'She Said' Reveals The People And Practices That Protected Weinstein
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Harvey Weinstein created many obstacles to prevent women from revealing his alleged sexual misconduct and prevent reporters from investigating it. My guests, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, were the first reporters to manage to get enough sources and documents to break the story. They tell how they did it in their new book "She Said." It includes new information about how and why the women came forward and what they allege. The book also reveals new information about Weinstein's legal team and what they did to protect him, discredit his accusers and create obstacles for journalists.
Kantor and Twohey found that the legal system and government agencies often work in favor of the harasser, not the victim. Weinstein is now awaiting criminal trial for alleged rape and other sexual abuse and faces several civil suits from actresses and employees. Kantor and Twohey have become experts in reporting on the issue of sexual abuse. Between the two of them, they've reported on allegations against Donald Trump, Louis C.K., Brett Kavanaugh and Jeffrey Epstein.
Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey - welcome back to FRESH AIR. Why did you want to write about how you got the story, how you investigated it?
MEGAN TWOHEY: You know, at the time of our investigation, we had a good view of what was going on behind the scenes. Some of that went into the initial story, but a lot of that was drama that was playing out sort of behind closed doors, in hushed meetings with sources, in off the-record meetings with, you know, for example, Harvey Weinstein showing up to The New York Times the day before publication to try to bring it to a screeching halt. And so what we wanted to do was to bring onto the record and to bring readers behind the scenes to all of the sort of drama that was playing out, the courageous women who are making these wrenching decisions whether or not to go on the record.
But we also learned, over the course of the past year, so much more about what was going on on Harvey Weinstein's end of things, in terms of the machinery that was in place to try to silence the women and stop our publication, including, you know, private investigative firm with - made up of former Israeli military intelligence officials, the high-powered lawyers. We really wanted to basically kind of report out not just what was happening on our end but also what was happening on his end, as he tried to evade scrutiny.
GROSS: One of the obstacles you faced in reporting this story was the confidentiality agreements that Harvey Weinstein had women sign. At what point did he pressure women to sign these confidentiality agreements? There were also payoffs because it was, like, money to the woman in exchange for her signing this confidentiality agreement, this nondisclosure agreement.
JODI KANTOR: So here's the pattern we found again and again with these suffocating nondisclosure agreements that women signed - after an allegation of harassment or assault, a woman would go to a lawyer for help, and often that woman would feel like, OK, the lawyer's going to make this right. I'm going to get help. We're going to be able to rectify the situation in some way. And again and again, we found that what these women were told was, well, actually, your best option is a settlement, a confidential settlement.
And what that means is that the woman gets money, and it's essentially money for silence. It's hush money. And in most cases, she has to agree to really restrictive conditions in terms of who she can ever tell about this again. Some of the conditions we found in some of the Weinstein settlements were so extreme, like women not being able to tell therapists or accountants about what had happened without special permission. Rowena Chiu, one of the alleged victims, never told her husband what had happened to her.
And so in the moment, these settlements, these confidentiality agreements, can seem like the best available option because if you're a woman who's faced something like this, you get to keep your privacy, you get some recompense, financially. But when you look at them as a pattern, you see that they have protected alleged predators again and again; not just in the Weinstein case - this is something much larger.
These were used by Bill O'Reilly to silence women. These were used by Larry Nassar to silence women. Megan and I had both covered women and gender and sexual violence combined for many, many years before we came to this, and yet we never understood, until 2017, that there was this kind of secret settlement system happening all over the country that sort of pretends to be a way of dealing with sexual harassment and assault but also, in a way, kind of enables it.
GROSS: So what kinds of legal consequences were women supposed to face, did women fear they would face if they spoke to you? And have any of the women who spoke to you and broke their nondisclosure agreements faced any legal or financial consequences?
TWOHEY: Well, the fear was very real, Terry. There was this moment in the investigation where we had identified a woman who had been allegedly sexually assaulted by Weinstein in 1990, when she was working her first job out of college at Miramax. And so I - you know, I was able to track her down at a family home outside - in a suburb of New York. And I knocked on her door, and she came to the door. She had, like, a young daughter by her side peering up at me. And when I introduced myself and explained what Jodi and I were working on, she said, I have been waiting for this knock on my door for 25 years.
