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Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement
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On October 5, 2017, the New York Times ran an exposé detailing years of sexual misconduct by famed film producer Harvey Weinstein. She Said (2019) tells the story behind the story, tracing how two investigative journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, uncovered one of the biggest news events of the decade and helped galvanize the #MeToo moment. Told by the journalists themselves, this book recounts how tenacious reporting can transform decades of abuse into a worldwide movement.
Key idea 1 of 11
The investigation into Harvey Weinstein began with an email exchange.
The investigation began in May 2017 with a tentative email exchange between New York Times investigative reporter Jodi Kantor and actress Rose McGowan.
McGowan, an A-list film and television actress, was known for her outspoken Twitter feed documenting everyday sexism in the media industry. Kantor, who had worked at the Times for 14 years, had a track record of covering gender discrimination at major corporations like Starbucks and Amazon.
McGowan had recently tweeted a personal story about her rape at the hands of a Hollywood producer. She had not named names, but rumors hinted that the perpetrator was the media mogul, Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein, an industry powerhouse, was known for turning young talents, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence, into superstars. He was also politically connected, raising money for prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.
After some initial reluctance, McGowan told Kantor her full story, but only off-the-record. The details were shocking. According to McGowan, she met Weinstein in 1997 at the Sundance Film Festival, where he invited her to his hotel room under the pretext of talking business. After a brief exchange in the room, he forced himself on her without consent. Frightened and caught off guard, McGowan was unable to escape.
A few days later, McGowan received a message from the producer, hinting that the two could have a special arrangement. Disgusted with the offer, the actress hired a lawyer, who extracted a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein on the condition that the matter would be kept private.
Kantor had no reason to doubt the account, but such explosive allegations would have to be corroborated, otherwise the incident could easily become a case of “he said, she said.” With this in mind, she sought the advice of her editor, Rebecca Corbett, who suggested digging deeper before publishing anything.
Corbett also suggested enlisting the help of one of the Times’s newest reporters, Megan Twohey. Twohey, who joined the paper in February 2016, had already made waves reporting on numerous sexual assault allegations against then-presidential candidate, Donald Trump. The reporting had set off a media circus, and many of the women she interviewed experienced harassment for coming forward.
Kantor called Twohey, who was on maternity leave, and the two reporters discussed the challenge ahead. If they worked together, maybe they could find a way to expose the widespread harassment faced by so many women, as well as the system that protected the powerful men who committed it.