NBC takes heat over reported efforts to quash Weinstein harassment probe

Weinstein (centre) sits at his arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court in New York in July 2018.
Weinstein (centre) sits at his arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court in New York in July 2018.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - NBC News tried to thwart an investigation into sexual harassment claims against former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein by calling off and even threatening its own journalists, media reports said.

According to reports in the New York Times and Daily Beast, NBC sought to stop the investigation led by journalist Ronan Farrow and producer Rich McHugh.

McHugh was quoted by the Times as saying he was told after spending months on the investigation not to interview one of Weinstein's accusers and that the order came from "the very highest levels of NBC."

"Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to LA to interview a woman with a credible rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein, I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman, and to stand down on the story altogether," McHugh, who left NBC in mid-August, told the daily.

The Daily Beast, meanwhile, citing unnamed sources, reported that NBC, pressured by Weinstein's lawyers, threatened to "smear" Farrow if he kept pursuing the Weinstein story.

Farrow later took the story to the New Yorker, where its publication sparked a series of investigations against Weinstein that ultimately led to criminal charges and inspired the #MeToo movement by victims of sexual harassment.

NBC did not immediately respond to an AFP query, but reports quoted it as denying the allegations in the two outlets.

The network, owned by cable and entertainment conglomerate Comcast, had previously claimed Farrow's story was not ready when he left NBC.

Farrow won the Pulitzer Prize for his articles on Weinstein starting in October 2017.

After the Weinstein story broke, star NBC host Matt Lauer was forced to resign over sexual harassment allegations, and former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw has faced accusations of unwanted advances.