And at the same time, because she had signed one of these settlements, because she had been - you know, she was one of at least eight women that we were ultimately able to identify who had been silenced through a settlement, these basically require that you will have to pay financial damages if you violate the settlement and also that just - that he would come after her, in general, that there would be retribution involved.
And so while, you know, there have been women who have gone on the record and broken their settlements in the case of Weinstein and have not so far faced any repercussions, I think once - you know, once the sort of Pandora's box was opened and all of the other allegations tumbled out, he had much more serious problems on his hands, including his upcoming criminal trial. But there's still no question that the terror was real. And there have been people, there have been other women who have been - outside of the Weinstein case, who have been pursued for violating their settlements.
And so this is, like, you know, two years after this story; these settlements are extremely prevalent. They're being signed. Women are being pressured into signing them every single day in this country. And it's not just the restrictive clauses that we found so jaw-dropping. I think it's the fact that there are these lawyers, some of these kind of self-proclaimed women's advocates, like Gloria Allred for example. You know, she's been involved in, you know, negotiating these settlements that have silenced women, including one of the victims of Harvey Weinstein in 2004.
GROSS: Yes, and that was kind of remarkable because Gloria Allred is famous for defending women who stand up and accuse their harassers, and she led one of her clients to sign an NDA. But she justified that to you. She said, this was going to be the best outcome for my client.
KANTOR: That's the traditional argument. But what these - Gloria Allred and her firm were also involved in at least one confidential settlement involving Bill O'Reilly and also another involving Larry Nassar. And so she and her firm had a role in keeping all of these stories quiet. When you look at these settlements individually, they don't look so bad because, truly, it can often seem like a woman's best option, you know, given a very difficult situation. She can avoid being branded a tattletale or a traitor, can preserve her hiring prospects. She's able to keep it really private.
But then when you look at the whole landscape of these settlements, you say, first of all, this appears to have enabled a lot of predators. And second of all, is this really the way we want our country to be dealing with the problem of sexual harassment and assault - by paying women to not talk about their own experiences? And a lot of these clauses, to be honest, they kind of defy common sense. How could you not tell your mother or your brother or a guy you meet six months later and marry that this happened to you and that you got potentially a sizable payment because of what happened?
GROSS: So we've been talking about Gloria Allred. Her daughter, Lisa Bloom, who is also a lawyer who has worked with many victims of sexual harassment and assault, you expected - when you heard she was a part of this story, you expected her to be defending women. But she was actually on Harvey Weinstein's legal team. And what was her role on Weinstein's team?
KANTOR: This whole saga is filled with so many surprises in terms of who helped and who hindered and who was on which side. And Lisa Bloom was - Lisa Bloom crossed sides. She decided to help Harvey Weinstein. And when this came out in the fall of 2017, it was very embarrassing for her.
And the line she used at the time was that she had really only decided to help him because, first of all, she thought his transgressions hadn't been that severe. She hadn't known about the full extent of the allegations. And she also said that her desire was to help him change his behavior, to help school him in more sort of updated ways of dealing with women.
However, when we were reporting this book - this book gave us another year of reporting on Weinstein, essentially. And when we were reporting this book, Megan was able to obtain this really extraordinary memo in which we're able to read Lisa Bloom talking in her own voice about the ways she intended to help Weinstein. And basically - do you want to read a little bit from it, Megan?
GROSS: Yeah. That would be great.
GROSS: It's on page...
GROSS: ...It's on page 100.
TWOHEY: Right. Right. So there was, once again, you know, Lisa Bloom - this, you know, prominent feminist attorney who has publicly battled against sexual harassment and sexual assault and has been such a prominent victims advocate - in 2016, submitted a memo to Harvey Weinstein basically documenting all of the efforts that she was willing to take to help him undermine his accusers. She basically is saying, I'm going to harness all of what I've learned in the course of working with so many victims over the years. And I'm going to help you use that against victims.
And so she says, for example, I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world - and she's speaking about Rose McGowan in this case - because I've represented so many of them. They start out as impressive, bold women. But the more one presses for evidence, the weaknesses and lies are revealed. She goes on to sort of spell out, in bullet points, all the different tactics that she's willing to help Weinstein take.
One, initiating friendly contact with her through me or other good intermediary, and after establishing a relationship, work out a, quote, unquote, "win-win." Key question, what does she want? But then (laughter), in the second one, she's saying - she's spelling out a plan for a counter-ops online campaign to push back and call her out as a pathological liar. A few well-placed articles now will go a long way if things blow up for us down the line. We can place an article re her becoming increasingly unglued so that when somebody Googles her, this is what pops up, and she is discredited.
And the memo goes on and on. And so it was really one of those moments where, when we were able to obtain this - and we obtained some other confidential records - her billing records that she submitted to Harvey, in which she spelled out all of the other work that she did for him over the course of the many months in 2017, including meeting with sort of private investigators, who had been hired to dig up dirt on his accusers. Our jaws dropped when we read these records.
GROSS: I want to ask you about Gwyneth Paltrow's role in all of this. She wouldn't talk to you on the record for your first story. But she helped you find other women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. So tell us a little bit about what her story was and why she didn't want to talk with you on the record.
KANTOR: So to our surprise, Gwyneth Paltrow had a really powerful story of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and of being threatened when her first really important roles were on the line. And early on in the investigation, when almost nobody in Hollywood would talk to us, she did. And she even tried to help us find other women. But she was very scared to go on the record. And it became clear, in the course of the investigation, that Harvey Weinstein was obsessed with the question of whether or not we were speaking to Paltrow.
He showed up at a party at her house early. She called us from the bathroom completely panicked. In the sort of series of final confrontations about the story that took place at the New York Times, Weinstein kept hammering us. Are you talking to Gwyneth? Is Gwyneth in the story? And at that point, she was still a totally secret source. And we couldn't figure out why he was so obsessed with something that wasn't even part of the story. The answer only became clear over a course of weeks and months after we broke the story.
As more and more Weinstein victims came forward, they said publicly, they told us and they even told Paltrow that what Weinstein had said to them, in the course of harassing or assaulting them, was essentially, don't you want what Gwyneth has? Meaning, he was implying to them that she had slept with him and that this was the bargain of sex to - sex for work, right? If you go along with this, you can have the Oscar, the wealth, the fame, the golden girl status.
So essentially, what we - two things happened. First of all, Paltrow was very, very upset to learn this. Not only had she never sexually succumbed to Weinstein, but she was so horrified to find out that she had been used, essentially, as a tool of predation. She spent a long time on the phone in the fall of 2017 with other Weinstein victims coming to terms with the way he had used her and with feeling like she had somehow been used as an accessory in this.
But then the other thing we finally realized is that this was probably why he had been so obsessed with whether or not we were talking to Paltrow - because as soon as other women heard Paltrow's story and heard that she had never given in to him and that she had refused him, then they would understand so much more about the way his scheme worked and that it would all fall apart, in a sense.
GROSS: Well, let's take a short break here. And then we'll talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guests are New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. They've written a new book called "She Said," which is about how they broke the Harvey Weinstein story and about the obstacles Weinstein created to prevent women from coming forward and stop reporters from investigating the story.
We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guests are New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Their new book "She Said" is about how they broke the Harvey Weinstein story and about the obstacles Weinstein created to prevent women from coming forward and stop reporters from investigating the story.
So you mentioned this Israeli private investigation firm with former Mossad agents in it. And one of the people who helped negotiate the contract with this Israeli firm that was, among other things, trying to stop your investigation was David Boies, who's most famous for working on behalf of marriage equality, arguing that - representing Al Gore in Bush v. Gore. He is also a very famous corporate lawyer. So is it fair to say part of his job on Harvey Weinstein's team was covering up Weinstein's misconduct and trying to smear people who opposed him?
