“Be sure your sins will find you out” may encourage those who know the real story of power abusers, yet decades can sweep past with little or no justice. The story of famous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was nearly that: a dark secret of alleged harassment, abuse, and assault.
His brother knew and wouldn’t tell. His company knew and wouldn’t tell. The abused knew and couldn’t tell.
And then two gutsy New York Times investigative reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, came on the job.
She Said tells the story of their determined search for evidence against Weinstein. How could they persuade publicity-thrashed actresses like Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow to speak on the record? What evidence could unlock the secret that so many benefited in keeping? How could someone who wielded his power in unholy ways be checked?
She Said also reveals the wolves who only appear to help victims. Take lawyer Lisa Bloom, daughter of Gloria Allred, who appeared to care for victims. Documents show how Bloom was part of Weinstein’s defense team. For $895/hour, she schooled him on “positive reputation management.” In a memo, Bloom suggests ways to discredit actress Rose McGowan from “initiating friendly contact” to “counter-ops online campaign.”
Kantor and Twohey shine. Their pitbull commitment to truth-telling is worthy. The stress was enormous. When one got an unexpected “yes, I’ll go on record” from an actress, she wept.
The story is a tutorial on what a fair and careful journalist must do. It also shows how to reap the paper trail. What initially unearthed Weinstein’s alleged sins weren’t the words of actresses. It was the paper trail left by nondisclosure agreement after nondisclosure agreement.
It takes a village to let the Harveys get away with alleged harassment and abuse. Like that day at the end of the meeting when Harvey sucker punches his business partner and brother, Bob, and blood gushes out his nose. Kantor and Twohey write, “No one, not even Bob, did anything to hold his brother accountable for the violence.”
The book is disturbing. Obviously.
I’d hate, though, to be one who avoids the discomfort. I would never want to be part of that village that hides and enables power abuse for years.
The last quarter of the book—after the first Weinstein article breaks—drooped for a few pages before energy picked up as Kantor and Twohey cover Christine Blasey Ford’s stand against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
For their 2017 Weinstein investigation, Kantor and Twohey won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
She Said is a compelling read on the value of careful journalism that lights dark secrets. (Penguin)