‘Harvey Weinstein’s media enablers’? The New York Times is one of them

https://www.thewrap.com/media-enablers-harvey-weinstein-new-york-times/

‘Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enablers’? The New York Times Is One of Them

The paper had a story on mogul’s sexual misconduct back in 2004 — but gutted it under pressure

By Sharon Waxman

October 8, 2017

A whole lot of fur has been flying since last Thursday, when The New York Times published a game-changing investigative story about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct that in lightning speed brought the mogul to his knees.

He apologized and took an immediate leave of absence from the company he co-founded, but that wasn’t enough. His board members and legal advisers have been resigning en masse. And as new, ugly details emerge of three decades of settlements for sex-related offenses, he’s quickly becoming a national pariah.

I applaud The New York Times and writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for getting the story in print. I’m sure it was a long and difficult road.

But I simply gagged when I read Jim Rutenberg’s sanctimonious piece on Saturday about the “media enablers” who kept this story from the public for decades.

“Until now,” he puffed, “no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.”

That’s right, Jim. No one — including The New York Times.

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.

I traveled to Rome and tracked down the man who held the plum position of running Miramax Italy. According to multiple accounts, he had no film experience and his real job was to take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.

As head of Miramax Italy in 2003 and 2004, Fabrizio Lombardo was paid $400,000 for less than a year of employment. He was on the payroll of Miramax and thus the Walt Disney Company, which had bought the indie studio in 1993.

I had people on the record telling me Lombardo knew nothing about film, and others citing evenings he organized with Russian escorts.

At the time, he denied that he was on the payroll to help Weinstein with favors. From the story: “Reached in Italy, Mr. Lombardo declined to comment on the circumstances of his leaving Miramax or Ricucci, saying they were legal matters being handled by lawyers. ‘I am very proud of what we achieved at Miramax here in Italy,’ he said of his work for the film company. ‘It cannot be that they hired me because I’m a friend.’”

I also tracked down a woman in London who had been paid off after an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She was terrified to speak because of her non-disclosure agreement, but at least we had evidence of a pay-off.

The story I reported never ran.

After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.

I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.

But I had the facts, and this was the Times. Right?

Wrong. The story 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. Who cared?

The Times’ then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.

“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me. I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Disney told me they had no idea Lombardo existed.

A spokeswoman for the Times had no comment on Sunday.

I was devastated after traveling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week, more than a decade later. I had met in person with a woman who said she’d been paid off for an unwanted sexual encounter and thus proved she existed.

Today I wonder: If this story had come to light at the time, would Weinstein have continued his behavior for another decade, evidenced by the scathing 2015 memo by former staffer Lauren O’Connor unearthed by Kantor and Twohey.

Writes Rutenberg: “Mr. Weinstein had his own enablers. He built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings that, before the internet era, could have reached the moon.”

The New York Times was one of those enablers. So pardon me for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.

Advertisements

October 13, 2017. Tags: , , , , , . Media bias, Sexism, Violent crime.

Leave a Comment

Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: