Author Sil Lai Abrams: NBC Killed My Allegations of Rape and Sexual Misconduct, Too

Author Sil Lai Abrams: NBC Killed My Allegations of Rape and Sexual Misconduct, Too

The latest claims against NBC reveal the possibility of a gross and disturbing pattern of behavior at the network when it comes to handling allegations of sexual victimization.
Erielle Davidson
By

NBC News’s credibility continues to nosedive following its botched reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s alleged trail of abuses. On Monday, author and domestic abuse advocate Sil Lai Abrams penned a piece in The Daily Beast, contending that NBC purposely buried both Abrams’ allegations of rape against music mogul Russell Simmons and her allegations of sexual misconduct against former Extra TV host A.J. Calloway.

Abrams analogizes treatment of her accusations to the way in which accusations against Harvey Weinstein were kept shockingly mum by NBC, as reported in Ronan Farrow’s latest book “Catch and Kill.” Both Simmons and Calloway have denied Abrams’ claims.

In late 2017, Abrams had approached MSNBC Host Joy Ann Reid with her allegations, and after a lengthier vetting process, NBC agreed to tape an interview between her and Reid on January 7, 2018. The interview was slated to run six days later, but a day prior to its scheduled airing, the interview was pulled. It wasn’t until April that MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid would tell Abrams to take her story elsewhere.

It’s also worth noting that at the time Reid was lobbying NBC to air Abrams’ interview, Reid’s history of publishing homophobic slurs online had surfaced, and NBC opted to stick by Reid, a move that shocked many within the media sphere. Is it possible that Reid dropped the interview in exchange for NBC’s forgiveness for her personal transgressions? It’s unclear, but certainly worth posing the question. Fox News did, but to no response.

During that three-month span between NBC’s recording of the interview and their determination to send Abrams elsewhere, Abrams alleges that she was put through another extensive vetting procedure, one that Abrams labeled “elaborate and bizarre.” According to Abrams, she “provided [NBC with] legal documentation, hospital bills, and more than a dozen corroborating witnesses,” only to eventually be “stonewalled” by the network.

According to Abrams’ account of her communication with Joy Ann Reid, it seems NBC dropped the story out of fear of retribution from Simmons’ lawyers. It’s also worth noting that Calloway’s show appeared on several NBC-owned and operated networks, implying that Calloway was at least tangentially part of the NBC family. Thus, it’s reasonable to wonder whether NBC’s motivations for ditching the story stemmed from a fear of legal threats, financial repercussions, or damage to their own reputation.

NBC claims that it dumped the interview because it did not have enough information on Abrams’ assailants, though at the time Abrams’ allegations were reported in The Hollywood Reporter, at least a dozen women had already launched accusations of attempted sexual assault or rape against Simmons. Abrams alleges that the network had plenty on Calloway and that after The Hollywood Reporter went ahead with her claims in June of 2018, nearly a dozen women approached Abrams with similar stories of Calloway’s alleged sexual victimization.

In the era of #MeToo, there is always a fine line between reporting on sexual misconduct allegations and corroborating said allegations. However, there’s something distinctly cruel in Abrams’ account, which details a back-and-forth with NBC that could only be perceived as a campaign on the part of NBC to wear down Abrams’ resolve to come forward with her allegations.

At one point, prior to the January interview, NBC requested hard copies, not PDFs, of the orders of protection issued after Calloway’s arrest. After the interview was pulled, NBC wanted answers to questions that had nothing remotely to do with the allegations, such as whether Abrams could find someone to confirm she had been employed as a receptionist at Phillip Morris in 1991. For reference, the alleged rape by Simmons took place in 1994, and the sexual assault by Calloway in 2006.

Compare Abrams’ treatment to that of Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick, who, with the assistance of the less-than-reputable Michael Avenatti, approached the network alleging Kavanaugh sexually assaulted women at parties in the 1980s. NBC conducted an exclusive interview with Swetnick in the fall of 2018, just months after turning Abrams down. In light of the hoops that NBC required Abrams to jump through, this paragraph from an NBC article summarizing Swetnick’s interview is simply breathtaking:

NBC News was unable to independently corroborate Swetnick’s claims and has not spoken with anyone who says they saw Swetnick at parties with Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has said he does not know Swetnick and has called her claims a farce.

NBC has no trouble exposing allegations if those allegations are directed towards politically undesirable individuals and threaten no fear of retribution. In the case of Swetnick’s accusations, they were lodged at an individual for which the media had already established its intense dislike. The fallout from failing to “vet” such accusations likely seemed minimal, given the media had already determined Kavanaugh represented the Trump agenda and opposing Trump in all forms had become the priority of the left-leaning media.

Meanwhile, while Abrams’ accusations languished beyond demands for hard copies instead of PDFs, Swetnick’s uncorroborated allegations were given the utmost attention. If Abrams’ and Farrow’s reports are correct, NBC has a stunningly gross pattern of behavior when it comes to handling allegations of sexual misconduct. It seems like the network has no compunction when it comes to squashing allegations that might damage NBC, either reputationally or financially, a move that ultimately hurts alleged victims who might be compelled to come forward sooner.

As Farrow’s reporting in “Catch and Kill” revealed, NBC allegedly was willing to kill the Weinstein story if it meant that allegations of sexual misconduct against then-NBC’s own Matt Lauer would remain buried. Given the media’s recent interest in quid pro quos, this particular one should alarm them to the core.

Erielle Davidson is a Staff Writer at the Federalist and a law student at Georgetown University Law Center. Find her on Twitter at @politicalelle.

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