On Sunday night, The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman expanded on something she noted in passing during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that, as a New York Times reporter in 2004, she had uncovered allegations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein but was thwarted by The Times itself.
Despite “traveling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week,” Weinstein’s advertising presence gutted Waxman’s work, along with phone calls from Russell Crowe and Matt Damon.
Waxman began by recapping the events prior to Weinstein’s ouster from his own company and thanking current Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for taking what was likely “a long and difficult road” to publishing a story on Weinstein's disgusting behavior.
The praise stopped there. Waxman moved to go after The Times and media writer Jim Rutenberg:
But I simply gagged when I read Jim Rutenberg’s sanctimonious piece on Saturday about the “media enablers” who kept this story from the public for decades.
“Until now,” he puffed, “no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.”
That’s right, Jim. No one — including The New York Times.
In 2004, I was still a fairly new reporter at The New York Times when I got the green light to look into oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. It was believed that many occurred in Europe during festivals and other business trips there.
Waxman explained that she “traveled to Rome and tracked down the man who held the plum position of running Miramax Italy” and had learned that then-Miramax Italy head Fabrizio Lombardo “had no film experience and his real job was to take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.”
“I also tracked down a woman in London who had been paid off after an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She was terrified to speak because of her non-disclosure agreement, but at least we had evidence of a pay-off,” Waxman added.
Of course, Waxman’s hard work was tossed aside “[a]fter intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.”
She was told that Weinstein himself had visited the paper “to make his displeasure known” and his influence as “a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall” even though “I had the facts.”
She then provided more details of this cover-up:
The story was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive. Who cared?
The Times’ then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.
“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me. I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Disney told me they had no idea Lombardo existed.
A spokeswoman for the Times had no comment on Sunday.
I was devastated after traveling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week, more than a decade later. I had met in person with a woman who said she’d been paid off for an unwanted sexual encounter and thus proved she existed.
Waxman added an update after publication of her article to explain why she didn’t continue to pursue the Weinstein story. She stated that was a “[f]air question” and no other leads had popped up in her reporting.
She concluded with this mic drop:
Today I wonder: If this story had come to light at the time, would Weinstein have continued his behavior for another decade, evidenced by the scathing 2015 memo by former staffer Lauren O’Connor unearthed by Kantor and Twohey.
Writes Rutenberg: “Mr. Weinstein had his own enablers. He built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings that, before the internet era, could have reached the moon.”
The New York Times was one of those enablers. So pardon me for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.