TWOHEY: Well, there's no question that David Boies was one of his staunchest defenders. The moment that he started representing Harvey in 2002, he was helping him to conceal allegations that were starting to surface about his alleged misconduct and predatory behavior. In that year, the New Yorker had been able to sort of track down some evidence that Harvey may have preyed on a couple of his employees and covered it up with secret settlements. And David Boies was right by Harvey's side as he was working to sort of spin and conceal those allegations, you know, into the shadows.
You know, fast-forward to 2015, he was - that was the year that the Weinstein Company was starting to get more glimpses of the allegations that were surfacing against him. And David Boies was right by Harvey's side working to basically prevent the board from scrutinizing his personnel file. They wouldn't even let his own board take a look at what - you know, any of the complaints that had been made against him over the years.
And then, up through 2017, when we were working on - you know, hard at work on this investigation and other reporters like Ronan Farrow were on his trail, you know, David Boies was the one who helped him execute this contract with Black Cube in which, you know, (laughter) these former Israeli intelligence officials were basically promised that they would be paid $300,000 bonus if they could help stop - if they brought our investigation to a halt.
Now, David Boies talked to us for this book in a series of lengthy interviews. Well, he has said that he regretted not having, basically, paid more attention to the work that Black Cube was doing on behalf of Harvey Weinstein. He has also, in the same breath, claimed to have no regrets for the way that he represented Weinstein over those many years.
KANTOR: And I think there are a couple of tough questions for David Boies on this. OK, everybody deserves a lawyer, but David Boies is a really talented lawyer. And how does he want to use that talent and influence? And then I think another tough question for him is that you could argue that he went way beyond the role of strictly defending into a realm of manipulation and PR. Like, he would come to The Times - and he did this several times in the course of the Weinstein investigation - and say, oh, I'm not here as Harvey's attorney. I'm here as his friend.
You know, our team, including Dean Baquet, the editor of The Times, found that very disingenuous because he had been Harvey's attorney for 15 years at that point. And second of all, what does that mean? That shows us that he is going way beyond, you know, I'm defending this guy in a courtroom. He's seeking to exert influence, for example, over articles in The New York Times.
TWOHEY: You know, we realized too that David Boies was not just taking money from Harvey Weinstein in exchange for working for him but that they got kind of enmeshed. David Boies had wanted to get into the film industry. And, in fact, during the time that he was working on behalf of Weinstein, the two men were trading emails, for example, about potential roles for David Boies' aspiring actress daughter.
And so I think that in the case of Lisa Bloom, you know, she also ended up doing a deal to basically make a book about Trayvon Martin into - I believe it was a TV show with Harvey Weinstein. And that was something that was playing out during the course of time that she was representing him. So I think that it's also important for people to ask sort of, you know, whose interests are being represented here in these cases.
GROSS: My guests are New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, authors of the new book "She Said." After we take a short break, we'll talk more about their investigation into Harvey Weinstein, including the final showdown with Weinstein before publication. And jazz critic Kevin Whitehead will review a new album by singer and composer Jazzmeia Horn. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to our interview with New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Their new book "She Said" is about how they broke the story of how Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted actresses and women employed in his company.
There were many obstacles the reporters had to overcome - confidentiality agreements that prevented women from speaking about their allegations against Weinstein, Weinstein's threats about ruining the careers of women who came forward and Weinstein's lawyers and private detectives, who tried to prevent any investigation of his behavior, including Katnor and Twohey's investigation. Some executives in his company were aware there were accusations against him.
Let's talk about Irwin Reiter. He was an executive in Weinstein's company for accounting and financial reporting. He had been described to you as hating Weinstein, but he was a top lieutenant in the company. And he gave you something that was pretty crucial to your investigation, and it was a complaint that was filed by Lauren O'Connor. Tell us who Lauren O'Connor is.
TWOHEY: So Lauren O'Connor is really one of the most remarkable figures in the Weinstein story. She was a junior executive working at his company. And in 2015, she did something that so few people in his orbit had ever done; she basically wrote a detailed memo that she submitted to HR, spelling out all of this pervasive sexual harassment and abuse that she had witnessed by Weinstein - not so much herself as a victim, but what she had witnessed in terms of his behavior towards other people. It was, like, paragraph after paragraph of the most kind of specific language.
