According to the Wall Street Journal, as NBC prepped to defend itself against the fallout from Ronan Farrow’s reporting in “Catch and Kill,” NBC owner Comcast quietly reaffirmed its confidence in Noah Oppenheim, renewing the NBC News president’s contract. Oppenheim is expected to assume the role of NBC News chairman in 2020, following Andy Lack’s anticipated departure.
Comcast’s decision to renew Oppenheim’s contract reveals a vote of confidence in the executive even as he falls into potential disrepute due to his alleged mishandling of the Harvey Weinstein accusations. Farrow’s former NBC News producer Rich McHugh even went as far as to accuse both Lack and Oppenheim of a “massive breach of journalistic integrity.”
In his book “Catch and Kill,” Farrow alleges that Oppenheim had a part in the network’s decision not to air the Weinstein allegations. Oppenheim has since pushed back, claiming Farrow’s reporting did not meet NBC’s standards.
Oppenheim’s flat defense comes amidst recent allegations that NBC also squashed the rape and sexual misconduct allegations of author and activist Sil Lai Abrams. In a recent article in The Daily Beast, Abrams alleges she was raped by music mogul Russell Simmons in 1994 and subjected to sexual misconduct by then-“Extra” host A.J. Calloway in 2006. She came to MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid with her allegations in late 2017 and was interviewed in January 2018, only to have her interview pulled a day before its scheduled airing.
Abrams claims the same excuse of reporting “standards” was used to justify burying her claims, despite a months-long vetting process. Just as NBC sent Farrow elsewhere with his extensive reporting on Weinstein, NBC allegedly sent Abrams elsewhere with her well-vetted accusations of sexual victimization. Both media whistleblowers were provided a platform by The Hollywood Reporter.
News of Comcast’s willingness sign Oppenheim months ago provides a disheartening window into the level of seriousness with which large media corporations handle allegations of sexual assault against people not named Brett Kavanaugh. Instead of waiting for the release of Farrow’s book and the veracity of its allegations to be either confirmed or challenged, Comcast went ahead and signed Oppenheim anyway.
At a critical stage, when many have been calling for Comcast to investigate Oppenheim and Lack’s relevant actions, renewing Oppenheim’s contract suggests Comcast has no real interest or intent in looking into Farrow’s well-documented claims. It also indicates the possible rot that pervades NBC goes well beyond the network—indeed, the rot may be starting at the very top.
Comcast’s unwillingness to engage with Farrow’s allegations of unethical journalism at NBC demonstrate that, within the realm of corporate media, the notion of accountability may be largely a myth. Sure, Harvey Weinstein may suffer. Russell Simmons may get his just punishment. But what about all the media executives who allegedly signed off on protecting these potential predators?
It’s shocking to consider how many individuals in positions of power might have exercised that power to simultaneously silence possible victims and protect their alleged predators. More disturbingly, in such protection often lies the potential for enabling.
Indeed, there’s no metric for determining to what extent those in positions of power might have enabled Weinstein to continue to commit his alleged assaults. At least now we know, for some of those individuals who may have, there will be little to no professional repercussions.