In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood's most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family. All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance they could not explain -- until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington and beyond. This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse. And it's the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.
Farrow was working as an investigative journalist for NBC News after his afternoon MSBNC show was cancelled. In Catch and Kill, he details how he and his NBC News producer Rich McHugh spent months tracking down women who said that they had been sexually assaulted by mega- Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
They tracked down women, like actress Rose McGowan, who had written cryptic tweets about being sexually assaulted by a studio head, and got them to tell their stories on tape. Farrow went to Noah Oppenheim, the executive in charge of the Today show, and Oppenheim encouraged him to keep digging.
But soon that stopped. When Weinstein heard what Farrow was doing, he exerted his considerable influence with the top people at NBCUniversal to put a stop to Farrow's investigation. Farrow also discovered that he was being followed by two shady guys hired by Weinstein to see what he was up to.
Farrow and McHugh eventually were told to stop their investigation, even though they had more than enough evidence to bring the women's allegations to air. Oppenheim, who had been supportive of Farrow, told him they didn't have enough evidence, but he was free to take his story to a print publication.
Which is what Farrow did. David Remnick at The New Yorker magazine welcomed Farrow, and he and his team worked with Farrow to vet all of the evidence, and published a damning piece in the magazine that went on to eventually win Farrow the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.
Farrow also recounts working on stories about Matt Lauer's sexual abuse allegations that got Lauer fired from Today, as well as the publisher of The National Enquirer 's cozy relationship with Donald Trump. The title of the book, Catch and Kill comes from the Enquirer's policy of paying sources for information about Trump's extramarital affairs, then hiding the evidence in a safe, thereby "killing" the story before the 2016 presidential election.
Reading Catch and Kill, you are astonished at how the circle of wealthy, powerful men who commit these heinous acts intersect, and the people (mostly, but not all, men) who rally around them (including supposedly reputable law firms) to protect them. It will anger you, and rightfully so.
And you will feel anguish for the women who suffered greatly, first after bring assaulted by these men, and then being victimized again after coming out in public with their experiences. The #MeToo movement that enveloped the world came about from the far too many brave who women spoke out on social media about their experiences.
Catch and Kill is well-written, and fast-paced, feeling almost like one of your favorite fictional thrillers. Unfortunately, it isn't fiction, but reality. I highly recommend it.
Farrow also has a podcast that delves deeper into his book.
It's very well written. [[Farrow]] is a skilled journalist who just happens to be brilliant to boot. It's a worthy read, but be prepared to be horrified and then preoccupied with the contents for quite a while afterwards.
That's just one example of the real opposition underneath the superficial support.
What follows is a difficult, confusing, sometimes dangerous search for the truth, for evidence, and women willing to speak on the record. Farrow's own family is used against him, in an attempt to paint him as "biased" because his sister was sexually abused by their father, Woody Allen. There was no connection to Weinstein, and amounted to saying that anyone who had ever known someone who was sexually harassed was "too biased" to cover a sexual harassment story. He started to see hints he was being followed, but it was quite a while before he knew he was being tracked by Black Cube, an Israeli private security company. He found himself being pushed out of NBC, which had been his dream job.
The very people he had thought would support his explosive investigative journalism turned out to be worried about their own reputations, with good reason.
It's a fascinating, excellent book, that will make you very angry.
I bought this audiobook.
Anyone who enjoys quality journalism, excellent writing, and people in power starting to be held accountable.
In a nutshell:
Journalist Farrow starts investigating Harvey Weinstein and uncovers not just confirmation of his predation, but the people in power who repeatedly covered up his crimes — and the crimes of others.
“Later, employee after employee would tell me the human resources office at the company was a sham, a place where complaints went to die.”
Why I chose it:
Given all that has transpired in the past few years, I wanted to read about how one thread came together.
This book is over 400 pages long and I read it in a day and a half. Granted, I am on lock down, but still. It is an engaging read, even (perhaps especially) knowing that Weinstein was recently convicted of some of his crimes.
At the start, Farrow is working on multiple stories for NBC News, He is an employee, on a contract to investigate and produce serious stories. He spends many months investigating this one, but as he gets closer to wrapping it up and getting it ready for air, his bosses - and those higher up at NBC, get nervous. Very nervous. And not in an understandable way (for example, I completely understand, more so now than ever, why a woman would not want to tell her story publicly), but in an ‘is this really a big deal? Is it worth getting on the wrong side of a buddy?’ sort of way. It’s disgusting.
Farrow is eventually allowed to take his reporting to the New Yorker, publishing a bit after the New York Times publishes similar work with different sources. But the story then becomes not just about the crimes Weinstein committed, but about how he was able to get away with it for so long. NBC News provides a first-hand example of those in power buckling to protect their friends, and the cost of further allowing people to be victimized by predators.
Much of the focus is on Weinstein, including the private investigators he employed to intimidate and threaten sources, victims, and witnesses. But Farrow also discusses other known predators who have been protected — and even promoted — from justice. Matt Lauer and Donald Trump, to name two. He explores how the men in power just don’t care enough about what is right and wrong to do anything about it, and he also discusses some of the women who are complicit (*cough* Lisa Bloom *cough*).
I expected to be throwing the book across the room, because I knew that the reporting would make me angry. But I never got there. And I think that’s a credit to Farrow’s writing. I feel angry and frustration for these women, and rage at the systems that allow repeated predation. But instead of feeling helpless, the book made me feel hopeful that more women will feel that they can speak out, and more men might believe them and actually do something about it. Not in a naive way - I know most people in power are not great humans, and are mostly just concerned with keeping their power. But there are journalists, and editors, and prosecutors who do care, and are doing something.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Pass to a friend (my partner wants to read it next)
Yet I was compelled to read this account, both out of gratitude for Rowan's tenacity in reporting this story, and to honor the women who found the courage to come forward with their truth. Since I generally only listen to audiobooks while I am driving in my car, and since there is nowhere to go during this Pandemic, I took my nearly two months to finish it.
In terms of a book, I found the narrative a bit hard to follow at times....maybe because I'm not a Hollywood fan? I didn't even know that Mr. Farrow is Mia Farrow's son! So, sometimes, I forgot who some of the backroom players were and how they fit in. But I enjoyed both the main story, and the story about how Mr. Farrow struggled to get it out.