“Catch and Kill,” Little, Brown and Co., by Ronan Farrow
Anyone who has read Ronan Farrow’s meticulous reporting that helped amplify the #MeToo movement would have an idea what to expect his book to be like. “Catch and Kill” delivers. It offers a look behind the scenes and exhaustively documents how he came to report on the dozens of sexual harassment allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, despite myriad obstacles.
Farrow had been working on investigative reports for NBC, including a series about the “dark side” of Hollywood, and Weinstein’s name kept coming up. Within the first 80 pages of this 414-page tome, it becomes clear why this apparently open secret failed to gain traction in either law enforcement or among journalists who previously tried to report on it. As an example, the NYPD had worked with an accuser and obtained a taped confession that Weinstein groped her, and yet, the Manhattan district attorney’s office chose not to press charges. Farrow documents how various members of Weinstein’s legal team made significant campaign contributions to that same DA. Equally troubling, Farrow’s bosses, who began getting persistent phone calls from Weinstein, advise Farrow to “give it a rest” and work on other stories. Given the extensive detail Farrow provides about these interactions throughout the book, it is difficult to believe NBC’s blanket denial over Farrow’s version of events.
Farrow makes a compelling case that, beyond bowing to pressure from an influential studio head, NBC may have shied away from the story because several of its executives and personalities, including “Today” co-host Matt Lauer, also had sexual harassment allegations in their closets. The Weinstein story was just the tip of the iceberg that began to reveal how prominent men in various industries used their positions of power to sexually harass women and face no consequences.
“Catch and Kill” is part “All the President’s Men,” part spy thriller (the book cover evokes a noir motif), with a dash of the personal mixed in. We learn that Farrow sought the advice of his sister Dylan, who has long alleged their father Woody Allen sexually abused her as a child, in how to approach potential victims. Rose McGowan, the first victim who spoke to him about her rape allegation against Weinstein, said she felt she could trust him because of an op-ed he had written about Dylan.
We learn that Allen had hired private detectives to trail law enforcement officials who were investigating him, a “campaign to disrupt the investigators,” and charges were ultimately dropped. Farrow shows how Weinstein employed similar tactics, hiring an Israeli firm to track and investigate his accusers, Farrow and others. Farrow gets a sense that he’s being followed and multiple sources urge him to be careful; this is when the book starts to sound more like a novel. Farrow puts copies of his reporting and the evidence in a safety deposit box, should anything happen to him. As he gets closer to publishing the story, Farrow moves out of his apartment into a friend’s “safe house.”
The book is utterly disheartening in its revelation of widespread abuses and cover-ups, the leverage of power and money to evade accountability and the many lives that were devastated in the process.
Farrow, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, closes with this note of hope and warning: “In the end, the courage of women can’t be stamped out. And stories — the big ones, the true ones — can be caught but never killed.”