Ronan Farrow’s new book “Catch and Kill” reveals new allegations of sexual misconduct against NBC News chief Andrew Lack, whom Farrow also accused of spiking his Harvey Weinstein story while at NBC. At the height of the Me Too movement in 2017, men in powerful positions were black-balled, fired, and excommunicated at the mere mention of an allegation, even without corroborating evidence. But unlike those men, Lack’s employer is standing behind him, and he’s refusing to go anywhere.
In an excerpt of Farrow’s book obtained by PageSix, he reports that one alleged victim said Lack preyed on young female employees and pursued sexual relationships with them.
Jane Wallace, an anchor on CBS’ “West 57th” news show when Lack was an executive producer in the late-1980s, said Lack was “almost unrelenting” in asking her out to dinner “every day for almost a month” for the purpose of celebrating her book. Wallace said she had an affair with the then-married executive, and although it was “ultimately consensual … I didn’t just get flirted with. I got worked over.”
“If your boss does that, what are you gonna say?” Wallace told Farrow. “You know if you say ‘I don’t want to celebrate with you,’ you’re asking for trouble.”
Another woman who worked at NBC as an associate producer, Jennifer Laird, allegedly had a “relationship” with Lack that turned “hostile” when their relations ended, according to Farrow.
Farrow’s book reads, “When Laird asked to be reassigned, Lack wouldn’t allow it. He compelled her to work longer hours, and on weekends, and proposed she cancel vacations.”
“There’s clearly a reason you don’t get involved with your boss,” Laird told Farrow.
Through representatives, Lack has denied both allegations.
Last week, after more allegations swirled of what Lack and other NBC executives knew and when they knew it about both Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein, Lack wrote a letter to NBC staff. Lack said Farrow’s description of NBC News leadership is “fundamentally untrue,” and he reiterated that Farrow left NBC and took his story to the New Yorker because it lacked sufficient sourcing at the time.
A spokesman for Farrow challenged Lack’s response, insisting, “relevant sections of the book confirm not only how many women were named, but also how much proof Ronan had gathered. Importantly, it documents the lengths to which NBC executives went to thwart the reporting efforts of Ronan and his producer Rich McHugh and why they did so.”
Should NBC fire someone over unsubstantiated claims? Has the Me Too movement bypassed American standards for innocent until proven guilty? It’s a debate the public will continue to have, probably as long as people are having sex. And yet, despite the ample supply of case studies we now have on how media organizations and entertainment empires handle these instances, NBC is doubling down on its purported ignorance.
In 2018, 12 women accused Les Moonves, chief executive of the CBS Corporation, of sexual assault and harassment. Moonves acknowledged three of the encounters, but he maintained they were consensual. At first, the CBS board decided after its own investigation that it would not take immediate action against Moonves and allowed him to remain CEO, but the board also decided it was “in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.”
CBS ended up folding the results of Moonves’ investigation into its investigation of Charlie Rose, who is also accused of sexual harassment. A month later, it announced that Moonves would be resigning and his $20 million in severance would be donated to supporting the Me Too movement.
The important point here is not the firing itself or even the timing of the firing — it’s the independent investigation. On Wednesday’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” former NBC host Megyn Kelly reiterated her call for an independent investigation, calling out both Lack and NBC News President Noah Oppenheim.
“There needs to be an outside investigation into this company. They investigated themselves. That doesn’t work,” Kelly said firmly. “Fox News had an outside investigator. CBS News had an outside investigator. NPR. The NFL. This is how it’s done.”
One has to wonder if the accusations of Lack’s behavior with women had come out at the same time as Lauer, Weinstein, and the long list of other infamous names, whether he would have been sold down the river too. Is it the passage of time that shielded him, or perhaps backlash against other uncorroborated claims, like Julie Swetnick’s outlandish allegations against Justice Brett Kavanuagh, swinging the Me Too pendulum back the other way? Or is it just NBC News, furiously working to deny that any problems bigger than Matt Lauer exist in its Rockefeller tower?