Noah Oppenheim is coming to bat for NBC News in the wake of the rape allegations made against Matt Lauer.
The division’s president sent a memo to staffers at NBC News and MSNBC on Monday morning, addressing the claims in Ronan Farrow‘s book Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators and saying that the company has “no secrets and nothing to hide” concerning the rape and sexual misconduct allegations against the former Today show co-host, 61.
“Matt Lauer’s actions were abhorrent, and the anger and sadness he caused continue to this day. As we’ve said since the moment he was fired, his abuses should never have happened,” says Oppenheim in the memo, obtained by PEOPLE. “Ronan Farrow’s book takes that undeniable fact and twists it into a lie — alleging we were a ‘company with a lot of secrets.’ “
During an appearance on Good Morning America last Friday to promote his book, Farrow, 31, stood by his reporting about NBC News, alleging that there “was a chain of secret settlements” at the division that were “covered up” by the company long before Lauer’s sexual misconduct allegations made headlines.
“Now that we’ve read Farrow’s book, it’s clear — his smear rests on the allegation that NBC’s management knew about and took steps to hide Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November of 2017,” Oppenheim writes in his Monday memo.
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“Without that, he has no basis on which to rest his second conspiracy theory — that his Harvey Weinstein reporting was squashed to protect Lauer,” Oppenheim continues, referencing Farrow’s claim in his book that NBC News killed his bombshell 2017 article about Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct after the disgraced producer spooked the network with a report of Lauer’s own sexual misconduct allegations.
“Farrow alleges there were employees who reported Lauer’s behavior prior to November of 2017 and were paid settlements to silence them,” he adds. “Not only is this false, the so-called evidence Farrow uses in his book to support the charge collapses under the slightest scrutiny.”
Oppenheim goes on to highlight three separate accounts Farrow discusses in his book, explaining NBC News’ side of the story in regard to three people who were affected by Lauer’s alleged behavior in 2010, 2012, and 2017 and stating, “I feel absolutely terrible that these three employees were subjected to Matt Lauer’s horrific behavior, but the facts do not support Farrow’s allegation of a ‘cover-up,’ and he offers no further evidence.”
“In fact, [Kim] Harris and the Legal team have determined that nothing in the book undermines any of the conclusions of the May 2018 investigation conducted by NBCUniversal in the wake of Lauer’s firing,” Oppenheim says. “There is no evidence of any reports of Lauer’s misconduct before his firing, no settlements, no ‘hush money’ — no way we have found that NBC’s current leadership could have been aware of his misdeeds in the past.”
In an internal memo to NBC staff obtained by PEOPLE last Wednesday, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack shot down Farrow’s allegations after the journalist and author claimed that Weinstein, 67, used rumors about Lauer to pressure the network into killing Farrow’s story, calling the claims in his new book “fundamentally untrue.”
“As you know, our news organization is filled with dedicated, professional journalists, including some of the best and most experienced investigative reporters, as well as others who support our reporting with exceptional talent, integrity and decency,” wrote Lack, 72. “It disappoints me to say that even with [the] passage of time, Farrow’s account has become neither more accurate, nor more respectful of the dedicated colleagues he worked with here at NBC News. He uses a variety of tactics to paint a fundamentally untrue picture.”
In his memo, Lack also condemned Lauer’s alleged behavior, telling staffers the former news anchor was promptly fired after NBC first became aware of an allegation by former NBC employee Brooke Nevils that Lauer allegedly anally raped her in his hotel room during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“The first moment we learned of it was the night of November 27, 2017, and he was fired in 24 hours,” Lack wrote. “Any suggestion that we knew prior to that evening or tried to cover up any aspect of Lauer’s conduct is absolutely false and offensive.”
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Oppenheim writes in his Monday memo that while “we can all agree those misdeeds should have come to light sooner and that we should have had a culture in which anyone who knew about his abuse would have felt comfortable telling management,” he believes that “we cannot undo mistakes that may have been made by people who have long since left the company.”
“We can make sure the culture today ensures this can never happen again. And that is what we have tried to do, each and every day since the moment Matt’s offenses first came to light,” he adds. “Our senior leadership is now 63 percent women, a 20 percent improvement in the last two years. Almost every significant senior editorial role is now held by a woman. We have instituted in-person training for all employees (2,135 of you participated), developed a new training course for managers focused on trust (562 of you have completed it), significantly raised awareness of the multiple ways to lodge complaints, built a new team within NBCUniversal (outside of NBC News) to take and investigate concerns, and worked hard to create an environment that is safe and respectful in every way.”
“Farrow takes the first false allegation — that we knew about Lauer’s offenses — and uses it to sustain another: that we obstructed his reporting on Harvey Weinstein,” Oppenheim continues. “Attached is the detailed accounting of that reporting, which we released in September 2018. Once, again, we stand by every word of it.”
“In the meantime, Farrow’s effort to defame NBC News is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind. It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies,” Oppenheim says, going on to allege many “CLAIM” versus “FACT” examples in Farrow’s book concerning the Weinstein case.
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