Ronan Farrow says he ‘feared for my safety’ after Weinstein story broke: ‘Sources were telling me to get a gun’
At a Chicago Ideas Week discussion Thursday, reporter Ronan Farrow discussed his new book “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.”
Journalists Ronan Farrow and Rich McHugh told a Chicago audience Thursday about how their former bosses at NBC were resistant to air their investigative piece on sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and how TV executives promised the Hollywood producer they’d kill the explosive story.
“There were several meetings that had occurred where Ronan kind of revealed all that we had amassed in those months, and the tone changed,” McHugh, an award-winning producer, said at a Chicago Ideas Week discussion.
“It was all of a sudden, ‘Hold on, pause, you know, stop for a while.’”
It was later discovered that Weinstein had attempted to keep the story from running, Farrow and McHugh said.
“Behind the scenes, unbeknownst to us, Harvey Weinstein was laying siege to NBC,” Farrow told Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the former network’s chairman Roger Ailes in 2016.
“There were at least 15 secret calls between NBC executives and Harvey Weinstein, in which promises were made to kill this story before any journalistic judgment had been made. NBC has now conceded that these calls happened.”
Farrow, who has been promoting his new book, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” also said Weinstein hired private investigators from Black Cube — a private Israeli firm — to follow him.
“I don’t make light of the fact that it was frightening to be in the crosshairs of that,” said Farrow, the son of actress Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen.
“I mean, there were times when I feared for my safety and, you know, my sources were telling me to get a gun, and I moved out of my apartment.”
Discussing his role in the #MeToo movement, Farrow said he and McHugh originally planned to do a series of investigative articles on issues affecting Hollywood, including the long-running problematic phenomenon of the “casting couch.”
Actress Rose McGowan, one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of rape, was a catalyst for the ensuing explosive story, Farrow explained.
“We approached Rose and very rapidly that evolved into not just a broader story but a story where we had multiple named women accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape”, Farrow said. “We had a police tape that I obtained of Harvey Weinstein confessing to a sexual assault and indeed being used to (show) a pattern of sexual assault.”
McHugh added that a turning point in the investigation was hearing audio of Weinstein admitting to assaulting model Ambra Gutierrez.
“I vividly remember when I heard the audiotape for the first time ... his voice was just so incredibly monstrous [and] cunning,” McHugh said. “We saw exactly what all these women were all talking about, and it made perfect sense. But I was also instantly a bit terrified because I knew in my heart that it was the beginning of the end for Harvey Weinstein.”
Farrow — an outspoken critic of Allen, who has also been accused of sexually assaulting his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow — said the campaign against the Weinstein investigation is indicative of the growing disdain for journalists in the United States.
“We do see right now in these underhanded tactics directed at journalists, in the rhetoric directed at journalists, describing them as an enemy of the people,” Farrow said. “The early warning signs of how fragile and precious our profession is. You know, it’s enshrined in the Constitution, and we need to do everything we can to protect journalism in this country.”
Farrow along with New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for their reporting on the sexual assault allegations against Weinstein. Kantor and Twohey also wrote a book about their work on the matter, “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.”
Before Carlson interviewed Farrow and McHugh Thursday, she told the Chicago Ideas Week audience how she felt isolated when she took on Fox News and Ailes.
“At that time, I felt all alone,” Carlson said. “There was no ‘MeToo’ hashtag explosion at the time. There was no Time’s Up movement. It felt like there was just me taking on one of the most powerful men in the world all by myself.”
Carlson and other female Fox News hosts’ experience with sexism and sexual harassment is the subject of the upcoming film “Bombshell.”