigation after Lauer’s departure and found no claims or settlements related to inappropriate conduct by the host. At the same time, employees have been required to take anti-harassment training.

Referring to the Weinstein situation, Lack was adamant that Farrow “uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.” He accused Farrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for public service for his reporting on the Weinstein scandal at the New Yorker, for having fallen below company standards, even after a substantial investment of resources.”

He continued: “After seven months, without one victim or witness on the record, [Farrow] simply didn’t have a story that met our standard for broadcast nor that of any major news organization. Not willing to accept that standard and not wanting to get beaten by the New York Times, he asked to take his story to an outlet he claimed was ready to publish right away. Reluctantly, we allowed him to go ahead.”

Farrow’s report was published in the New Yorker 53 days after he left NBC.

However, Lack said that report “bore little resemblance to the reporting he had while at NBC News.”

NBC News issued a statement regarding the Lauer: “Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time. That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”

They also denied the suggestion the company had shielded Weinstein for any reason.

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