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Dog-Eared: Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow


Are you a binge reader, like me? I tend to go on reading jags, consuming everything there is to find on a certain subject, until I’ve had a bellyful. Lately, I've gotten my fill and more of the 2017 scandal that landed Harvey Weinstein, of the Hamptons, Hollywood, and Cannes, in a cellblock on Riker's Island. I started with Hollywood Ending, by Ken Auletta, who had heard the scuttlebutt about Weinstein for years, but had never been able to prove it. His account was so fascinating, I went on to read a book that preceded it, Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill. The third book in this trilogy is She Said, by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. In 2018, Kantor and Twohey’s reporting in The New York Times and Farrow’s in The New Yorker jointly won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, an award they all richly deserved. I thought I knew this story (predatory producer, quaking starlets, lots of hush money) until I read the Auletta and Farrow books. Now I realize how little I knew about Weinstein's assaults on dozens of women in the film industry. I also know how he used his clout like a club to intimidate, terrorize, threaten and malign anyone, female or male, who dared to challenge him. Weinstein’s MO was disgustingly routine: lure a young actress or other industry hopeful to a hotel suite, then try to coerce her into giving him a massage, watching him shower, and worse. In a number of cases, he forced himself on these women, and purportedly committed at least three rapes. He didn't take rejection well, and is said to have effectively blacklisted actresses including Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, whose careers were on the ascent until they rebuffed Weinstein, In retaliation, he spread the word that they were hellish to work with. Both have essentially forfeited their careers because they rebuffed a powerful man. For those who wonder why many of these women took settlement payments, then signed nondisclosure agreements, wonder no more. Weinstein had tentacle-like power, barrels of money, and more lawyers than the Supreme Court. He was vengeful, and more than willing to dig up or make up dirt about his accusers. If they fought back on the legal front, they could go broke. Actress Rose McGowan, the face of the #MeToo movement, says she took Weinstein's payment as a sort of canceled check, to prove that he had paid her off, and also prove he had reason to. Most troubling about Catch and Kill is the seeming reluctance by NBC News, where Farrow was based, to go with this incendiary story. Later, producers said they held it because of incomplete reporting. Then Farrow took it to The New Yorker, which published it in short order and won that Pulitzer. For anyone who doesn't know, "catch and kill" refers to the practice by some "news" operations, like the National Enquirer, to get the exclusive story from a source, pay for it, and then bury it on behalf of Weinstein (or other big powerful ugly guys in power, insert names here). Catch and Kill reads like a John Grisham thriller. If you haven't read it, it's eye-opening, shocking, and yet affirming, because there are still reporters out there who hunt down the truth, despite the risk and resistance.



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