Stories and words have the power to make or break someone’s reputation; they have the ability to change a large number of opinions in a short amount of time. They can also be powerful in their own right, landing blows heavier than any punch ever thrown.
Months before the scandal over Harvey Weinstein ushered into existence the era of silence-breakers, NBC had assigned reporter Ronan Farrow to the same story. Farrow had come to possess evidence of a police recording featuring Weinstein and actress Ambra Gutierrez, as well as a dozen other testimonies from different actresses. However, just before publication, NBC told Farrow that the story still needed work, delaying the story from publication.
“In terms of the gravity of the evidence, it would’ve been impossible for me to live with myself or answer to any of the many women I had already interviewed if I had stopped,” Farrow says. His determination to see the story written led him to the doors of The New Yorker.
When Farrow published his story with The New Yorker, not only did he have public accounts of women recounting their encounters with Weinstein, but they would also be in conjunction with a similar story being published by The New York Times. Ronan’s exposé was published next to the Times’, and after its release, Farrow published a follow-up report detailing the lengths in which Weinstein’s team went to keep the allegations quiet, including non-disclosure agreements and million-dollar payoffs.
“I don’t think most people are aware of the exotic and extreme tools at the disposal of the most powerful and wealthy men of America when they are bent at silencing accusations against them,” he says. “Over 20 years, he signed secret settlement after secret settlement binding women to silence.”
Weinstein, however, wasn’t about to go quietly in the face of three large allegations staring him in the face. He not only sued the New York Times, but Farrow as well. “When Harvey Weinstein threatened to sue me, it was like the scene in ‘Harry Potter’ where an invitation to Hogwarts is coming in through every window and fireplace and every opening in the house,” he describes of the event.
The disgraced actor also took the time to put to use the numerous people at his disposal and attempted to dig through Farrow’s records, trying to find anything that could be used against the reporter. Luckily for Farrow, he’d spent a life in the spotlight, meaning that all of Weinstein’s findings would already be public knowledge. As the son of actress Mia Farrow and filmmaker Woody Allen, there was nothing left for the tabloids to discover.
“It was perhaps an unexpected advantage in one sense that any dirt that could be uncovered on me had already lived in the tabloids for my entire life, which is a painful and unpleasant thing,” Farrow says. “But in this case, it meant that there were really no surprises to uncover when there were any efforts to discredit me.”
Now, Farrow is watching the aftermath unfold, remembering what had kept pushing him to pursue the story: his sister, Dylan, who had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father. “She made a very brave choice to go public, because she thought it could help others,” Farrow says.
“That is the same choice that each and every one of these women accusing Harvey Weinstein had to make. This was all downside for these women coming forward. There was nothing to gain, and everything to lose.”
Ronan Farrow is no stranger to public scandal, and his own experiences in the spotlight have surely helped him uncover the truth about Harvey Weinstein. Farrow acts as an example of someone refusing to ignore injustices in society, regardless of the fallout or legal repercussions. His morality helped unveil decades of sexual misconduct allegations and started a new era of female empowerment.
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