Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill reads like a spy novel. The full title is Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. And Farrow lays out quite a conspiracy. He takes the reader inside the world of investigative reporting – in his case for NBC News. Not only does NBC prove to ultimately be hostile towards allowing Farrow to tell the full story of his investigation into allegation of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein, but it is also a hotbed of abuse culture, including its main asset at the time, Matt Lauer.
“Catch and Kill” is a term used to describe a media outlet purchasing a controversial story and then burying it. It is standard practice with tabloids, as Farrow recounts how it had been used frequently by the National Enquirer over the years to protect well-known, powerful figures like Weinstein, Donald Trump, and others from salacious stories about them.
The bulk of Catch and Kill is about Farrow’s unrelenting quest to give voice to the victims of Hollywood mogul and alleged serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. This is the real core of the book and it is fascinating. Farrow writes very engagingly, and the reader feels his urgency as he not only faces opposition from the higher-ups at NBC to tell the stories of Rose MacGowan and other women who have come forward to relate their experiences with Weinstein, but how he was also under surveillance from Weinstein’s minions, including an Israeli intelligence service dubbed Black Cube. Creepy stuff. Interestingly, it is print journalism that comes to the rescue, as Farrow, fed up and shut out from NBC, takes his findings to the New Yorker, where his story is ultimately published, helping to give a bigger voice to the #MeToo movement.
The weakest part of the book is actually the Matt Lauer section. Although it must have seemed like a good idea to include it, with Lauer’s link to NBC and the underlining of seemingly sanctioned toxic behavior by powerful men in the entertainment industry, I think it would have worked better as a New Yorker article or another book. The Weinstein story is huge and the Lauer chapter seems like a digression from the main plot. But that quibble aside, I can still highly recommend Catch and Kill.
Farrow is clearly dedicated to championing the vulnerable and bringing their stories to light. It is shocking and discouraging to read how deep the conspiracy was to silence all of Weinstein’s accusers, particularly Rose MacGowan. Hopefully Farrow’s book can help to not only corroborate her story but ultimately bring her some sense of peace and justice. Farrow (sometimes working with Jane Mayer) has reported on predatory behavior by Les Moonves at CBS, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He also exposed the link between the MIT Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein. And this top researcher never stops researching. Farrow has a Catch and Kill podcast with expanded reporting on the topics covered in the book. I can’t wait to read about where he sets his sights next.