62 pages 2 hours read

Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2019

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Summary and Study Guide


Catch and Kill is a 2019 nonfiction book by the American journalist Ronan Farrow. The book details Farrow’s investigation into decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups committed by Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein as well as numerous institutional attempts to prevent his abuse coming to light.

Catch and Kill begins with investigative journalist Ronan Farrow searching for a story with producer Rich McHugh in 2016. Although rumors about Harvey Weinstein’s abusive behavior are beginning to reach the mainstream outlets such as the National Enquirer often suppress them as political and personal favors. This process is called catch and kill.

Farrow and McHugh meet with the executives at NBC while Weinstein meets with private investigators. Farrow wants to run a story on Weinstein, but Weinstein wants to shut down any potential story. NBC executives and powerful figures seem uninterested in Farrow’s story. Undaunted, he continues to interview people and chase down leads. Actress Rose McGowan provides Farrow with an explosive interview accusing Weinstein of abuse, but the president of NBC news Noah Oppenheim is reluctant to publish the story.

Through further investigative work, Farrow finds more women who survived abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. He even obtains audio of Weinstein admitting to assaulting a model named Ambra Gutierrez who agrees to an interview to expose Weinstein’s crimes. Meanwhile, Weinstein accelerates his attempts to stop Farrow’s story. He hires a private intelligence firm to spy on the journalist and anyone he interviews. Farrow talks to others who tried to publish similar stories and keeps hearing how the stories were suppressed. Farrow and McHugh store all of their findings in a safety deposit box to be released if anything happens to them. They meet with the legal team at NBC, but the initial hope that the story will proceed is dashed. Oppenheim, who questions whether the story is even newsworthy, tell them to pause the investigation.

Farrow and McHugh agree to trust NBC for the moment but continue to work on the investigation regardless of what they are told by the network. They meet with many women who detail long and traumatic instances of abuse by Weinstein. Some were paid to keep quiet, and others were given jobs in the entertainment industry in exchange for their silence. All are made to sign nondisclosure agreements which legally prevent them from speaking out about Weinstein’s behavior.

Convinced that the story will not move forward at NBC, Farrow thinks about taking it to another outlet. He holds meetings with The New Yorker about turning the television report into a magazine article. At the same time, the private detectives and other Weinstein affiliates circle around Farrow. They follow him and search for anything they can use to discredit him. Weinstein himself contacts executives at NBC and NBC’s parent company to ensure that the story is stopped before it reaches the public. He is convinced that he has won but does not know about Farrow’s meetings with The New Yorker.

Farrow’s investigation turns up more and more accounts of Weinstein’s abusive behavior. Most accounts follow a similar pattern, and a picture emerges of how Weinstein got away with his abuse for so long. The New Yorker devotes significant resources to the story, conducting a rigorous fact-checking process even as similar articles at other outlets move close to publication. Farrow worries he gambled his entire professional career on a story that someone else will publish first. The New York Times publishes an article about Weinstein, but it is not nearly as damning as Farrow’s version. Nevertheless, Weinstein launches a media war against his accusers and anyone who helps them.

Farrow’s article is published and the scales tip against Weinstein. Despite his threats, Weinstein seems doomed. NBC realizes they have created a scandal for themselves by suppressing the story. Farrow appears in the media to talk about his story while still adding more accounts from more survivors in follow up reports. NBC offers him his old job back, but he worries that accepting it would only condone the network’s behavior. Many NBC employees are annoyed that the network shut down an important story. Leaks from inside NBC begin to accuse men like Matt Lauer of sexual abuse.

Farrow also slowly comes to understand the level of surveillance he has been under. Several key sources are revealed to be undercover Weinstein operatives. He reports on the tactics Weinstein used to suppress stories. President Donald Trump used similar tactics to stop embarrassing stories and accusations from reaching the public. Weinstein is arrested and charged with sexual abuse. Matt Lauer is fired from NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior. Farrow speaks to Lauer’s victims as well as Weinstein’s investigators who trailed him.