NBC News tried to thwart an investigation into sexual harassment claims against former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein by calling off and even threatening its own journalists, media reports said.
According to reports in The New York Times and Daily Beast, NBC sought to stop the investigation led by journalist Ronan Farrow and producer Rich McHugh. NBC denied the reports.
McHugh was quoted by the Times as saying he was told after spending months on the investigation not to interview one of Weinstein's accusers and that the order came from "the very highest levels of NBC."
"Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to L.A. to interview a woman with a credible rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein, I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman, and to stand down on the story altogether," McHugh, who left NBC in mid-August, told the daily.
The Daily Beast, meanwhile, citing unnamed sources, reported that NBC, pressured by Weinstein's lawyers, threatened to "smear" Farrow if he kept pursuing the Weinstein story.
Farrow later took the story to The New Yorker, where its publication sparked a series of investigations against Weinstein that ultimately led to criminal charges and inspired the #MeToo movement by victims of sexual harassment.
NBC, a unit of Comcast, denied the allegations, repeating its claim that Farrow had failed to obtain credible accounts before leaving the network.
"The assertion that NBC News tried to kill the Weinstein story while Ronan Farrow was at NBC News, or even more ludicrously, after he left NBC News, is an outright lie," NBC said in an emailed statement on Friday.
NBC said that in August 2017, after eight months of reporting efforts "Farrow believed his reporting was ready for air" but that the network disagreed because "he did not yet have a single victim of -- or witness to -- misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified."
The spokesperson said that when Farrow decided to take his investigation to The New Yorker, "NBC News told him 'we will not stand in your way.'"
The television group said the victims named in the print report were not available when Farrow was at NBC.
Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize for his articles on Weinstein starting in October 2017.
After the Weinstein story broke, star NBC host Matt Lauer was forced to resign over sexual harassment allegations, and former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw has faced accusations of unwanted advances.