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Ronan Farrow Lauds #MeToo After Verdict: 'There Are Harvey Weinsteins Everywhere'

Feb 28, 2020
Originally published on February 28, 2020 7:45 pm

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is sitting in a prison hospital awaiting his sentencing for rape and sexual assault.

Many thought this day would never come.

"There certainly was a sense of bracing for a much more expected outcome that was much more in line with Weinstein's attempts to evade accountability," Ronan Farrow tells All Things Considered.

Farrow had doubts that the powerful Hollywood producer would be held to account.

For decades, and without consequence, Weinstein was accused to have sexually assaulted women, to have ended their careers if they refused to submit to his advances, and to have used his power and his money to keep the stories about his behavior hidden. Farrow has written about Weinstein orchestrating sophisticated means of silencing his accusers and of trying to kill his own reporting.

In 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published accounts within days of one another, chronicling decades of Weinstein's alleged predatory behavior. Those accounts were followed by others that described similar experiences of alleged sexual assault — and which ultimately set off an investigation that led to his 2018 arrest and kicked off the #MeToo movement.

On Monday there were consequences. A New York jury found Weinstein guilty of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He was acquitted of the most serious charges against him, including predatory sexual assault.

"I was so much more concerned with hearing what the sources were going through, I don't even have a satisfying or dramatic story of my processing that verdict," Farrow tells NPR.

Actress Rosanna Arquette, one of Farrow's sources and among the first women to come forward against Weinstein, called the convictions "a reckoning and an awakening." In an interview with NPR on Monday after the guilty verdict was handed down, Arquette also thanked Farrow for his dogged reporting. "I really am happy that I trusted him," she said.

Farrow credited his sources for sparking #MeToo: "We're having this conversation as a culture today because like her were really, really brave.


Interview Highlights

On whether the fact that Weinstein was found not guilty on some of the charges against him diminishes the victory for his accusers

It seems to not be in the minds of the accusers that I've been talking to. I think there is some consternation: How could this jury come back with a finding that doesn't include a predatory charge, one that speaks to the pattern? On the other hand, the overwhelming reality for a lot of these sources is someone they say is their assailant and who seemed impervious is now facing a lot of time in jail — up to 29 years. [Note: Weinstein will be sentenced on March 11.] So that seems to be overriding any kind of philosophical questions about which charges.

On whether Hollywood has changed after #MeToo

I think the result is mixed. I think there is no doubt that there is a very different conversation happening in Hollywood right now, that there is a tentativeness to these issues. But the question is: How can you translate that talk into action. And I can tell you that a lot of my sources who were this brave are in that industry and are still very much out of work and still very much feeling yes, statements of solidarity but not a lot of action.

On other industries that haven't seen the same kind of reckoning that has happened in Hollywood

I think it's overdue in industry after industry and thankfully we're seeing women and now men come forward with these kinds of stories with difficult allegations against powerful figures. ... But there's a long way to go and I think it's important to remember the Harvey Weinstein story was crucial not just because of the specifics of this case but because there are Harvey Weinsteins everywhere, because these kinds of abuses of power are endemic, including in a lot of settings where you don't have marquee names to carry it into the headlines.

On wishing he'd been able to publish the accusations against Weinstein sooner

I was in a unique situation where I had tape of Harvey Weinstein admitting to an assault and multiple accusers on the record a long, long time before the story ultimately ran in The New Yorker and I won't get into the whole long journey, but I was at another news organization that shut down that story, which is something that happened a lot over the years and I do still grapple with some feelings of guilt that I was not able to get that information out sooner.

NPR's Fatma Tanis and Courtney Dorning produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sits hospitalized and a convicted sex felon today. He's awaiting sentencing for rape and sexual assault. That statement in and of itself is pretty stunning. For years and without consequence, Weinstein was alleged to have sexually assaulted women, to have ended their careers if they refused to submit to his advances and to have used his power and his money to keep the stories about his behavior hidden. On Monday, finally, there were consequences. A New York jury found him guilty on two of five charges related to the accounts of two women. That conviction likely would not have happened without the work of journalists from The New York Times and The New Yorker. Within days of one another, they each published accounts chronicling decades of Weinstein's predatory behavior, accounts that were followed by others and that ultimately led to his arrest and kicked off the #MeToo movement.

The New Yorker writer who first reported on Weinstein is Ronan Farrow, and he joins me now from our New York bureau to talk about the significance of this moment.

Hey there, Ronan.

RONAN FARROW: Hi, Mary Louise; good to be here.

KELLY: First thing that went through your head when you heard that verdict this week?

FARROW: You know, I was so much more concerned with hearing what the sources were going through. I don't even have a satisfying or dramatic story of my processing that verdict. I think that a commonality between my thinking and that of my sources was that there certainly was a sense of bracing for a much more expected outcome that was much more in line with Weinstein's successful attempts to evade accountability over many years, including...

KELLY: You mean this is a powerful guy still with powerful lawyers, and there was the fear that - among your sources that he would not be held accountable.

