President Trump tried to hijack the crisis at NBC News on Tuesday morning by suggesting the network lose its broadcast license over “killing the Harvey Weinstein story.”
NBC execs were already roiled by a new round of controversy with former staffer Ronan Farrow and Weinstein accuser Emily Nestor casting doubt over the network’s stated reasons for passing on the explosive story.
The row blew up Monday night when the chairman of NBC News, Andy Lack, sent a memo to network staff members about Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein, claiming that his story was not “fit for broadcast” while the Pulitzer Prize-winner was at the network. Lack’s email reportedly included a nearly-5,000-word internal report, which featured details behind Farrow’s reporting process at NBC.
Lack’s email was the first full defense of the network’s decision to pass on the blockbuster report, which accused Weinstein of serial sexual assault and harassment.
Amid claims that Lack’s account was inaccurate, Trump took to Twitter to write: “NBC FAKE NEWS, which is under intense scrutiny over their killing the Harvey Weinstein story, is now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct. I have long criticized NBC and their journalistic standards-worse than even CNN. Look at their license?”
Trump had no such problem with the network when it was accused of sitting on the Access Hollywood tapes that showed Trump bragging to then NBC employee Billy Bush that he used his celebrity to grope and sexually assault women.
Omarosa Manigault-Newman, formerly a senior White House adviser to Trump, claimed that there are also tapes from the recording of NBC’s The Apprentice that show the president using the N-word. The raw tapes from that show, however, are held by an independent production company.
The pressure on Lack was first ratcheted up Monday night by Farrow, who released a statement claiming NBC had made “numerous false or misleading statements.”
His account was bolstered by Nestor, who came forward early Tuesday to further contradict the NBC claims.
Nestor, a former Weinstein Company assistant, said she had filmed an interview in silhouette and was exploring the possibility of allowing NBC News to use her name or reshoot the interview when she was told that the exposé would not go ahead.
She also said the model Ambra Gutierrez had always been willing to go public, casting doubt on NBC’s claims that Ronan Farrow’s investigation into Weinstein was not ready to air at the time he took his work to The New Yorker.
Nestor, who went on the record for Farrow’s first New Yorker article on the subject, was not impressed with the TV network’s belated response. “I am immensely disappointed in, but not surprised, to read NBC's recent comments,” she said in a statement.
She was particularly appalled by NBC’s claims that the accusers lacked the bravery to go on TV with their allegations against Weinstein.
In her statement, she wrote: “NBC further claims ‘...We wondered then, and still wonder now, whether the brave women who spoke to him in print would have also sat before TV cameras and lights.’ The condescension dripping from this phrase is despicable.”
She said NBC was “not interested” in the proposal that she reshoot the interview with her face lit and her name made public.
“I feel forever indebted to Farrow for finding a platform from which my voice and the voices of other victims could be heard,” Nestor wrote. “I am even more grateful that he handled himself throughout with integrity, professionalism, strength, kindness, and honesty. To attempt to impugn his character or his conduct in his tireless work to publish this story is shameful.”
NBC responded to Nestor’s claims on Tuesday morning with another statement about the story, claiming that Nestor “was contacted during the editorial review process by an investigative producer with two decades of experience.”
“She took contemporaneous notes of their conversation and at no time then or since did Nestor tell NBC News she was willing to be named,” NBC wrote.
Megyn Kelly Today, which covered the saga early Tuesday morning, reported—in contradiction to Lack’s statement—that Rose McGowan claims she agreed to go on-the-record with Farrow for his NBC story and was willing to name Weinstein as her rapist.
“This is getting—it’s getting really in the weeds and it’s getting really uncomfortable,” said Kelly, whose live segment on the fight was admittedly hard to follow for its number of conflicting accounts.
Hours later, NBC released a more detailed retort, countering Farrow’s claims that his story was “cleared and deemed ‘reportable.’” The network alleged instead that “NBC lawyers met with him on several occasions” but ”at no time did they render a judgment on the draft script’s readiness for air.”
“Precisely because the script was never ready for air, no one in the NBC News Standards department ever reviewed it,” the statement claims.
NBC also denied McGowan’s claims reported by Megyn Kelly Today that she had agreed to go on-the-record with allegations against Weinstein. NBC wrote that, “as the interview transcript clearly indicates, she did not name Weinstein as her attacker on camera in the February 2017 interview or any time after that.”