For example, she said, there's a toxic environment for women at this company. I've wanted nothing more than to work hard and succeed here. My reward for my dedication and hard work has been to experience repeated harassment and abuse from the head of this company. I have also been witness to and heard about other verbal and physical assaults Harvey has inflicted on other employees. I'm a 28-year-old woman trying to make a living in a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64-year-old world-famous man, and this is his company. The balance of power is me, zero; Harvey Weinstein, 10.
And it goes - it went on and on to sort of detail some of the things that she had witnessed in her time at the company. And this was another...
GROSS: Can I just read another line from this? She says...
TWOHEY: Sure, yeah.
GROSS: ...On trips with Harvey, I was instructed by him to meet with aspiring actresses after they had a, quote, "personal appointment" in Harvey's hotel room. Harvey instructed me to greet them when they came down to the hotel lobby and facilitate introductions for them to managers and agents, as well as assisting in casting them in Weinstein Company projects. And she says it was only female employees, female executives, put in these positions. And that her understanding was that, quote, "he has either had or wants to have sexual relations with them." Female Weinstein employees are essentially used to facilitate his sexual conquests of vulnerable women who hope he will get them work.
So that's what she writes in that memo. So that was pretty important evidence for you. Tell us how - what that memo contributed to your investigation.
TWOHEY: First of all, we had been documenting allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein going back to 1990. And in some ways, we had been unearthing things that had happened in the '90s and the earlier 2000s. And so to see documentation by somebody who had been working the company as recently as 2015, spelling out all these different things that had been happening so recently, we felt like, you know, if we're not able to publish this - the truth about this, if we're not able to get our story into the paper, you know, other people are going to be hurt. And we also realized that this was, like, written evidence that we'd be able to use to help prove our story.
GROSS: Let's get to another story that you write about, which is talking to Harvey Weinstein's brother and business partner, Bob Weinstein. How did you convince him to talk with you?
TWOHEY: That had really been one of the kind of pressing questions that we had coming out of that original Weinstein article. You know, his brother, his only sibling, had been his business partner for decades. They ran two companies together. And we really felt like we were just sort of desperate to know, what did Bob Weinstein know, when did he know it, and what did he try to do about it? For many, many months, you know, we would call him, and he would basically kind of bark at us and hang up the phone and refused to speak to us.
But there was a moment last year where Bob finally said, you know, OK, I'm willing to meet you. Let's grab lunch at a diner here in Manhattan. And it was the beginning of him slowly starting to open up and share his perspective for the first time. And he basically acknowledged that he had, in fact, been aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against his brother going back to the '90s. In a couple of cases, he had actually provided the money that was used to help silence the women. But he also claimed that he had believed, like so many other people, Harvey when he insisted that these were actually all kind of shakedowns and that he was just engaged in consensual extramarital activity.
And he also had - Bob brought his own kind of unique perspective and, ultimately, rationale for what was going on; he convinced himself that his brother was suffering from sex addiction. And that was really a perspective that was rooted in Bob's own battles with and recovery from substance abuse. Bob provided, ultimately, at the final stretch of our reporting, this letter that he had written to his brother, this long, pleading, intimate letter in which he's begging his brother to get treatment for sex addiction or, quote-unquote, "misbehavior."
GROSS: So he was thinking of this as, like, a mental health issue. And I just want to quote a couple of the things in the letter that he writes to Harvey about this. He says, (reading) over the years, I can, if I wanted to, list at least 100 times - I'm not exaggerating - that's five times a year over 20 employees have come to my office complaining that they've been verbally and emotionally abused by you. They have reported to me that you have called them stupid, incompetent idiots, etc. You are not speaking about their work but about them personally. You denigrated these people as human beings.
He says later, (reading) for my part, I started to feel sad and angry. I looked at you as someone who had completely lost his way and did not value people as separate human beings, that you did not care about their basic right to have dignity. For the record, you have physically assaulted me in your office and lied about it and minimized it as recently as a few weeks ago in your therapist's office when I brought it up. That's some heavy stuff.
