NBC tried to downplay ties between ousted Today host Matt Lauer, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and NBC News president Noah Oppenheim by hiring a "Wikipedia whitewasher," Ronan Farrow has claimed.
In his first interview about his new book Catch and Kill, which chronicles the story behind Farrow's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct and similar claims against Lauer, Farrow told The Hollywood Reporter that NBC used several tactics to distance itself from Lauer and Weinstein in the wake of separate misconduct scandals engulfing both in late 2017.
This included, according to The Hollywood Reporter article published Wednesday, "employing a Wikipedia whitewasher to 'unbraid references to Oppenheim, Weinstein and Lauer' after the allegations became public." This, among other tactics such as paying off accusers in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement, Farrow said, "is not an appropriate corporate practice when you are a news outlet."
"Wikipedia whitewashing," or "wikiwashing," refers to the practice of sanitizing Wikipedia entries—which can be publicly edited—to one's benefit. This could include omitting information that might harm public perception of a company, as Farrow accuses NBC of doing, or emphasizing positive attributes.
The use of professional, paid editors acting in the interests of clients has also been scrutinized in the past. In 2013, Wikipedia banned 250 fake accounts that were found to belong to operatives of public relations firm Wiki-PR and used to edit pages belonging to the firm's clients in a favorable manner.
In 2014, Wikipedia introduced a new policy that means paid editors must declare they are being paid to make edits and disclose their employer and client—often the subject of the page being edited.
In 2015, the celebrity public relations firm Sunshine Sachs admitted it had violated the new policy by making edits to pages of its clients, including Naomi Campbell, without divulging the potential conflicts of interest.
Farrow's new book Catch and Kill contains allegations that Lauer raped an NBC News colleague while covering the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
In an interview detailed in the book, Brooke Nevils claimed that Lauer raped her anally. "It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent," Nevils said, according to Variety. "It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn't want to have anal sex."
Lauer was fired in November 2017 after Nevils filed a formal complaint with NBC. NBC has said it wasn't aware of allegations against Lauer before Nevils' formal complaint, but Farrow claims otherwise.
NBC News did not return a request for comment.