We probably shouldn’t hold our collective breath, but the exchange was indicative of how great an impact Farrow’s stories about Weinstein in particular and sexual assault in Hollywood in general have had: If the question was asked in jest, the response was unimpeachably earnest.
Farrow, who has become a media star himself since the groundbreaking stories first broke in The New York Times and The New Yorker, said that taking on Weinstein has been “a great inconvenience to my career” – even if, he added, “it has been good for my soul.”
The sit-down between Farrow and the CBS This Morning co-host took place during the annual American Magazine Media Conference, when leaders from both the content and sales sides of magazine publishing gather to assess the state of the industry. Several speakers addressed the place of in-depth journalism against a digital environment that has rendered hopelessly obsolete the very idea of a news cycle. The stories that began with the Times and New Yorker articles (and continue to unfold as the subjects of sexual assault and harassment have extended beyond Hollywood) were, for many in attendance, comforting evidence that long-form journalism remains crucial.
“I understood that it is possible in this society for the most powerful and wealthy people to manipulate and bury the truth.”
Farrow was a young lawyer working for the State Department under the late Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke before turning to journalism. When King introduced the subject of Farrow’s sister Dylan and the charge that she had been molested at age 7 by their mother’s boyfriend Woody Allen, the reporter reiterated his belief that the abuse had taken place, and his belief that Allen’s forceful denials, which continue to this day, lack credibility.
“While there wasn’t a direct link,” he said, referring to his sister’s assertions and the Weinstein story, “I understood that it is possible in this society for the most powerful and wealthy people to manipulate and bury the truth.”
King pressed him on the subject of taking to The New Yorker the story he’d worked on initially for NBC News but which declined to broadcast it. Declining to address the issue specifically, he said any news organization with credible, on-the-record assertions of unlawful behavior ought to report them.
“I did not have an agenda going into the story at all,” Farrow said. “I had a lovely view of Harvey Weinstein, who I’d met actually, probably at events we were both at – a Charlie Rose weekend, I think was when I first met Harvey Weinstein,” he recalled, adding to laughter from the audience, “there’s a line for you.
“I had cocktail party interactions with the man,” he continued. “I was very peripherally aware that he had a reputation for being something of a bully….I think we’re seeing a sea change in our cultural definition” of what King referred to as “consensual transactions.”
Farrow said that New Yorker editor David Remnick remained steadfast in sticking to the magazine’s pre-publication process even after it became clear that the Times was about to break a related, if slightly different, take on the Weinstein scandal.
“We knew it was coming. Our piece was already in fact-checking,” he said. Remnick pointed out that readers don’t necessarily recall who broke a story, but ones that had the most impact. For example, while people may not remember who published the first allegations about Bill Cosby, people in the New Yorker offices said it was a New York magazine cover, which featured the faces of every woman who had come forward with accusations, that left a lasting impression. “It was a gamble,” Farrow said, but Remnick refused to rush the process, which included giving Weinstein time to respond.
Broaching the subject of Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen, Ronan insisted that he had “no anger or feeling of passion” about Allen. Mia Farrow had been “extra cautious,” he said, because of “misogynist accusations that she was a woman scorned” and so he’d “never heard Woody Allen bad-mouthed” at home.
“When [Dylan] became passionate about speaking out about it, it was a drag,” Farrow said. “I had my own stuff going on and knew it would overshadow that.”
King asked whether he was still looking to interview Weinstein.
“Absolutely,” he responded. “And I would do a very fair and judicious job with that interview. I don’t know if he would be interested, but if he wanted to do an interview with anyone, all I can say is I would hear him out and be extraordinarily fair about it. And I think that even he would probably be hard-pressed to claim that there was any lack of fairness in the process.”