TWOHEY: It is, and it is indeed heavy stuff. And it took place in this one year, in 2015, when there were a variety of people in the company from Irwin Reiter, the accountant, to Lance Maerov, who is one of the more active members of the board, and Bob, you know, who got more glimpses of these allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein. And all three of them wanted to do something about it and wanted to intervene. You know, Bob obviously kind of talked himself - made this kind of morally disastrous decision to view it sort of strictly within the framework of sex addiction. But all three people tried to intervene. And we document this year and how Harvey was able to kind of help outmaneuver these efforts at accountability. And there were some things that were put in place. Like that year Harvey Weinstein's contract was up for renegotiation, and as part of the renegotiation, they basically put in place a code of conduct with a series of escalating penalties if the company was required to pay out settlements to his victims. Harvey was going to suffer financial penalties as a result. And they would also, if he had violated the code of conduct, be able to fire him.
You know, previously, Harvey, with the help of David Boies had a contract in which he basically had to be convicted of a felony before they could get rid of him, before they could fire him. So I think there were these efforts, but ultimately, that turned into these very half-measures to try to take action, to hold him accountable. And also, what we realize is that they were really so focused on the company and the sort of narrow framework of liability that they miss this kind of moral - this larger moral problem and that ultimately destroyed the company, that took the whole thing down.
GROSS: So let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guests are New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Their new book about breaking the Harvey Weinstein story is called "She Said." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guests are New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Their new book, "She Said," is about how they broke the Harvey Weinstein story and about the obstacles Weinstein created to prevent women from coming forward and stop reporters from investigating the story.
When you knew that you were ready to publish, you had to go to Weinstein and his team and get their comments. I'd like you to describe a little bit about what happened when you contacted Weinstein and told him you had the story and you were going to publish it.
KANTOR: Sure. I mean, this is something that journalists do every day. A lot of what we describe in this book is just the classic tools of journalism that our peers use, peers all over the country, things that all of us are doing every day to try to make our stories as sound as possible. But in this case, it felt very precarious because the allegations were so serious and painful, which creates both a great obligation of fairness towards the accused but also a need to protect the accusers. And after keeping all of this stuff secret for so many months, it's scary to have to go to Weinstein and say, this is what we have, and to lay these women's stories on the table.
So we actually had to call them beforehand and we had to prep them and say, we know this may sound very worrying, but we've got to take your allegations to Harvey, with your name. Trust us that this is actually going to protect you because you will be able to say that you were part of a process that's fair. But it was very tense, I think, for - both for us on the journalistic end, but certainly for our sources because we knew that, at that point, they could be subject to more retaliation.
We were worried that he might try to pressure them in some way. We already knew that he was using some underhanded tactics; the full extent of it hadn't become quite clear yet. And we worried that he could do any number of manipulative things, including, by the way, going to another publication.
GROSS: He told you he was going to do that.
KANTOR: He threatened to do that. And it's a classic dirty way to undercut a story; you soften the blow by going to another publication first and sort of taking ownership but doing kind of, like, a half-baked version of that.
GROSS: So describe the final showdown between the editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, and Harvey Weinstein.
KANTOR: Well, one of Dean's precepts is that he really wants the reporters to do the work themselves. And Weinstein had repeatedly contacted, I think, Baquet and also Arthur Sulzberger, the former publisher. It always had this quality of going over our heads and being like, I want to talk to you, important man to important man.
KANTOR: And our boss, to his credit, said, talk to the reporters. Talk to the reporters. But it was also kind of a chess game because remember that, for a long time in this initial investigation, we refused to talk to Weinstein, and there was a reason for that. We could not speak to him off the record because we had to preserve the possibility of getting him on the record. And also, we did not want to be stuck with an array of, essentially, off-the-record lies. When you let somebody talk off the record, it's obviously very powerful in journalism. There are a lot of reasons to do it. But one thing you're potentially doing is giving them permission to lie because you can't hold them to account. You can't quote them. So we wanted to avoid that situation.
