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Report: Harvey Weinstein hired investigators to gather dirt on accusers, undermine journalists

According to the latest investigation by The New Yorker, Harvey Weinstein allegedly hired private investigative firms to collect damaging information on his sexual harassment accusers and spy on actress Rose McGowan, who alleges that Weinstein raped her. Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his reporting on Weinstein's efforts to silence women and intimidate journalists.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally, we return to the Harvey Weinstein story and new revelations about the great lengths he allegedly went to in order to quash stories, silence his accusers and intimidate journalists.

    The latest investigation in “The New Yorker” magazine chronicles those efforts. It includes details of how Weinstein hired private investigative firms to collect damaging information on his accusers, including one that used former Israeli intelligence agents to allegedly befriend and spy on actress Rose McGowan.

    McGowan has alleged that Weinstein raped her. He has denied that accusation.

    And his spokeswomen told “The New Yorker”: “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”

    That’s a quote.

    Ronan Farrow is the journalist behind this investigation, and he joins me now.

    Ronan Farrow, this is a stunning collection of reporting. Do we know what triggered these actions on Harvey Weinstein’s part?

  • Ronan Farrow:

    Yes, Judy, in the fall of last year, women began to speak to reporters and speak publicly in some cases.

    Most prominently, perhaps, Rose McGowan tweeted, describing, in her words, her rapist, and implying heavily that that was Harvey Weinstein.

    This was one of several factors that precipitated this rush to staff up with criminal defense attorneys and private investigation firms, and, as you just described, to engage in some pretty aggressive human intelligence tactics.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, who — what kind of folks work at these investigative agencies? What do they do?

  • Ronan Farrow:

    You know, those are an array of firms, and they would say that their work is very legitimate and that they do all sorts of open-source research for clients and consulting for clients.

    But, certainly, in some cases, for Harvey Weinstein, these firms were either, A, compiling information that was specifically, according to the documents that we have, designed to undermine and smear people, both women with allegations and reporters, and in other cases were actually engaging in hands-on human intelligence tactics, insinuating themselves into people’s lives using false identities.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Using false identities. And, specifically, what happened with Rose McGowan, the actor?

  • Ronan Farrow:

    A woman calling herself Diana Filip of Reuben Capital Partners, a wealth management firm in London, reached out to McGowan through agents working with her, and over the course of several months met with her repeatedly, offering to invest in her company and to enlist her in a women’s rights campaign, and, over the course of those meetings, recorded secretly tens of hours of audio that were then relayed back to Weinstein in the form of transcripts.

    That same Diana Filip reached out to me, actually reached out to and successfully met with another reporter, Ben Wallace of “New York Magazine,” multiple times, posing as a woman with allegations. She used several identities.

    And the truth of the matter, Judy, is that she was an undercover operative working for this Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, using a false identity, talking to you.

    What kinds of questions was she asking you?

  • Ronan Farrow:

    Well, in my case, she reached out repeatedly, both through representatives of mine and directly to me in e-mails, and I didn’t respond.

    A representative of mine, a speaking agent that she got to, did speak to her and found it suspicious that she was demanding a meeting before discussing a supposed speaking engagement that she wanted to approach me about. And so it didn’t go farther than that.

    But, as I said, you know, this was a tactic used on a number of reporters. And, in some cases, this resulted in meetings, with this woman, using a range of identities, posing as a source.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You also point out — and you referred to this a minute ago — that Weinstein used — tried to use and then did use his own attorney, David Boies of the law firm Boies, Schiller, Flexner.

    Boies is of course well-known. He represented Al Gore in the 2000 election.

    What happened there?

  • Ronan Farrow:

    David Boies is someone that I know well. He used to appear on my show. He’s extremely well-regarded in many circles.

    And he personally signed contracts directing undercover operatives for Black Cube to kill a New York Times story about the Weinstein allegations and to obtain a manuscript of Rose McGowan’s in-progress book, which they believed would contain rape allegations.

    And they were successful in sending to Weinstein numerous transcripts describing the contents of that book. Now, David Boies’ role in this is interesting. And he has defended his actions in detail in the story. We quote him at length. I had many conversations with him.

    But it certainly raises questions, because his firm was representing The New York Times while this all happened.

  • Judy Woodruff: 

    Right, which is another part of this.

    But I was just going to read part of the statement that David Boies put out today.

    He said: “Had I known at the time that this contract would have been used for the services that I now understand it was used for, I would never have signed it or been associated in any way with this effort.”

    So, he’s not denying that it happened, but he’s saying he didn’t know.

  • Ronan Farrow:

    Look, he confirmed all of this in our conversations, which again are quoted on the record in the story.

    As well, you know, he also said he regretted it at the time. He is now saying in a still more forceful way that he regrets it and even that he didn’t understand fully what services he was contracting for.

    But I will say, Judy, that the contract is extremely explicit, and it is one of several that either he or his firm signed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to ask you also about the fact that there were — you name at least one journalist, a person you describe as a chef content officer at “The National Enquirer,” who seemed to be working — or helping Harvey Weinstein.

  • Ronan Farrow:

    In that case, Dylan Howard, who is the editor in chief of “The National Enquirer” and works at the company that publishes “The National Enquirer,” as you said, did exchange e-mails with Harvey Weinstein in which he appeared to be collaborating with Weinstein, generating lists of people to contact, and having several reporters working for him reach out to those women, secretly record the conversation with a woman in one case, and relay back to Weinstein information about those interviews.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ronan Farrow, are we — where are we in this Harvey Weinstein reporting? Is it your sense, after spending a lot of time, months on this, that we now have a pretty full sense of what happened?

  • Ronan Farrow:

    You know, Judy, I wish I could say that were the case.

    There is still much more to learn about the ways in which the powerful elites of this country manipulate the media and manipulate people coming forward with important allegations, the way in which the tools of the kinds described in this article can forestall the public dissemination of allegations and also potentially in some cases criminal proceedings about them.

    We are seeing that only now are law enforcement agencies really picking up the baton, where it was dropped so often before in the Weinstein case. I think this is a much bigger issue than has even been unpacked so far, and that the reporting is going to continue to go on about this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, a lot of disturbing information here.

    Ronan Farrow, writing for “The New Yorker” magazine, thank you very much.

  • Ronan Farrow:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And a postscript.

    In the wake of the Weinstein stories, there have been a number of other accusations of assault or harassment brought to light.

    At NPR, the head of news, Michael Oreskes, resigned after accusations of sexual harassment from a number of women.

    This evening, Jarl Mohn, the CEO of NPR, says that he is going on medical leave for a month. Mohn cites the fact that he suffers from hypertension at a dangerous level. In a letter to staff, he apologizes, saying that he could have handled the allegations against Oreskes — quote — “faster and more decisively.”

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