Ronan Farrow On 'Harvey Weinstein's Army Of Spies'
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
With the latest revelations in the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in an article published last night in The New Yorker, journalist Ronan Farrow details how the disgraced Hollywood mogul hired former Israeli Mossad agents to spy on actresses and journalists. The ultimate aim of this was to kill stories by Farrow, also The New York Times and other news outlets, stories that detailed allegations of rape and sexual harassment carried out by Weinstein over a period of decades. Joining us now to talk about his story is Ronan Farrow. Good morning.
RONAN FARROW: Good morning. A pleasure to be here, Mary Louise.
KELLY: We are glad to have you with us. Thanks for getting up early. Start with these former Israeli spies. They were working, you write, for a firm called Black Cube. How did they go about trying to kill the Weinstein story?
FARROW: You know, it's worth pointing out that Black Cube was one of a variety of firms of this type employed by Weinstein over the years but especially in the past year as women started to come forward with these allegations. And, you know, what's extraordinary is just the size of this campaign, Mary Louise, multiple firms, you know, international, high-level corporate intelligence firms using very aggressive tactics. In Black Cube's case, that included human intelligence tactics - targeting women, targeting journalists, showing up in their lives using fake identities, using fake companies as a front. This was detailed. This was aggressive. And according to the women I spoke to, this was terrifying.
KELLY: One of the targets of these Israeli spies working for Black Cube was the actress Rose McGowan. Tell us what happened with her.
FARROW: Rose McGowan was approached by two different Black Cube agents. That's just a small sliver of what really was a campaign of psychological torture, you know, as she relayed it to me. But, you know, we have the underlying documents. We have sources every which way on this. And she was, indeed, as she put it, gaslit. She was lied to repeatedly and that included two Black Cube agents posing as wealth advisers who insinuated themselves into her life over many months and recorded tens of hours of audio and delivered it back to Weinstein.
KELLY: And there was one female operative in particular who went by the aliases Diana Filip and Anna?
FARROW: That's right. And we have the contracts outlining what Anna was doing on Weinstein's behalf. And she both posed as this wealth adviser and women's rights activist who became friends, really, with Rose McGowan over months and secretly recorded her. And she also served as a honeypot of sorts for journalists. And that included approaching me, approaching Jodi Kantor of The New York Times and also meeting in person several times with Ben Wallace of New York Magazine. And that's worth highlighting, Mary Louise, because Ben Wallace and the New York Magazine team were the subject of a huge operation that included psychological profiles, one of Ben Wallace's wife - we're talking about ex-wife, rather. We're talking about reports to find leverage on the ex-wives of reporters here. That's how far this went. His editor also, you know, was the subject of these very invasive profiles, which all explicitly say, we are trying to find weak points and leverage to use against people.
KELLY: You tweeted last night that this is the craziest story you have ever reported; also tweeted that you feared for your own safety reporting this. Tell me about that.
FARROW: You know, I can't even yet get into all of the details of the story behind the story, you understand, with a detailed piece of investigative reporting like this. You know, it's wrapped up in some very sensitive sourcing. But you can imagine from how wild what is on the page is how equally precarious and high stakes the process of getting it there was. And yes, you know, that is true. These are some very groups that, you know, many of the people I spoke to found very intimidating. And certainly that was reflected in the process of reporting this story.
KELLY: Let me ask you about another high-level name that shows up in your story. This is David Boies, the lawyer who argued Al Gore's case in the Supreme Court challenge back in the 2000 presidential election. According to your story, he oversaw Weinstein's spying effort to stop you, to stop The New York Times, to stop others from reporting all this, even while he was representing The Times.
FARROW: That's right. And one of the things that we've seen with this story overall is that, you know, multiple states are now looking at potential legislation to, for instance, curtail the use of nondisclosure agreements to suppress rape allegations. Similarly, I think this is an area that is overdue for accountability. Law firms, you know, powerful, reputable law firms running these spy operations on behalf of their clients is something that I think really needs a hard look. And David Boies, you know, certainly was doing this, has admitted to doing this in the case of several of these firms. And the crux here is that intelligence reports get passed nominally through lawyers before they're forwarded to people like Harvey Weinstein, and that allows these things to be protected by attorney-client privilege.
KELLY: And you reached out to David Boies for comment. What exactly did he tell you?
FARROW: He is quoted, in detail, on the record in the article, you know, and he said he did not think it would be adverse for The New York Times to receive the information from these private spies and that he didn't view it as a conflict of interest. The New York Times has since commented that they strongly disagree with that characterization.
KELLY: Ronan Farrow, you are the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen and there have been allegations in your own family of abuse. And I wonder, has that complicated or inspired your reporting on the Harvey Weinstein story?
FARROW: Not in a direct, factual sense, in that there was any link. This was an assignment I received while I was at NBC News and I wasn't aware of the allegations prior to that. However, I will say that it was a critical factor in keeping me driven at times when people told me to back down. You know, in addition to feeling a moral obligation to the women who were doing such a brave thing by talking - it's a difficult thing - this was also an issue that had touched my own family. And I had gone through a difficult process of coming to understand the importance of meticulous reporting in exposing these kinds of allegations, particularly when the criminal justice system let's women down.
KELLY: Ronan Farrow. His latest article on the Harvey Weinstein scandal was published last night by The New Yorker. Ronan Farrow, thank you.
FARROW: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF BONOBO'S "OUTLIER")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.