Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” landed like a bomb on the media and entertainment world Tuesday, with fresh allegations about NBC, Matt Lauer, the National Enquirer, and disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The book alleges Matt Lauer’s 2017 firing came after a colleague accused the star anchor of raping her — which he flatly denies. It reports that the company effectively bought accusers’ silence by tying nondisclosure agreements to their financial settlements. And it alleges that top NBC brass impeded Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein.
The book has sparked new tensions within NBC, which claims it has nothing to hide, and raised more questions around how President Donald Trump’s media allies may have covered for his inappropriate behavior.
Here’s what else you might have missed:
The National Enquirer shredded Trump documents
Enquirer owner American Media Inc. has been at the center of cover-ups of Trump’s alleged affairs. The company admitted last year that it paid hush money to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, and federal prosecutors said it played a key role in helping Trump fixer Michael Cohen broker a similar deal to silence porn star Stormy Daniels.
But Farrow reports that the company also kept a trove of documents of Trump dirt stretching back decades in a safe. The book says that Dylan Howard, then editor of The National Enquirer, ordered a staffer to destroy the files on the eve of the 2016 election, the same day the Wall Street Journal came calling with questions about McDougal’s payout.
“The staffer opened the safe, removed a set of documents, and tried to wrest it shut,” Farrow writes. “Later, reporters would discuss the safe like it was the warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in 'Indiana Jones,' but it was small and cheap and old.”
American Media representatives called the reporting “completely untrue” in a statement to Politico. But Farrow also quotes former National Enquirer staffer Jerry George saying that the publication “killed perhaps 10 fully reported stories about Trump, and nixed many more potential leads” during his 28-year career there.
Lauer exposed himself to a woman at work
In 2010, Farrow reports, the "Today" show anchor asked then-producer Melissa Lonner in to his office during a party at NBC headquarters in Rockefeller Center. While Lonner didn’t speak to Farrow about the encounter, she did confide in coworkers, including Lauer’s co-anchor Ann Curry, who did.
Those sources told Farrow that Lonner and Lauer sat down on a couch in his office, where he joked about disliking work cocktail parties and then “unzipped his pants and exposed his erect penis.”
Lonner nervously laughed, Farrow writes, telling Lauer that she didn’t want to be in a room with him “where everyone else has done it.” He reportedly replied that “he knew that she wanted it.”
As Lonner attempted to leave, Farrow writes, Lauer reportedly grew agitated. “Melissa, you’re a f–king tease,” he said. “This is not good. You led me on.”
NBC News bosses have denied that Curry or other employees ever notified them of the alleged harassment. Lauer’s camp pushed back on the allegation to Farrow, saying only that he made a lewd joke.
Farrow’s former NBC colleague backs him up
Rich McHugh, who worked with Farrow when he was initially reporting on the Weinstein allegations, claims that top NBC News officials continuously slow-walked the investigation. In a detailed account for Vanity Fair, McHugh takes aim at NBC News Chairman And Lack and President Noah Oppenheim for killing a Pulitzer Prize-winning expose that Farrow eventually published in The New Yorker.
“They not only personally intervened to shut down our investigation of Weinstein, they even refused to allow me to follow up on our work after Weinstein’s history of sexual assault became front-page news,” writes McHugh, who resigned from NBC last year. “As the record shows, they behaved more like members of Weinstein’s PR team than the journalists they claim to be.”
NBC is punching back hard
The media company unleashed an aggressive PR campaign to preempt the book, with top officials reportedly visiting several outside newsrooms to argue Farrow’s reporting is flawed.
In a memo to staff shared with VICE News, Lack said that Farrow “uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture” of NBC. He called the book’s suggestion that the company covered up Lauer’s behavior before 2017 “absolutely false and offensive.”
Oppenheim echoed that pushback in a similar memo obtained by The New York Times Monday, calling the claims that NBC covered for powerful men a “smear” and “conspiracy theory.”
“Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an ax to grind,” Oppenheim wrote. “It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines and outright inaccuracies.”
Cover: Matt Lauer on Thursday Nov.16, 2017 -- (Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)