Comcast-owned NBC News declined to air a Harvey Weinstein serial sexual harassment story in August, allowing the New Yorker magazine — in an article written by former NBC News staffer Ronan Farrow — and the New York Times to break the hard-hitting and viral pieces.
At least 30 women, among them the actresses Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, and Gwyneth Paltrow, have spoken out since the publication of the New Yorker and Times articles to say that Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them.
Police in London and New York are taking fresh looks at the accusations against Weinstein.
NBC News' decision to pass on the subject of Weinstein's alleged serial sexual harassment — rumored for many years — has brought harsh criticism down on a news operation seen as unwilling to take on the Hollywood mogul and powerful Democratic donor.
NBC News president Noah Oppenheim moonlights as a screenwriter, recently writing the screenplay for the biopic Jackie, and would have a conflict of interest if he planned on furthering a Hollywood career, according to published reports.
An NBC spokesman said Friday that Oppenheim had no business or personal relationship with Weinstein. He said it was "ridiculous" to assume NBC News was seeking to protect Weinstein.
NBCUniversal head Steve Burke had nothing to do with the editorial decisions on the Weinstein story, the spokesman said, adding that the highest-ranking NBCUniversal executive to weigh in was Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC.
At a Wednesday staff meeting at 30 Rock, Oppenheim spoke to the concerns about the Weinstein story to NBC and MSNBC staffers. "The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us," he said. "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 — son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen — began reporting the story in January. Though no longer an MSNBC host at the time, Farrow was still under contract with NBC, with the agreement that he would work on investigative stories for Today. NBC News stipulated that he could take his output to other outlets if NBC didn't want it.
In August, NBC News decided that Farrow hadn't gotten far enough on the story because he didn't have accusers on the record, and that the network would pass on it. Farrow asked to take the story to a print publication without specifying which one. NBC News said that he could do that but that the network would like for him to talk on NBC shows if he got it published. Farrow's contract with NBC expired in September. The Times published its Weinstein story on Oct. 5. Farrow's story was posted on the New Yorker website on Tuesday.
Oppenheim said on Wednesday: