Just finished She Said, the great new book by Megan Twohey and Jodi Cantor of The New York Times.
The book is part detective story a la All the President’s Men and part tribute to the women who despite big odds, screwed up the courage to come forward about Weinstein’s sexual predations, assaults, and behavior.
As journalism, the book is riveting and goes far beyond the stories Kantor and Twohey published in The Times. It details the lengths Weinstein and his thugs went over decades to silence these women and anyone else who moved against them.
It is all there. The power over those who worked for him, the cowardice of the men and women around him who could have done something about it, and the sheer courage of women with little to gain by coming forward.
By now we know the details about Weinstein. But they fade from memory amid the onslaught of news about others like him: Trump (multiple cases of sexual assault), former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly ($32 million payment to his victims but still a best-selling author), and many more.
These guys grew fat and happy with money and power and thought they could keep it going. It is too soon to tell whether the system works when it comes to sexual assault. Trump is after all the president of the United States and no matter what happens with impeachment, he will always be a celebrity to whom people will be willing to pay money.
Kantor and Twohey pursue the kind of investigative reporting that is enjoying a comeback. They are relentless, focused, and willing to jump on a plane to meet with sources. They’re backed by The Times, which continues to value and pay for this kind of journalism.
The book’s last chapter, which describes a meeting at the Hollywood home of Gwyneth Paltrow, is especially good. While Paltrow resisted coming forward in the early stages of the story, she hosted the reporters and the Weinstein victims at her home for two days for talks about what Weinstein had done to them.
Startling was the appearance of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s victim Christine Blasey Ford, who gave many hours of interviews for the book since her excruciating appearance before the Senate Judiciary committee.
Ford and others give us a rare view of the courage it takes to come forward and the clear conclusion that doing so rarely improves their lives. It is a lesson for whistleblowers and others seeking to hold power accountable that powerful people — even if brought low by scandal — usually emerge unscathed. Trump is president; O’Reilly sells millions of books, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer are humiliated at Hamptons cocktail parties but are otherwise secure in their wealthy lifestyles.
On this point, other authors have followed up, notably the great Rebecca Traister for New York Magazine. Traister has detailed what happened to several women who have come forward in the Me Too era. It’s not pretty.
Contrary to the Fox News crowd who say these women seek money and fame, they all report lives enormously hurt by their actions. Some would not do it again.
Lastly, what stands out about the book are the people who went along with Weinstein and helped him destroy the reputations of innocent women. This is an underreported fact of the story. Among some of the worst:
David Boies — the famous lawyer who comes off as a street thug willing to sell out his client The New York Times and signs off on the hiring of a shady Israeli intelligence firm to dig up dirt and intimidate women. His behavior is a disgusting example of what money and fame do to people who should know better.
Lisa Bloom and Gloria Allred— the mother-daughter legal team that made millions (by taking 40% contingency fees from female victims) and steered the Weinstein victims away from suing or speaking out.
Lanny Davis — the crisis communications lawyer (who represents Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen and is friends with Hilary Clinton) who constantly helps Weinstein shape his story and avoid detection and responsibility. Davis is an especially slippery character, active on Twitter for his clients, sitting strategically behind Cohen at Congressional testimony so the TV cameras (and future clients) can see him. But in the end, Davis is always trying to submarine journalists and help Weinstein avoid justice.
It is folks like Boies and Davis who make money by keeping the powerful old boys network in place in New York and Washington, D.C. This book does a great job of disclosing the truth behind their dastardly deeds.
Twohey and Kantor spoke about their book and their work at the Vermont Women’s Fund conference in Burlington, VT this week and you should not miss any chance to see them or read their work. Look for them in The New York Times and support their journalism so they continue righting the world.