There was even a, like - there was a very weird confrontation I had with him a few weeks earlier in the lobby of The Times building where he said to me, let's go upstairs and we'll do this interview right now, and I had to say, we're not ready. We wanted to present the allegations to him in an orderly fashion. We wanted to be organized. We had to warn and prepare the women first. And it absolutely needed to be on the record.
GROSS: So in spite of the fact that Dean Baquet says to Weinstein, talk to the reporters, there is a final showdown between Baquet and Weinstein. Describe that to us.
KANTOR: OK. So at that point, we had been dealing with Weinstein's team for days and days, and it was frankly a very confusing experience because he had about five high-paid legal and PR advisers, everybody from Lisa Bloom to David Boies to Charles Harder - a lawyer who really prides himself on battling the press - was in the picture; Lanny Davis was in the picture. We were hearing slightly different things from all of them. We had presented our findings to them. We were trying to get answers. And the story at that point was basically ready to go. We needed to get it into the paper. We had shared all of the allegations with Weinstein. We'd already given him days, and we couldn't give him anymore time to undermine our story. But we also wanted to be fair to him and get his responses. And it was so hard to tell what he was actually saying because we were hearing all of these notes of denial on the one hand and then sort of remorse on the other hand. And he was also threatening a lawsuit. And so what all of us were trying to say to Weinstein and his team is, what is your final response to the story? What is it that you want to say to the world in response to these allegations?
And so they said they were sending statements, but we couldn't get the statements out of them. They weren't coming. They weren't coming. They blew the deadline. So at this point, instead of giving us the responses to the allegations that we have documented, Weinstein is still inexplicably talking about Gwyneth Paltrow, demanding - are you talking to Gwyneth Paltrow? Are you talking to Gwyneth Paltrow?
So finally, you know, Dean Baquet has been sort of hovering over us. He's very ready to publish this story once we hear from Weinstein. So he comes into the room, and he had avoided speaking to Weinstein. He had wanted us to be on the front lines. But finally he says, Harvey, this is Dean Baquet. And he says, here's the deal. You need to give us your statement now. I'm about to push the button. Then Weinstein says that essentially Dean is intimidating him. He starts complaining. He threatens that he's going to call The Washington Post and give them the story instead. So Baquet just says to him, we are trying to get your statement to be fair; please give it to us before we publish. So then he starts asking about Gwyneth Paltrow again. And we keep saying, she's not in the story.
Finally, Dean says, Harvey, I'm about to end this part of the conversation. Here's what we need to do. We want to give you every word that you want to say, so say it. I also have a newspaper to put out, so give them your statement. I'm going to walk out. Talk to the reporters. Take care. Good luck.
So then one minute later - because we had the emails with the timestamps - these statements from Weinstein's team began arriving. And we can - the editors were like surgeons on the battlefield. The - most of the story was already ready. And they're going into the statements. And they're taking out, you know, the bits of Harvey's response and the bits of his team response that we can use, and they're pasting them into the story. And something, like, 24 minutes after Weinstein's team finally sent his statements, we were able to push the button.
GROSS: Between the two of you, you've reported on so many sexual harassment and sexual assault stories, including, of course, Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Jeffrey Epstein. I'm leaving out some, too. But one of the things you don't like is the catchphrase "believe women." I want you to explain why.
KANTOR: Actually, the spirit of that imperative is one of our lodestars. Megan and I have devoted our careers, separately and now together, to documenting women's stories and putting them into the paper. So we do, in many ways, want to live and work in the spirit of that statement. But there's a conflicting impetus in journalism, which is that everything needs to be scrutinized; everything needs to be checked. And we believe that really solid, well-documented reporting protects women.
So we have found that, in our work - and we're only speaking for ourselves and the kind of work we do - the best way to get people to believe women is to document those women's stories really thoroughly.
GROSS: Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, thank you both so much for this interview and for your reporting.
KANTOR: Thank you so much.
TWOHEY: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are reporters for The New York Times. Their new book about breaking the Harvey Weinstein story is called "She Said." This is FRESH AIR.
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