FARROW: That's right, and up to and including doubts about this district attorney's office. You know, Cyrus Vance Jr. dropped an effort to charge Harvey Weinstein in 2015 where they had an audiotape of him admitting to an assault from a police sting operation that I was ultimately able to uncover. So some of the players behind this didn't inspire optimism. That said, I should say that the working-level prosecutors - including Jonah Lucy, who led this case - you know, did incredibly hard work and were clearly motivated by a sincere desire for justice. But at a leadership level, there are a lot of reasons to still doubt that cases will play out this way.

KELLY: He was convicted on two counts, not the other three, including the most serious. Does that diminish the victory in any way for the women who've accused him?

FARROW: It seems to not be in the minds of the accusers that I've been talking to. I think there is some consternation. How could this jury come back with a finding that doesn't include a predatory charge, one that speaks to the pattern? On the other hand, the overwhelming reality for a lot of these sources is someone they says was their assailant and who seemed impervious is now facing a lot of time in jail - up to 29 years. So that seems to be overriding any kind of philosophical questions about which charges.

KELLY: I spoke to Rosanna Arquette on the day of the verdict this week, the actress Rosanna Arquette - one of the first women who talked to you for your story and one of...

FARROW: Yes.

KELLY: ...The first women to go on record against Harvey Weinstein. I want to play you one moment from my conversation with her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ROSANNA ARQUETTE: I want to say that I - all the women that came forward are so brave. And we're the silence-breakers, and we did do this. I want to thank Ronan Farrow most importantly - the New York Times, but most importantly, Ronan Farrow for his incredible investigative reporting and never, ever giving up. I - you know, I really am happy that I trusted him, and I thank him so much.

KELLY: Ronan Farrow is a reporter who fought really hard to get the story published. What does it mean to hear that?

FARROW: It's incredibly emotional. You know, it was a story that required putting a lot on the line, more so for the sources than for me. But it did require making some decisions about what mattered in my life. And it was always clear that the evidence was on the side of these sources. There was never a journalistic question, but there were a lot of people who said, this isn't worth it. This isn't anything anyone will ever care about. And more than any kind of reaction from fellow journalists or from the film industry that Harvey Weinstein was so ensconced in, I think the reaction that has meant the most to me is the kind of reaction you just heard from Rosanna Arquette, who I can tell you was justifiably terrified going into this reporting. And we're having this conversation as a culture today because people like her were really, really brave.

KELLY: To the point that you said she was justifiably terrified, what do you mean? I mean, people have raised throughout this #MeToo moment the prospect of a backlash, that women would ultimately pay some price for speaking up. Have you seen that in your reporting?

FARROW: Well, I mean, it's less attenuated than that in this case. One of the stories I broke, as you know, is that Harvey Weinstein hired a lot of private investigators, including from a firm called Black Cube, which is staffed by mostly former members of the Mossad and...

KELLY: The Israeli intelligence.

FARROW: That's right - and were using some pretty invasive tactics, including following me around, using false identities to insinuate themselves into the lives of sources. And while many of the women in these stories weren't aware of the specifics of that operation, they had a strong suspicion that going up against this not only meant confronting again the specter of blacklisting and backlash. It also meant maybe opening up their lives to some very intrusive, over-the-line tactics.

KELLY: I want to put to you a question I put to Rosanna Arquette, which is, has Hollywood really changed? Has the whole movie industry really changed? Are we past the casting couch?

FARROW: You know, that's also a question I put to Rose McGowan, who is one of the many sources I worked with who is adamant that her career was scuppered in the wake of Harvey Weinstein assaulting her. And, you know, I think the result is mixed. I think there is no doubt that there is a very different conversation happening in Hollywood right now, that there is attentiveness to these issues. But the question is, how can you translate that talk into action? And I can tell you that a lot of my sources who were this brave are in that industry and still very much out of work and still very much feeling, yes, statements of solidarity but not a lot of action.

KELLY: Now, what about outside Hollywood? I mean, we have seen a reckoning in Hollywood. We've seen a reckoning in our industry, the media industry. Wall Street - not so much. There are plenty of sectors where we haven't seen it.

FARROW: I think it's overdue in industry after industry, and thankfully, we're seeing women and now men come forward with these kinds of stories with difficult allegations against powerful figures in a lot of different industries. But there's a long way to go, and I think it's important to remember that the Harvey Weinstein story was crucial not just because of the specifics of this case but because there are Harvey Weinsteins everywhere because these kinds of abuses of power are endemic, including in a lot of settings where you don't have marquee names to carry it into the headlines.

KELLY: That is Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker, and this week, he is out with a bonus episode of the "Catch And Kill" podcast, which just wrapped up a 10-episode run detailing Farrow's reporting over the last few years.

Ronan Farrow, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

FARROW: Thank you, Mary Louise.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAURA VEIRS SONG, "SONG MY FRIENDS TAUGHT ME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.