Former top National Enquirer editor Dylan Howard is using high-powered law firms that practice in Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the United States in an attempt to quash Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow’s much-anticipated exposé Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.
According to two knowledgeable sources, Howard—in an extraordinary step for a journalist who otherwise claims to favor the free flow of information—has retained the services of New York’s Kravet & Vogel, Sydney-based McLachlan Thorpe Partners, and the London-based Tweed law firm in an apparent campaign to suppress Farrow’s book, which is scheduled for publication on Oct. 15.
In addition to threatening Farrow and his publisher, Hachette, with a potential libel suit for an unreleased book that they have yet to read, Howard’s legal team has taken the unusual step of also warning booksellers that plan to stock Catch and Kill.
Thus law firms on three continents are representing the 37-year-old Howard, a celebrity tabloid muckraker from Australia whose alleged efforts to gather opposition research on actress Rose McGowan on behalf of her accused rapist, indicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, along with the efforts of Enquirer owner American Media Inc. and Chief Executive David Pecker to purchase and suppress damaging stories about Donald Trump, are expected to be chronicled in New Yorker writer Farrow’s book.
Asked who is paying the lawyers’ fees, AMI spokesman Jon Hammond didn’t provide an answer. In a text message, Howard told The Daily Beast that he, not AMI, is personally footing the bill for this expensive legal assistance.
Howard is no shrinking violet when it comes to filing lawsuits to stop his colleagues in the media from disseminating news about him. In March 2018, as his involvement with Weinstein was receiving scandalous attention in the press, Howard, a former television reporter for Australia’s Channel 7, successfully sued to prevent rival Channel Nine from airing video footage of him in the lobby of AMI’s Manhattan headquarters, claiming it amounted to trespassing.
The Tweed law firm—named for well-connected British media lawyer Paul Tweed, a social friend of former Jeffrey Epstein pal Prince Andrew—has sent threatening letters on Howard’s behalf to several U.K. booksellers as well as to Little, Brown Book Group Ltd., the British publishing arm of Hachette.
“We have been consulted by Dylan Howard in relation to false and defamatory allegations, which he has been advised and has reason to believe will be included in the above-named book,” the Tweed firm wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to Hive Store Limited, one of the targeted booksellers (which sources say also include Britain’s W.H. Smith and Wordery chains).
“We have put the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group Limited on notice that, if the offending content is included in the book, we are instructed to take such legal action as may be appropriate,” the letter continued.
The letter concluded: “You are now on notice under UK and Irish defamation laws of the potential defamatory content within the said book. We would therefore urge you to satisfy yourselves that the offending references to our client have been removed prior to distribution by your company.”
The Daily Beast asked Hive Store Limited and the other targeted booksellers for comment but did not immediately get a response.
Farrow had no comment. Hachette declined to comment on the specific legal threats but said in a statement that “the explosive and important new reporting in Catch and Kill has been meticulously vetted and fact checked, and all individuals and organizations Farrow reports on have been given fair opportunities to comment. We are proud to be publishing this book.”
In a statement released by AMI spokesman Hammond, Paul Tweed told The Daily Beast: “I would confirm that a British publisher and online distributors have been put on notice in relation to defamatory allegations that our client has been given reason to believe will be published in a forthcoming book. Our client is therefore entitled to seek the protection of the libel laws applicable in the U.K. and Irish jurisdictions.”
Tweed added: “It is for the publishers and the distributors to satisfy themselves as to the truth of what they publish and our client has made his position absolutely clear and will not be deterred from the facts by the leaking of correspondence to the media.”
Despite the participation of an American law firm in Howard’s exertions to kill Farrow’s book, he is unlikely to succeed in the U.S., where First Amendment protections are robust and judicial precedent frowns on prior restraint, prominent First Amendment litigator Floyd Abrams told The Daily Beast.
But in Britain, Ireland, and Australia, it’s another story.
“It doesn’t have a great deal of impact here with prominent publishers, because our libel laws are generally quite protective of publishers,” Abrams said. “This is primarily an English problem, of course. Their laws are much more libel-friendly than ours.”
Abrams cited the 2014 case of the Cambridge University Press, which refused to publish American Russia scholar Karen Dawisha’s study of Vladimir Putin’s mobster connections out of fear of litigation.
“After discussion with legal colleagues who have reviewed the typescript from both a US and UK legal perspective, I’m afraid that our view is that we are not in a position to proceed with your book,” the university publisher wrote the author. “The decision has nothing to do with the quality of your research or your scholarly credibility. It is simply a question of risk tolerance in light of our limited resources.”
The letter to Dawisha continued: “We have no reason to doubt the veracity of what you say, but we believe the risk is high that those implicated in the premise of the book—that Putin has a close circle of criminal oligarchs at his disposal and has spent his career cultivating this circle—would be motivated to sue and could afford to do so.”
Abrams, who wrote about the Cambridge case in his recent book The Soul of the First Amendment, said that in the U.S., as opposed to the U.K., “the defendant has great power as a litigant to go and obtain the truth about the plaintiff by deposition and by documentary discovery and the like. A plaintiff has to be prepared to answer every question. It’s not that that doesn’t exist in Britain and Australia, but it’s much less detailed.”
The New York Post has reported that another prominent media figure featured in the book is former Today host Matt Lauer, who was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment. The Daily Beast has learned that Lauer has retained the services of Libby Locke from law firm Clare Locke—which boasts about “killing stories” on its website—as the book nears publication.