With “Hollywood Ending” Ken Auletta crowns his decades-long pursuit of Harvey Weinstein
The Dirty History of Harvey WeinsteinThe steamrolling rise to power and the spectacular criminal downfall of are now well documented. There was the original bomb investigation – by Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey in The New York Times and Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker— which exposed the disgraced mogul’s extensive repertoire of sexual heist, arguably one of the worst-kept secrets in New York and Hollywood, but one Weinstein was able to suppress for decades. There were the following Most sold Books by these journalists, the stories behind their Pulitzer-winning plays, giving readers an intimate look at high-stakes reporting. Then there was the tidal wave of other media coverage that emerged from that coverage, not to mention the tabloid-made drama of Weinstein’s 2020 trial, which culminated in a 23-year sentence on rape and sexual assault charges.
And yet there’s more to reveal about the epic scandal that stunned the media world and sparked the #MeToo movement almost five years ago. This time the revelations can be found on the pages of Hollywood end, a new biography of the longtime Weinstein chronicler and New Yorker writer ken auletta, who told me his goal was to “explore what made Weinstein the monster he has become.”
One such revelation involves a subplot that was quite scandalous in its own right: Ronan Farrow vs. NBC News. There is not enough space here to fully recap the chaotic saga, which itself was endlessly dissected. However, stripped down to the bare minimum, it was about a dispute over why NBC killed Farrow’s Weinstein exposé before eventually taking it The New Yorker. Farrow’s camp advocated that NBC bow to pressure from Weinstein; NBC claimed that Farrow’s coverage was not banned to an extent consistent with its editorial standards. Who to believe?
“The press too often treated these conflicting reports as a story he said she said,” Auletta writes, reporting what appears to be a new wave in the timeline: “Harvey Weinstein and his team were assured by NBC that the story of Ronan Farrow was marginalized, and Harvey knew this “at least a week before Farrow was told on August 8.” The book contains various recollections of an interaction between the former Weinstein representative Lanny Davis and NBC News boss Noah Oppenheim in the lobby of 30 Rock on August 2, 2017, two months before Times and The New Yorker brought Weinstein’s career to an abrupt end. Davis describes the meeting as a congenial exchange, during which Oppenheim categorically assured him that Farrow was not working on a story about Weinstein for NBC. Oppenheim alternatively alleges that Davis ambushed him with an offer of dirt on the accuser Rose McGowan, and that he was effectively telling Davis to go on a hike. Davis, raising the stakes, “denies” Oppenheim’s version of Auletta, who suggests, “Maybe both men aren’t telling the full truth.” (An NBC News spokesman denied that Weinstein was briefed before Farrow.)
Auletta also got a statement from Farrow’s New Yorker then editor, Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, Acknowledging the amount of coverage Farrow brought from NBC: “He brought three women who claimed Weinstein had abused them and were named, five women who said they had been abused and were not named, and the tape to the police,” of which Weinstein gave an audible confession, a distressed — and wiretapped — model named Ambergris Battilana Gutierrez that he had grabbed her breasts. (Now is a good time to mention that Condé Nast owns both vanity fair and the new yorker, where my wife works.) “Two conclusions seem unimpeachable,” writes Auletta. “First, NBC destroyed a story even though Ronan Farrow had solid evidence that Harvey Weinstein assaulted women. Second, NBC confided in Harvey Weinstein before telling Ronan Farrow that his story was dead.”
Auletta has a long history with Weinstein, dating back to a famous profile he wrote for The New Yorker in 2002, “Beauty and the Beast‘ which detailed Weinstein’s bullying tactics and combative nature (including a near-fight with the former vanity fair editor Graydon Carter). The 20,000-word play came This came close to exposing Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, but Weinstein and his attorneys took a nuclear approach before publication, and none of the women Auletta identified as victims were willing to go on record. In an eleven-hour decision that Auletta publicly describes Hollywood end for the first time, New Yorker editor David Remnik concluded they had no choice but to resign, and Auletta agreed: “On Thursday morning, the day of the deadline, we had a lengthy consultation. Remnick justified his decision by referring to a 1992 exposé from the newspaper where he once worked: When The Washington Post reports on its front page that Senator Bob Packwood sexually abused women, it quoted ten women by name and described what he had done to them. We don’t have anyone on record. We cannot publish anonymous allegations.”
