I heard about Catch and Kill (2019) by Ronan Farrow when it was first published. However, I wasn’t planning on reading it. It had all just happened so recently that I felt I already knew the story. I had my definite opinions on Harvey Weinstein. I’d listened to the audio tape with Ambra Gutierrez, and I didn’t think I’d learn much more from reading a book about it. But one day I was in my local library, and they had Catch and Kill on the “Lucky Day” shelf. I was sucked in by the availability of the brand new book, and I couldn’t help but pick it up.
I discovered that there was a lot I didn’t know about this story, especially the experience of trying to write it, and the lengths Weinstein and his lackies went to keep it under wraps. It was both enlightening and infuriating. Obviously, my opinion on Weinstein did not change. His conduct was not surprising or different from what I’d heard of him when the story first broke. I do wonder if his meanness, belligerence and manipulative tendencies came naturally or if they were learned, but otherwise he is easy to dismiss as a simple villain.
When Farrow first published the story about Weinstein in The New Yorker, I’d heard little bits of how he’d started the story for NBC and ended up publishing it elsewhere. I didn’t think too much about it, though. So, it was surprising to learn the details of just how much opposition Farrow faced while he worked on this story. It didn’t help Farrow that almost all the men in power and making decisions about “newsworthiness” had their own issues with treating women badly and/or sexual harassment.
In this book, Farrow writes a lot about different people involved in the news or Hollywood–two scenes I’m rather unfamiliar with. So, I sometimes had a hard time keeping everyone straight and why they were important. It even took me awhile to figure out that when he wrote about Jon, he was writing about his boyfriend. So, instead of trying to go into a detailed timeline, I will focus on some of the people and situations that irritated me the most.
1. The Manhattan D.A’s office. Weinstein grabbed Ambra Gutierrez’s breasts when she went to meet him to discuss work. I already knew a little about this story and had listened to the audio tape of Weinstein trying to coerce her into his hotel room. But I did not know why charges were never filed against Weinstein. I did not know that Weinstein hired a bunch of former D.A.’s and other VIP’s, including Rudy Giuliani, to influence the Manhattan D.A.’s office. He also gave the D.A.’s office money. Then he had the media, especially The National Enquirer write up a bunch of false, defamatory articles about Gutierrez. The NYPD thought they had a strong case and many were pissed that the D.A.’s office refused to pursue it. Apparently, you can buy yourself out of criminal prosecution when you have enough money and power.
2. Noah Oppenheim. There were many people who made bad decisions that ended up protecting Weinstein, allowing him to victimize even more women. Oppenheim was especially infuriating because he is only one year older than me. He doesn’t have the excuse of having grown up in a different generation. It seems like he was influenced by the combination of not believing sexual harassment against women is a crime, the importance of Weinstein, and fear of what Weinstein could release about what was going on at NBC. It’s not that Oppenheim thought there wasn’t enough for a story, but he ordered Farrow and his producer to stop talking to women about Weinstein. He also wrote some horrible things about women when he was in college, and even now, with his re-upped contract with NBC (why does this man still have a job?), is attacking Farrow and calling him a liar.
Oppenheim can whine all he wants about how Farrow’s story wasn’t as complete when he was with NBC, but Oppenheim heard Gutierrez’s tape, and Farrow had a number of women on the record. Very shortly after giving up on NBC, Farrow published the article in The New Yorker. These facts expose Oppenheim for a liar. It is insulting that Oppenheim would expect me to believe that Farrow got all the good information for the article only after he left NBC. The truth is that Oppenheim passed up on a scoop that hurt his news team, and he protected a sexual predator. F*ck him.
3. Lisa Bloom: Weinstein had many lawyers and other professionals doing unsavory things for him. Lisa Bloom stands out because she is an attorney who made a name for herself as someone who represents women against powerful men. She represented some of Cosby’s victims. But with almost $900 an hour and the promise of a book deal, Bloom was firmly on Weinstein’s side. She called Farrow, asking him about his reporting, pretending to be an advocate for victims, without telling him that she was working for Weinstein. (She only admitted that she kind of knew him). She wrote memos on how to discredit his victims and proposed finding pictures of Harvey and his victims smiling together. She did stop working for Weinstein shortly after the articles about him were published, but for me that is much too little too late. This Guardian article goes into some detail in a recent interview with Bloom.
4. Black Cube. Black Cube is the British-Israeli private intelligence firm that Weinstein hired to follow and find out information on his accusers and the reporters trying to uncover the story. This included illegally tracking people with their cell phones. Farrow noticed that people were following him, and it made him increasingly worried about his safety. But I really felt for Rose McGowan. Being one of the first and more vocal opponents of Weinstein, McGowan was very much targeted by him. Perhaps the most disturbing was that an agent from Black Cube befriended McGowan under false pretenses, then used that friendship to relay information back to Weinstein. This included what McGowan was writing in her upcoming book. At one point (before McGowan discovers the truth), McGowan told Farrow that the Black Cube agent was the only person she’s trusted in years.
Even though I knew about Weinstein’s crimes before reading this book, I did not fully understand how Weinstein used his money, influence, and power to keep his wrongdoings so thoroughly under wraps. It was amazing to learn what Farrow and these women were up against when it came to telling their story. At times, it felt like Weinstein controlled all of American media. I’m very glad I found this “Lucky Day” book, and I would definitely recommend it. I now have She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on hold at the library because I want to read their perspective as well.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.