Controversial NBC News president Noah Oppenheim quietly exited his division and was given a vague new gig last week, more than five years after he was largely blamed for refusing to expose since-disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator.
Oppenheim famously told Ronan Farrow that his Weinstein reporting wasn’t up to snuff, so Farrow took it to The New Yorker where it won the Pulitzer Prize and helped launch the #MeToo movement. Rich McHugh, an investigative journalist who spent a year working directly with Farrow as NBC’s supervising producer for his Weinstein coverage, still blames Oppenheim for the decision to spike their reporting.
“Weinstein’s best PR person,” McHugh told Fox News Digital via text message once news of Oppenheim’s departure broke.
McHugh and Farrow attempted to hold Oppenheim, who was well liked by many staffers, accountable for years. McHugh penned a 2019 Vanity Fair piece that placed blame directly on Oppenheim and then-NBC News chairman Andy Lack.
“They not only intervened to shut down our investigation of Weinstein, they even refused to allow me to follow up on our work after Weinstein’s history of sexual assault became front-page news,” he wrote.
Oppenheim’s eyebrow raising exit was buried in an NBC News press release that focused on New York Times journalist Rebecca Blumenstein taking a new position at NBC News that will consume many of his responsibilities.
The seventh paragraph noted that “Oppenheim, who has led NBC News as President since February 2017, will continue to work closely with NBCU in a new capacity, developing scripts and longform productions in partnership with NBCUniversal.”
It has been rumored that Oppenheim, who moonlighted as a Hollywood screenwriter during his time at NBC and wrote the acclaimed film “Jackie,” was eager to ditch news and focus on filmmaking. NBC News insiders have felt that he’s had one foot out the door since he was passed over for the chairman role when Lack retired in 2020.
Instead of promoting Oppenheim, NBC brought in then-Univision honcho Cesar Conde to oversee NBCUniversal’s news assets. A little over two years later, Oppenheim is out and Blumenstein will report directly to Conde.
NBC’s press release insists Oppenheim is still part of the NBCUniversal family, but insiders have pondered what his new gig actually entails and whether it’s simply a face-saving move for a company looking to remove its skeletons.
“Noah Oppenheim had very little authority and it wasn’t clear what he did day to day, so this restructuring does little other than remove him after he deeply embarrassed NBC News with how he handled the Harvey Weinstein story. NBC delayed his firing by two years to let him save face. I would be very surprised if any of his screen projects are produced or even optioned by NBCUniversal,” an NBC insider told Fox News Digital.
NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to a series of questions, including if Oppenheim is guaranteed money in this deal, if there is an agreement his projects will be purchased and whether he will have office space on the Universal lot.
Farrow, who didn’t respond to a request for comment on Oppenheim’s exit from NBC News, didn’t hold back in his 2019 book “Catch and Kill.” The book detailed Farrow’s version of why NBC refused to expose Weinstein – which included allegations that the disgraced movie mogul leveraged the knowledge of former NBC News anchor Matt Lauer’s own misconduct.
The book suggested Oppenheim wasn’t truthful regarding knowledge of Lauer’s alleged misconduct. Farrow also described Oppenheim as a “doe-eyed stoner whose mellow seemed impossible to harsh” and said they “laughed about his stories of getting high.”
Oppenheim long maintained that Farrow simply had “an axe to grind” against NBC.
After the Weinstein and Lauer scandals became public, NBC refused to hire an outside investigator to determine who knew about Lauer’s sexual misconduct and whether NBC executives looked the other way. Oppenheim was the executive in charge of “Today” for two years during the Lauer era.
Instead of a white-shoe law firm, NBC relied on in-house general counsel Kim Harris despite widespread calls for an outside law firm to conduct the review. Harris eventually announced that Oppenheim, Lack and other executives were completely oblivious to Lauer’s behavior.
The results of the NBC review were mocked by media watchdogs and NBC employees alike, while former NBC News host Ann Curry said she did not participate despite expressing publicly to the Washington Post that she had complained to senior NBC News executives about Lauer’s behavior.
A group of high-powered women in media sent a harshly worded letter to NBC parent company Comcast demanding answers. The letter urged its board of directors to “override NBC’s decision and launch a full investigation of sexual misconduct within the news division.”
A different women’s group even protested outside NBC’s New York City headquarters, and then-presidential candidates Tom Steyer and Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren signed a 2019 letter urging the Democratic National Committee to take action ahead of a primary debate on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow even attacked the NBC network over its handling of the Weinstein scandal.
Despite all the negative attention and calls for change coming from all sides, NBCUniversal publicly stood by Oppenheim, and he remained in power at NBC News until last week.