By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 12, 2017
President Donald Trump has developed a kind of Twitter art form for disparaging U.S. media as “Fake News.” But even before Trump was elected President and assumed the mantle of media-basher-in-chief, corporate-owned media had lost the confidence of a vast majority of Americans. A Gallup poll released on September 14 of last year found that “Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.” The poll showed a drop of eight percentage points from the same poll conducted in 2015.
Now, as the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault articles continues to play out, both NBC and the New York Times have come under fire for allegedly refusing to publish earlier, deeply investigated articles about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
Just two days after the New York Times ran its front page investigative report on Weinstein on October 6, Sharon Waxman, the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief at The Wrap, reported that the Times had killed her 2004 story on Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. Waxman wrote:
“In 2004, I was still a fairly new reporter at The New York Times when I got the green light to look into oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. It was believed that many occurred in Europe during festivals and other business trips there.”
Waxman says that she “was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known” about her upcoming article and the eventual story that ran “was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive.”
Waxman said that she was motivated to spill the beans on the New York Times because one of its writers, Jim Rutenberg, had just penned a “sanctimonious” piece on Weinstein’s “media enablers” without mentioning that the Times had killed her story in 2004. One noteworthy revelation in Rutenberg’s piece which was sure to cause a lot of media stomachs to churn, was that the Los Angeles Press Club had this year given Weinstein its “Truthteller Award,” citing his “integrity and social responsibility.”
After New York Times’ readers demanded a response to the Waxman story, the Times Executive Editor, Dean Baquet, responded with this:
“I wasn’t here in 2004. But it is unimaginable to me that The Times killed a story because of pressure from Harvey Weinstein, who was and is an advertiser. After all, The Times is an institution that has published investigative reporting that caused our Chinese-language website to be blocked in China.
“The top two editors at the time, Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, say they have no recollection of being pressured over Ms. Waxman’s story. And her direct editor, Jonathan Landman, suggested she didn’t have it nailed. The story we published last week took months of work by two experienced investigative reporters. It included the on-the-record accounts of numerous women who were harassed by Mr. Weinstein. It also included the fact that Mr. Weinstein paid settlements to keep women from talking. I’m sure Ms. Waxman believes she had a story. But if you read her own description, she did not have anything near what was revealed in our story. Mainly, she had an off-the-record account from one woman.”
Waxman says that she had evidence of a payoff to a Weinstein victim and multiple reports that his head of his business in Italy’s actual job was to “take care of Weinstein’s women needs.”
NBC has also joined the fallout in multiple reports in expensive real estate media, like the Washington Post, New York Times and numerous others. The fallout stems from the fact that the explosive New Yorker article on Weinstein, based on a 10-month investigation by writer Ronan Farrow, which includes three reports of rapes by Weinstein, was originally investigated by Farrow for NBC News. The network failed to broadcast the story despite having filmed witness interviews. Appearing on the MSNBC Rachel Maddow program after his article ran in the New Yorker this past Tuesday, Farrow was asked by Maddow why NBC did not air the story. Farrow responded:
“I walked into the door at The New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier. And immediately, obviously, The New Yorker recognized that and it is not accurate to say that it wasn’t reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.”
NBC News provided the Washington Post with a transcript of its President, Noah Oppenheim, explaining to his news staff yesterday its failure to broadcast Farrow’s story. According to the transcript, Oppenheim stated:
“One of the consequences of choosing, as a news organization, to invest and lean into investigation journalism, is that we are going to often times, chase and touch upon stories that we are unfortunately not the ones who end up breaking. So, on that note, I wanted to come up here and proactively address some of the noise that has been circulating regarding Ronan Farrow’s great Harvey Weinstein scoop. Because, it would pain all of us who were involved in that, and involved in investigations, if anyone at this organization, thought there was anything to be ashamed of in that decision making process. In fact, quite the contrary. Ronan, who was not working for us exclusively, began reporting on that story for NBC. We are proud of that. We launched him on that story, we encouraged him to report that story. We supported him and gave him resources to report that story over many, many months. The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us.
“Like pretty much every newspaper and magazine in LA and New York, the New York Times up until last week, New York Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, you name it, we were on that long list of places that chased this thing, tried to nail it but weren’t ultimately the ones who broke it. We reached a point over the summer, where as an organization, we didn’t feel that we had all the elements that we needed to air it. Ronan very understandably wanted to keep forging ahead, so, we didn’t want to stand in his way and he took it to the New Yorker and did a ton more extraordinary work. He greatly expanded the scope of his reporting. Suffice to say, the stunning story, the incredible story that we all read yesterday, was not the story that we were looking at when we made our judgment several months ago. But we couldn’t be prouder of him, and I think all you need to know about our feeling about the importance of the story is that we have been putting him on our air throughout the day yesterday, and this morning, ever since. And booking accusers and covering the story really aggressively. So, what I would say, is that we are going to keep digging, we are going to keep pursuing these stories, we are not always going to be the ones that get it to the finish line, but I think more often than not, we will be. And I think we should all be proud of being an organization that is at least in the hunt on these things. So, thank you.”
Yesterday, Jim Rutenberg penned another reflective piece in the New York Times on Weinstein’s enablers who have managed to keep his misdeeds from being reported for so long, writing:
“There is also another dynamic at play, involving something akin to a protection racket. This is the network of aggressive public relations flacks and lawyers who guard the secrets of those who employ them and keep their misdeeds out of public view.”
Rutenberg has finally drilled down to the toxic core of the problem. Indeed, it is as insidious a “protection racket” as anything run by the mob families of New York – while far more nuanced and sophisticated. Corporate media has been in bed with this racket for so long that it’s lost its moral perspective. Public interest media outlets need to seize this moment to expose the full tentacles of this racket to the disinfecting light of day, including the naming of names.