NBCUniversal says it will release former NBC News employees from non-disclosure agreements if they believe they were sexually harassed or assaulted while working at the company.
The media conglomerate announced the news via Friday night’s edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, which is broadcast on their network MSNBC.
A statement from NBCUniversal came just minutes after Maddow went after NBC executives in light of recent claims by journalist Ronan Farrow that they handed ‘enhanced severance payouts’ to female employees in exchange for their silence about alleged sexual harassment.
NBC and MSNBC are both owned by NBCUniversal, and are headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York – with Maddow asserting that Farrow’s claims have been causing ‘consternation’ among ‘rank and file employees’ in the building.
NBC revealed Friday that they will release former employees from NDAs so that they can speak freely about alleged sexual harassment . The news was announced by Rachel Maddow on sister network MSNBC
The statement from NBCUniversal, read out by Maddow, declared: ‘Any former NBC News employee who believes that they cannot disclose their experience with sexual harassment as a result of a confidentiality or non-disparagement provision in their separation agreement should contact and we will release them from that perceived obligation’.
NBC has been in the headlines in recent weeks following the release of Farrow’s book Catch and Kill, in which he alleges the company stonewalled him from reporting on Harvey Weinstein while he was employed as a reporter at the network.
The book also contained an allegation from a former NBC staffer who alleges network star Matt Lauer raped her while they were away on assignment together at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Farrow’s book has appeared to rile up Farrow, who took NBC bosses to task, saying: ‘The allegations about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer are gut-wrenching at baseline, no matter who you are or what your connection is to this story.
‘But accusations people in positions of authority in this building may have been complicit in some way of shielding those guys from accountability, those accusations are very, very hard to stomach’
She added: ‘The amount of consternation this has caused among the rank and file people who work here would be almost impossible for me to overstate.’
Maddow has been employed at MSNBC since 2008.
Farrow appeared on Maddow’s show for an interview, during which time they discussed the non-disclosure agreements several female employees signed when parting the company after alleging sexual misconduct
Afterward, Farrow appeared on Maddow’s show for an interview, during which time they discussed the non-disclosure agreements several female employees signed when parting the company after alleging sexual misconduct. Their payouts reportedly included larger-than-usual sums of money, known as ‘enhanced severance’.
In his book Catch and Kill: Lies, spies, and a conspiracy to protect predators he reveals how NBC tried to bury sexual misconduct allegations about Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer
‘These women considered these to be payouts to silence them, executives involved told me they were payouts to silence them,’ Farrow claimed.
‘Senior executives on the NBCUniversal side who brokered these agreements described them openly as ‘sexual harassment settlements’ .
Farrow then stated that news that NBCUniversal was releasing such women from their clauses was very welcome.
‘NBC executives deserve praise for that… These women felt constrained and I think this will go a long way in making them feel they can discuss this openly’.
It was a change of tone for Farrow, who appeared to be feeling more conciliatory than he was during a Thursday appearance on Fox News.
That day, journalist Yashar Ali reported that an unnamed NBC Universal executive said there’s been no change in the network’s executive leadership ‘because Ronan behaves like a terrorist and we’re not going to negotiate with terrorists.’
However, Farrow hit back during an interview with Fox’s Shannon Bream stating: ‘When you hear rhetoric like journalists being called terrorists, we’re living in a moment where our political leaders have sometimes used authoritarian rhetoric to try to describe the press as the enemy of the people…
‘This is a book about the importance of precise, fact-checked journalism. And the book itself is an example of precise, face-checked journalism. It’s two years of investigative journalism’.
Andy Lack (left) and Noah Oppenheim (right) are two of the NBC execs Farrow accuses of blocking his reporting into Harvey Weinstein. The network has denied any wrongdoing, and has pushed back hard against Farrow. It is not alleged that either Lack or Oppenheim called Farrow a ‘terrorist’
Farrow appeared in an interview with Shannon Bream on Fox News on Thursday night
He revealed that despite on tape interviews and corroborating evidence, NBC shut down his story where a string of women accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct and assault.
‘The point is that we were ordered to stand down. We were told don’t take a single call on this. Cancel this interview with a rape victim. That’s unjournalistic. Ultimately this is more important than NBC, more important than executives, that is about a threat to the free press,’ Farrow said.
‘That is about ways in which powerful people can seek protection and a lack of accountability for alleged crimes through media organisations sometimes who assist in the suppression of stories,’ he added.
When NBC suppressed the story Farrow took it to the New Yorker where he went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and helped lead to criminal charges against Weinstein, a once untouchable predator.
Farrow said the free flow of information, rather than the suppression groundbreaking stories, is the key to keeping democracy free.
‘When you see powerful people subverting the press in the way Donald Trump did with the National Inquirer….in the way Harvey Weinstein did also through the National Inquirer and NBC News… These are fundamental threats to the free flow of information. I am so inspired by every source who spoke in spite of all the obstacles and efforts to shut them down,’ he said.
Fox News’ Shannon Bream then brought up NBC’s denial of Farrow’s reporting regarding the Matt Lauer sexual harassment scandal.
‘When you see powerful people subverting the press in the way Donald Trump did with the National Inquirer….in the way Harvey Weinstein did also through the National Inquirer and NBC News… These are fundamental threats to the free flow of information,’ Farrow said
Speaking on NBC’s denial of the Lauer allegations Farrow said: ‘I don’t think it’s a dispute anymore that NBC and senior executives at NBC knew about Matt Lauer and allegations about Matt Lauer for years. This is a documented pattern of secret settlements in this company’
While Farrow detailed settlements related to the disgraced Today anchor, NBC said the settlements were given to people who left the network and claimed that there were no official reports to management about Lauer.
‘There’s a very clear paper trail in the book,’ Farrow said, countering NBC’s take.
‘I don’t think it’s a dispute anymore that NBC and senior executives at NBC knew about Matt Lauer and allegations about Matt Lauer for years. This is a documented pattern of secret settlements in this company which mirrors what we’ve seen in several media outlets …where sexual harassment and assault issues get swept under the rug through payouts and alleged predators stay in power,’ he said.
Bream then asked Farrow – where do we go from here in light of NBC’s refusal to shake up their executive board.
Just this week it was reported that NBC News was renewing the contract of its controversial president Noah Oppenheim, who is named in Catch and Kill for refusing to public the Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations.
Just this week it was reported that NBC News was renewing the contract of its controversial president Noah Oppenheim, who is named in Catch and Kill for refusing to public the Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations
‘We’re seeing some companies resist that kind of change. The change was real at Fox but there are multiple women who have gotten in touch with me to say look even after leadership change there are still problems. That’s true at CBS, it’s true at Fox, there is more work to be done. This is not just an NBC problem. But we are seeing NBC right now face a lot of tough questions from the tough journalist there,’ he said.
‘Journalists are the hero of this story. We need a free press. It is incredibly admirable that people like Chris Hayes have gotten on air and said if there’s pattern of secrets at this company and people are getting hurt as a result and coverage is getting distorted as a result – that’s a significant problem to look at,’ he added.