(NEW YORK ) — New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey sent shockwaves through media and popular culture when they published an explosive article exposing years of alleged sexual abuse covered up by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The article, “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades,” published Oct. 5, 2017, included detailed accounts of alleged abuses inflicted by Weinstein on actresses, models, and former Weinstein employees. Kantor and Twohey uncovered nearly three decades of previously undisclosed allegations against the movie mogul.
“Very early on, we had some convincing evidence that something was really, really wrong here and once we understood that better, we were so worried about botching the story and somehow failing,” Kantor told ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of the No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis podcast. “We had visions of having to watch the Oscars for the rest of our lives having to keep this material about Harvey Weinstein secret.”
The bombshell report had a ripple effect. Over the next year, there was a deluge of reports of alleged sexual assault and harassment perpetrated by men across all industries and backgrounds. Between October 2017 and September 2018, there was a 12% increase in sexual harassment complaints filed, according to the EEOC and a 50% increase during the fiscal year of 2018.
The #MeToo movement, which had started in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence find healing, gained unprecedented momentum. Days after Kantor and Twohey’s report, actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter, posting: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The hashtag #MeToo went viral. There were more than a million tweets within 48 hours, according to Twitter, and on Facebook, there were over 12 million posts, comments, and reactions in less than 24 hours, by 4.7 million users around the world, according to the company.
But at the time, Kantor and Twohey said they didn’t know the impact their investigation and article would have. Twohey remembered a moment days before publishing when she and Kantor questioned if anyone would even care about the story.
“We’ve been working around the clock, and we left the office at 1 o’clock in the morning and shared a cab back to Brooklyn, and turned to each other in that rare moment of silence and said, ‘Is anybody going to read this story?’ because we were not thinking along those lines. We were just so focused on trying to get to the finish line and publish our findings.” Twohey told Jarvis.
“As one of our editors said many times, Harvey Weinstein is not that famous,” Kantor said.
Kantor and Twohey would go on to win the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for their reporting, and today they are the bestselling authors of “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped to Ignite a Movement.”
Their book takes readers inside their investigation, overcoming obstacles and naysayers, shifting through documents, and working with sources, making them feel comfortable to come forward publicly.
“Our sources were so brave … I mean, we now have a better understanding of the degree of manipulation and intimidation that Weinstein employed. Back then, it was more this vague sense of what will he do to stop this story,” Kantor said.
“It’s easy to look back at Me Too and think it was inevitable, but it wasn’t, and before the story was published, we did not know what reaction these women would get,” she added.
Their book also details new reporting that has unfolded since their first article, including an interview from Bob Weinstein, brother of Harvey Weinstein.
“I would call him [Bob Weinstein], and he would basically bark at me and hang up. And finally last year he agreed to a meeting… and slowly but surely started to open up about what he saw and what he knew and what he tried to do about it.” Twohey said.
Kantor says the goal of the book is to bring the reader behind the scenes of their investigation and to examine the “complexity and the controversy of Me Too.” It is for the latter reason, she said, they chose to write about Christine Blasey Ford, who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school. Kantor says that she and Twohey felt that Blasey Ford’s testimony encapsulated “everything that has become so important but so complicated about Me Too.”
“We think that it comes down to three questions, three unanswered, unresolved questions. One is, what is the scope of behavior that’s under scrutiny here? Secondly … what is the process by which these complaints are being vetted and evaluated, and thirdly, what does accountability look like? What does punishment look like? And I think that there has not been a resolution on those three questions,” Twohey said.
Kantor and Twohey believe their roles as reporters are to expose injustices and to represent the voices of women. They call it their version of feminism, and it’s something they both have done throughout their careers and will continue to do.
“We’ve devoted our lives basically to fact and our version of feminism, which is not the kind of activist feminism, it’s the feminism of putting women’s stories into the paper, making sure that these voices are represented, that these secrets that need to be exposed, are exposed [and] of holding powerful men who mistreat women in one way or another to account,” Kantor said.
While Kantor and Twohey have spent decades exposing the truth, they recognize that the larger systematic problem is not their responsibility to solve.
“You can’t solve a problem you can’t see, and what we can contribute is getting other people to see it as clearly as possible. But this has got to be solved through public debate, through policy and the legal system kicking into gear.” Kantor said.
Hear from Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor on episode 132 of the No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis podcast.
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