Nonfiction — print. Penguin Press, 2019. 310 pgs. Library copy.
Subtitled “Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement”, Kantor and Twohey’s book recounts the events leading up to their October 5, 2017 publication of a piece in the New York Times outlining how Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexual harassed and abused women in his employment for decades. The two show how nondisclosure agreements silenced the women who did come forward, preventing them from sharing their stories or warning other women. As Kantor and Twohey work to unearth these settlements, Weinstein and his team of lawyers try to thwart the investigation and derail its publication.
As readers know, though, the story was published — launching the #MeToo era on social media and in public discord. Other women come forward detailing the abuse they suffered at the hands of other powerful men, including Matt Lauer of NBC and Charlie Rose of CBS. In the middle of this reckoning, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court with Christine Blasey Ford coming forward to testify that he had assaulted her decades earlier, raising the question of how much has changed in the time since the Weinstein report.
Through pg. 184, I found this a compelling reminder of how important journalism can be for enacting change in peoples’ lives. Kantor and Twohey worked tirelessly to bring allegations against Harvey Weinstein to light, shifting their tactic when his victims were unable to go on record to find the legal documents to prove what people had spoken about in whispers for years. It is clear they worked tirelessly yet respectfully to break this story, and I appreciated having a view into their workflow, feeling every bit of their frustration when Gwyneth Paltrow wouldn’t go on record and horror when lawyers who supposedly champion for women start working for Weinstein.
After pg. 184, the story shifts to include Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, and I found myself wondering why the story was included at all. I understand it was supposed to be the culmination of the #MeToo movement — a movement their subtitle says they sparked — and it also serves as a counterbalance to the semi-feel-good, ‘We Got Him’ conclusion to the Weinstein story, showing just has far women still have to go to be believed.
But Ford’s allegations were not broken by Kantor or Twohey or even the New York Times. (They were covered by a female reporter at the Washington Post.) The “unique access” the cover blurb claims these two reporters had was one pre-hearing meet-and-greet with Ford and a view from the room during Ford’s testimony. So, there is no firsthand knowledge to be gleamed from their telling of events as there was with the Weinstein story. As such, their prevention of Ford’s story is very dry and emotionless, especially compared to the first story covered in the book. Left me feeling like the story shouldn’t have been included at all…