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Ronan Farrow's 'Catch and Kill' book is attacked by NBC News

NBC News president Noah Oppenheim speaks onstage at

NBC News president Noah Oppenheim speaks onstage at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on Oct. 10, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Matt Winkelmeyer

NBC is launching a counterattack against investigative journalist Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book “Catch and Kill,” which accuses the network’s news division of a coordinated effort to shut down his reporting on disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in order to protect fired “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer.

“Now that we’ve read Farrow’s book, it’s clear — his smear rests on the allegation that NBC’s management knew about and took steps to hide Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November of 2017,” according to a memo sent to employees Monday that was obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Without that, he has no basis on which to rest his second conspiracy theory — that his Harvey Weinstein reporting was squashed to protect Lauer.”

The defense comes as NBC News president Noah Oppenheim tries to calm employees roiled by the revelations from excerpts of the book that comes out Tuesday. Staffers are said to be angry they were not told that Brooke Nevils, the former NBC News employee whose complaint led to Lauer’s firing, had alleged that she was raped by the morning show star in a hotel room in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

NBC News did not disclose Nevils’ accusation when Lauer was terminated after a 24-year run at the network. NBC News executives said the division had agreed with Nevils’ attorney on categorizing the incident as “sexual misconduct.” Farrow’s book also said that Nevils did not describe the attack as rape when she met with NBC’s human resources department but revealed it in her interview with the author. Lauer has denied the rape allegation but admitted to having an extramarital affair with Nevils.

“My only goals in the days after Matt’s firing were to convey to our employees how reprehensible, horrific and appalling his actions were, and to not go into any detail beyond what Brooke’s attorney was saying publicly in terms of characterizing what happened to her,” Oppenheim said Sunday in an interview.

But Oppenheim’s efforts to explain those circumstances to employees in a series of meetings last week were hampered by disclosures in Farrow’s book that he had written a series of newspaper columns as a student at Harvard University that were unsympathetic to sexual assault victims and expressed a regressive attitude toward women in general.

One column blasted NBC for firing sportscaster Marv Albert in 1997 after he was convicted of misdemeanor assault of a woman he was sexually involved with. Oppenheim was critical that the victim was able to remain anonymous during the coverage of the trial while Albert’s personal reputation was decimated.

“The trial was a sham and … the network’s action was an injustice,” Oppenheim wrote in the October 1997 column, which was first reported on by The Daily Beast.

One longtime NBC News employee not authorized to discuss the matter publicly believed the columns would be problematic for Oppenheim even if he were not dealing with the fallout of a #MeToo scandal in the company.

Oppenheim expressed regret for the columns and emphasized that they did not reflect his current views.

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