Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey detail Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and how they uncovered a vast culture of abuse.
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the Harvey Weinstein story in October 2017. Their coverage gave women the courage to share stories of harassment and assault. Kantor’s and Twohey’s reportage spurred the #MeToo movement forward and opened the floodgates of conversation about sexual harassment and abuse, which eventually exposed powerful predators in the media, entertainment and business.
The Washington Post called this New York Times bestseller, “An instant classic of investigative journalism…All the President’s Men for the MeToo era.” CNN found it, “riveting and, crafted by two of the country’s most talented journalists, a vibrant, cinematic read.” The Atlantic wrote, “the journalists’ clear-eyed record…reads at some moments as a thriller and at others as an indictment of a system full of rot. But it is ultimately about the women, bonded in their pain, who refused to be silent any longer.”
Kantor and Twohey begin by contextualizing five-time Oscar winner Harvey Weinstein. They explain that he produced major hit films with his brother Bob and had a canny ability to turn small films into hits and launch the careers of megastars. The authors note that though rumors of harassment followed Weinstein, no one complained on record.
When Kantor and Twohey worked on sexual harassment and assault stories, they understood that few insiders would speak up because their careers depended on film industry connections. Without hard evidence, the authors acknowledged that women’s accusations against Weinstein would devolve into “he said, she said” stories.
Actress Rose McGowan told the authors what happened when she met Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival. He invited her to his hotel, ripped her clothes off and forced oral sex on her. Kantor and Twohey relate that McGowan’s lawyer got her a $100,000 settlement to stay quiet. She donated the money to a rape center.
The authors began to vet McGowan’s story, and they recognized that the deeper story was the pervasive systemic abuse and misogyny built into Hollywood movie making. They detail that other studio executives protected themselves by having victims and employees sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs).
When he had invited these women to meetings, they had responded because they wanted to work, because they had ambition, creativity, and hopes and dreams. In return, he put them in no-win positions.Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Kantor relates how movie star Ashley Judd told her she met Weinstein in his hotel room. Weinstein pressured her for sexual favors, but she left. Judd told Kantor she’d go public if her account was one of several illustrating a pattern of abuse.
Gwyneth Paltrow had a harrowing moment with Weinstein, but, as Kantor and Twohey recount, she hesitated to go public. The authors recount that in 2015 when Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez filed a police report against Weinstein for sexual assault, the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute.
Kantor and Twohey explain that rape and assault are criminal offenses, while civil rights laws at the federal level deal with sexual harassment. Lawyers could get rid of sexual harassment suits by paying settlements, as the authors explain, because going to court destroys a woman’s privacy and reputation. The legal system encouraged silence, the authors lament, so harassers moved to different jobs and harassed again.
Even at that late hour, they sounded more concerned with the welfare of the company than the welfare of the women.Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Kantor and Twohey learned that, in 2015, Bob Weinstein and The Weinstein Company’s (TWC) board members inserted clauses in Harvey Weinstein’s contract that made him liable for his own misconduct, but gave little thought to protecting its female employees.
The New York Times published Kantor and Twohey’s story on October 5, 2017.
Paltrow and others told their Weinstein stories on record and, the authors relate, this emboldened other women to step forward.#MeToo stories, the authors remind readers, brought down other famous men. For example, Twohey reported that Donald Trump paid a settlement amount to keep adult film actress Stormy Daniels quiet about their affair. The chairman of CBS, Les Moonves, stepped down in the face of harassment accusations.
Seven months after publication of the Times article, Kantor and Twohey reported that the police arrested Weinstein for two counts of sexual assault. The authors stress how women pushed for updated laws and corporate transparency. Kantor also worked on stories about sexual harassment plaguing low-income women who faced pressure from landlords or employers and feared retaliation if they spoke out.
Their stories involved a kind of poetic reversal. They had suffered from harassment but gained new authority and respect from fighting it.Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Kantor and Twohey note that Ashley Judd now serves on the board of Time’s Up, a nonprofit working to achieve workplace equity and safety.Zelda Perkins broke her settlement agreement and spoke out against Weinstein.These women agreed, the authors explain, that if they hadn’t spoken out, nothing would have changed.
Kantor and Twohey unintentionally changed business and media culture with their carefully researched revelations. They do not write as crusaders; they maintain the classic objective tone of The New York Times. By telling of much of the backstage action of the story, Kantor and Twohey bring a surprising amount of suspense and shocking detail to a tale you may think you already know. With a graceful combined voice, the authors underscore the points that best illuminate the struggles they present.
The #MeToo movement is an example of social change in our time but is also a test of it: In this fractured environment, will all of us be able to forge a new set of mutually fair rules and protections?Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Kantor and Twohey are not above celebrating the good their stories wrought and not above regretting how much they believe women still can and must accomplish in the fight against sexual harassment and assault. They do a particularly good job of evoking the difficulties any woman reporting such crimes usually faces. In this, as in much of their reportage, the authors combine objective factual reporting with a call to action.
Jodi Kantor also wrote Obamas and co-authored Chasing The Truth and – with Megan Twohey – #Me Too. Other books featuring investigations relevant to this story include Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, Not That Bad by Roxanne Gay and Perversion of Justice by Julie K. Brown.