“We really felt like we couldn’t stop,” said New York Times journalist Megan Twohey, who, along with Jodi Kantor, exposed Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator in their 2017 Pulitzer Prize–winning reporting. “We wanted to push into the year that followed as the MeToo movement took off in earnest and things got more complicated.” And that is exactly what they did in their new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement, which hit stores last month.
She Said gives startling details into the depth of Weinstein’s sexual harassment web; a behind-the-scenes view into Twohey and Kantor’s reporting process; how Christine Blasey Ford became an unwitting hero of the MeToo movement; and how, two years on, the lives of the women who spoke out against Weinstein (and others) have changed. In a recent phone conversation with Twohey, we delved into the content of She Said.
Your book is riveting. There were questions that were swirling around, and confusion, and we really wanted to report into those. … Which is why, once we were able to get access to Christine Blasey Ford, we really felt like that was the right vehicle through which to explore some of those complicated questions. … We realized once we were able to piece together the behind-the-scenes story of her private path to testifying in Washington that it was so much more complicated than either side could have ever imagined. And that it also really encompassed several of the really pressing questions that we’re dealing with in the MeToo era, such as what behaviors are under scrutiny? How far back do we go when vetting these types of complaints? What is the system for determining what’s happened? And what does accountability look like? What should it look like? How should it be doled out?
How do you go from breaking the story to changing society? We are always very explicit about the role that we play as journalists. We’re not activists, we’re not policymakers, we’re not in the business of providing our opinions or lobbying for anything specific. But we really feel like you can’t solve a problem that you can’t see. And so, our job is to work to unearth the facts and expose the truth.
One thing I found really distressing was Lisa Bloom’s collusion with Weinstein. She was one of the most prominent feminist attorneys in the country, one of the most vocal victims’ rights advocates, and in 2016 she crossed over to work for Weinstein. … We obtained internal, confidential records … including a memo that she sent to him in 2016 in which she spelled out all of the underhanded tactics she was going to use to help him undermine one of his accusers, Rose McGowan. She was basically saying, “I’m going to take all of my experience working with victims, harness that experience, and use it to help you use it to work against victims.” It was really one of the most jaw-dropping moments in the course of our reporting.
The lengths that Weinstein went to try to squelch the story were alarming, such as hiring Black Cube. It certainly came as a shock to us that Weinstein had hired this investigative firm made up of former Israeli intelligence officials, and had executed a contract in which they were promised a $300,000 bonus if they could bring our investigation to a stop. … It’s not unusual for powerful figures to hire private investigators, but this is of a whole other order. I mean, these were people who adopted fake identities, pretended to be women’s advocates and journalists working on stories for publications in an effort to try to manipulate targets and extract information.
I was amazed by how far-reaching the problem of harassment is and that it’s hard to know who to trust. I think that you’re right to see this on a really large scale, that this wasn’t a story about an individual predator. This is really an x-ray into abuse of power, and the systems and individuals that enable abuses of power, and the individuals and institutions that become complicit. But it’s also a story of how brave individuals can help, can, in fact, stand up to bullies and how the truth can win and help bring about major social change.
4•1•1 | UCSB Arts & Lectures presents an evening with Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor Saturday, October 12, 7:30 p.m., at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Call 893-3535 or see artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.