BY SEEMA IYER | COURT TV
“She Said” by The New York Times investigative journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey is as much about journalism as it is about Harvey Weinstein. It is far more than an exceptional read; it is a lesson in having patience when you are playing the long game.
The book chronicles the investigative journey Kantor and Twohey embarked on in bringing to light the Harvey Weinstein accusations for their 2017 New York Times exposé.
Let me put my perspective in context.
I am first a lawyer, then a journalist – perhaps not at heart yet, but certainly in experience. I’ve been practicing law for over two decades, whereas I’ve been a journalist for half of one.
In local news, you are taught about “process journalism” – how to show people the process. From door knocks to the door slams, to the sifting through boxes of documents, to the always-popular mic being shoved in your face. The process is to show the folks not just what you found, but how you got there. That’s what my old boss used to say.
And that is precisely how “She Said” unravels the demise of a Hollywood mogul, as well as the ensuing aftermath. In early 2017, long before the idea of an entire book, Kantor and Twohey began what seemed like an impossible endeavor – investigating innuendo of a society they were not privy to – with doubt the public would even be interested in the story.
The cache of The New York Times journalists seemed to give them leads or callbacks but certainly not a willingness to go on the record anytime soon.
Through Nicholas Kristof, The Times Opinion columnist, getting in touch with actress Ashley Judd was “simple.” Kantor spoke to Judd for an hour during their first call and Judd revealed Weinstein’s pattern of using business meetings as a pretext “to pressure women into sexual interactions.”
It was June of 2017 and Judd was still unsure of going on the record, however, she did convey that she would reach out to actress Salma Hayek. Their two voices would prove to be powerful accusations against Weinstein.
Another lead that proved fruitful was Jenni Konner, actress Lena Dunham’s producing partner on the show Girls, as well as Dunham herself. The two “became a celebrity switchboard” sending Kantor direct contact information, which anyone in investigative journalism will tell you is the most coveted of contacts.
Konner then connected Kantor to a starlet who, most surprisingly, became the MVP of contacts – Gwyneth Paltrow. The authors wrote that Paltrow was “a dead-center source” and proved it in spades when she reached out to other alleged victims, many of whom were familiar names.
In June of 2017, Paltrow was not prepared to go on the record. She was embroiled in a public relations disaster involving her company Goop and a $66 jade egg designed to insert into a woman’s nether-regions. Enough said.
And although actress Rose McGowan wouldn’t go on record for the initial expose, she did provide the authors with a copy of the 1997 settlement agreement between her and Weinstein, which they were able to quote from for their article.
“She Said” details with stomach-flipping accuracy a reporter’s roller coaster ride when hearing back from a source. Waiting for something on the record, saying yes, saying no – the bipolar nature of investigative journalism shouts from every page.
All the while, through phone calls and texts and unanswered emails, both Kantor and Twohey were tirelessly trying to retrieve copies of agreements, legal documents…any written proof of Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment. The book interweaves those efforts with their meetings with celebrities, co-workers, former employees and Weinstein himself.
On September 19, 2017, Weinstein came to The New York Times office to meet with Twohey on a story she was pursuing regarding Weinstein’s questionable financial transactions. Kantor made a point of introducing herself before the meeting and to see him again after.
During the latter interaction, Weinstein explained he hadn’t done the terrible things he was accused of, saying he wasn’t that bad…. instead proclaiming, “I’m worse.”
Still, the formal reply to The New York Times questions and all accusations since have been met with utter denials.
The journalists were pressured to take their findings to print in what was expected to be a series for The Times. The push and pull of readiness is palpable as both Kantor and Twohey seemed to be working around-the-clock to pull together a first draft – constantly questioning whether it was enough.
And then in movie-like fashion, perhaps a one even Weinstein would have produced – two days before the initial article was published – the authors got their biggest source.
Ashley Judd called Jodi Kantor agreeing to be named in the investigation.
During that call, “…Jodi lost it, like a marathoner collapsing at the finish line. She and Megan had spent months living in a state of suspense and responsibility. They would land the story or they would blow it; they would get actresses on the record or they would not.”
And the story that propelled a movement went to print on October 5, 2017.
After the story was published, The Times received a flurry of calls with more accusers. And then Paltrow, Hayek, McGowan, Nyong’o – everyone seemed ready to go on the record – including the names we didn’t know of – former assistants, unknown actresses, models, women from Weinstein’s past, women from Weinstein’s present…and so many more.
Paltrow, once again making strident efforts to help the authors, hosted a sleepover-type of group interview in Los Angeles on January 16, 2019.
Twelve women from the authors’ reporting of sexual harassment stories gathered together for a follow-up on how their lives have transpired since they spoke up; including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who publicly accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his confirmation hearings.
The gathering was emblematic of our changing world. Women from every station of life were courageously coming forward to expose themselves as survivors.
But, will this aftermath that we are living in truly alter how predators prey? Will there be a reckoning in terms of punishment? For Justice Kavanaugh…. he now sits on the highest court in the land.
For Weinstein, the outcome may be different. He lost his job, he lost his livelihood, and soon…. he may just lose his liberty.
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