And so Weinstein drove by for another 15 years, until finally the dam broke. Auletta was actually the one who put Farrow in touch with Remnick after the NBC film fell apart in the summer of 2017. He supported Farrow in his reporting and also acclaimed Kantor and Twohey as theirs Times investigation initiated. But it wasn’t until the following summer that he decided to pursue his own unfinished Weinstein business. Aside from the burning question of how his subject became a predator, Auletta was interested in the former Miramax honcho’s uncanny ability to wield power and insert himself into a forcefield of complicity. As Auletta put it during our conversation last week, “How did this guy get away with abusing women for four decades without the support of a culture that stemmed not only from people who worked with him but also in Hollywood ?
He pointed out an anecdote to me Hollywood end from 1998, in which Weinstein hired a woman named Hillary Silver for a position at Miramax immediately after completing an interview with Human Resources. Silver was excited when she was taken to SoHo’s Red Stripe Lounge for a drink by several future Miramax colleagues the night before her start date. That’s when Silver’s elation collapsed. “They don’t want this job,” a Miramax HR manager told her. “You’re going to scratch his back. You give him massages. You seem like a very nice person. It’s not something you want.” Silver took the advice. “Three cute people warned me,” she recalled of Auletta. “What about the other people who worked for him?”
Auletta was also intrigued by the dynamic between the Weinstein brothers, whose relationship ended in the wake of the scandal Bob Weinstein eventually he turned on his older sibling. Auletta began cultivating Bob in 2019, beginning with an intimate meet-and-greet at Cipriani’s at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in Midtown. From then on, Bob opened more than 20 interviews, most of them by phone, but several over long lunches at a table in the back corner of Caravaggio on East 74th Street. “The things Bob said about his parents, his mother and Harvey and their relationships when they were young permeate my book,” Auletta told me. “There were times when I would confront Bob with questions that would make him explode … We didn’t speak to each other for a while. He basically hung up and we had an email exchange and I said, ‘I’m a reporter, not a PR rep.’ To his credit, he accepted that. We had a few moments like this, but overall I thought he was trying to be honest with me. I pestered him with uncomfortable questions about what he knew. Did he know Harvey abused women? He claims he didn’t do it. I was as aggressive as I could be.”
Auletta nearly landed a series of taped phone interviews with Harvey from prison, but Harvey and his team pulled the plug. However, his representatives agreed to dictate Harvey’s responses to questions Auletta emailed. Along the way, Harvey displayed his characteristic hostility, once erroneously insisting through a lawyer that the title of Auletta’s book contained the word monster— the book was untitled — and asked Penguin Random House to “provide the names and contact information for each person to be included in the book.” (Of course, no dice.)
“One of the challenges I faced while working on this book was, can I fairly write about a man who was such a monster?” said Auletta. “I mean, a terrible human being in many ways, and yet also a very talented human being who has brought some amazing films to the screen and marketed them brilliantly. Could I get over my dislike of his monstrosity and write about the other side of this man? This is a biography.”
I asked Auletta, 80, if he had any sympathy for Harvey, who is now 70 and languishing in prison with severe diabetes, glaucoma, heart problems, a spinal condition and other health conditions that will most likely see him dying behind bars. “I mean, I think about this man, a man who flew private planes, who ate at the best restaurants, who had a car with a screen that shut down and showed movies, and suddenly he’s in a wheelchair in prison with a stent at heart, blind in one eye – am I thinking how it must be for him? Yes. Am I thinking about how awful he must feel? How did I get into this mess? Yes, I’m thinking about it. He’s human, I’m human. If you don’t think about it, you’re not human. Besides that, I think he should be released from prison? pardon given? No.”
Even now, Harvey’s legal woes aren’t over. He faces another sex crimes trial in LA, scheduled to start in October, and indecent assault charges against him were recently approved in the UK (He has pleaded not guilty to the LA charges and has long maintained that all sexual encounters were consensual). There will be much more to write – just not for Auletta. “I’m done,” he said. “I’m sick of Harvey and he’s sick of me.”
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