Nearly two years ago, two New York Times reporters did what many Hollywood insiders never thought possible: They toppled Harvey Weinstein.
Although rumors of the megaproducer’s horrible sexual misconduct were whispered about for decades, he seemed too powerful and too legally protected for his behavior to ever see the daylight of public consciousness. Once the NYT story broke, and the disgraced mogul immediately faced financial, social, and legal consequences, a dam burst. Suddenly, women in many different fields felt emboldened to share their stories, leading to a purge of shady men overdue for comeuppances. Of course, the Weinstein story and the resultant #MeToo movement ultimately led to accusations of “witch hunt”-y overreach, some coming directly from the president, culminating in the flashpoint of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in September 2018. This entire period, from Weinstein to Kavanaugh, is chronicled in exacting detail in She Said, an explosive new book out today, from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the reporters who broke the Weinstein story.
Although the final third of the book is devoted to Christine Blasey Ford’s journey to testifying against Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, the bulk of She Said is about the authors’ efforts to report on Weinstein. Featuring fresh reporting around the legal system and corporate culture that stymied the reporters’ efforts, the story plays on the page like a Spotlight-style newsroom thriller, with similar moral stakes and complexity. Readers learn about Kantor and Twohey’s dogged efforts to get around settlement agreements without breaking them, with the help of brave women like former Weinstein assistant Laura Madden who knew of such agreements but were not bound by them.
In an era where great journalism can easily be waved away by malicious actors as fake news, it’s reassuring to learn about how much effort can go into reporting a story with the potential for historic consequences.
Here are 15 revelations from the book that illuminate what the reporters were up against and how several brave women helped them overcome the impediments in their way.
- Rose McGowan initially turned down even an off-the-record interview with Kantor because of perceived sexism at the New York Times, some of it directed toward her specifically. “The NYT needs to look at itself for sexism issues,” she wrote. “I’m not that inclined to help.”
- It was difficult for Kantor and Twohey to even get in touch with the actresses they wanted to speak with for the story, since they couldn’t exactly ask agents or publicists. They pieced together some leads through shoe-leather reporting, but the real breakthroughs came from Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham, who had caught wind of plenty of Weinstein intel over the years, and who wanted to tell the story through their Lenny Letter, but didn’t have the investigative journalism resources or wherewithal. Gwyneth Paltrow, who eventually shared her own Weinstein story on the record, was also essential in getting contact information.
- While Paltrow was talking with the reporters and grappling with whether to go on the record about Harvey Weinstein, the producer became suspicious of her. He invited himself to a party she threw during the summer of 2017, arriving early in an effort to confront her. Paltrow hid out upstairs and called Kantor to ask what to do.
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cannot reveal anything publicly about companies that make sexual harassment settlements, even though it’s all known internally. A woman contemplating a job offer cannot check to see how many times a company—say, for instance, The Weinstein Company—has had to settle sexual harassment lawsuits.
- According to Zoe Perkins, a Weinstein assistant who went on the record for the NYT story, every morning she (or another assistant) had to “rouse the partially or fully nude Weinstein out of bed in his hotel room, and turn on his shower, as if he could not rotate the handle himself. Sometimes Weinstein tried to pull Perkins into bed with him.” Another assistant advised Perkins to sit in armchairs instead of sofas to avoid his come-ons. Additional duties included supplying Weinstein with the injectable erectile dysfunction drug Caverject.
- At the end of most business trips, Weinstein would reward the assistants with lavish gifts. “He would just hand out the cash, which was your blood money,” Perkins says. “You’d come back from trips with him with a weird comedown of guilt and relief you’d survived.”
- The settlement requirements Weinstein used to silence those he’d allegedly abused were extremely stringent. Zoe Perkins, for instance, was not allowed to speak to anybody about her time working with Miramax at all. Any “medical professional” she spoke with would have to sign a confidentiality agreement. She couldn’t tell her accountant where the settlement money came from. There is also language in the agreement that suggests she would have to help conceal the truth if it ever came out. She wasn’t even allowed to look at the agreement in full without going to her lawyer’s office. “For me, the bigger trauma is what happened with the lawyers,” Perkins says.
- Gloria Allred, a powerful lawyer who helped actor Ashley Matthau negotiate a settlement for Harvey’s sexual abuse in exchange for her silence later lobbied hard to shut down California state legislator Connie Levya’s proposed legislation to ban confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements, because (in her opinion) sexual harassers would never make payments without the promise of silence.
- When Weinstein’s lawyer, the notorious Lanny Davis, first came to the New York Times to talk about the then building story, part of his pitch was to spin it into a story about Harvey Weinstein seeing the error of his ways (which would be downplayed dramatically) and becoming an ally to women. Needless to say, this pitch was not received seriously.
- It is strongly suggested that Weinstein helped retain one of his lawyers, the famous David Boies, in the midst of allegations that might have been rather troubling to some people by helping Boies’s daughter, an aspiring actress. In the book, the authors reveal a note from David O. Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook, a Weinstein Company film, asking whether Harvey “wanted/needed to do something first with David Boies” before he cast Boies’s daughter, Mary Regency, in a small role.
- Lisa Bloom emerges in She Said as an Aunt Lydia-style villain of the patriarchy. Although she boasts feminist credentials, Bloom was one of Weinstein’s lawyers, and the details of her tactics throughout the book point toward seriously compromised morals. In January 2017, she meets with lawyer Tom Ajamie, who is alarmed at what he finds by looking into Weinstein’s records for another matter. During this meeting, Bloom claims she has never heard of any complaints about Weinstein’s treatment of women, However, in an email presented in the book, it’s clear that Bloom is already working hard to defend Weinstein against Rose McGowan, presenting her past professional experience as a singular advantage: “I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world, because I have represented so many of them. They start out as impressive, bold women, but the more one presses for evidence, the weaknesses and lies are revealed.” After Ajamie rejects Weinstein’s efforts to buy his silence with an NDA, Bloom asks him to reconsider. “He can really help your career,” she says.
- In 2014, Weinstein Company board member Irwin Reiter confronted Harvey Weinstein in an email about his treatment of women, writing “Stop doing bad shit.” Weinstein allegedly began referring to Reiter as “the sex police” around the office afterward.
- As the NYT headed toward publishing its story, Harvey Weinstein called an IT tech and demanded to delete a document called “HW Friends,” a list of names and contact information for women, organized by city. This language mirrors how his assistants recount having to arrange encounters with “Friends of Harvey.”
- Weinstein also showed up at the NYT office with Lisa Bloom, unannounced, just before publication, making threats to smear Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd with information from their past. Later, at almost the zero hour of publication, Weinstein threatened to go to the Washington Post and tell (a surely watered-down version of) his side of the story to get ahead of the NYT piece.
- Ashley Judd remained only a maybe to go on the record until the very end. It came down to the wire, but she finally agreed during the final 48 hours leading up to the article’s publication, lending the article the necessary level of credibility it required. Once the piece came out, Judd immediately went on a camping vacation and made sure to stay far away from Twitter.