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Report: Harvey Weinstein tried to stop publication of sex allegations

Benjamin Norman/The New York Times/file 2015

Harvey Weinstein reportedly hired ex-Mossad agents to block a negative story about him.

By Jim Rutenberg New York Times 

NEW YORK — Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein used a web of private detectives, lawyers, and even undercover former Mossad agents in a failed effort to stop The New York Times and The New Yorker from publishing their October investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him.

The cloak-and-dagger undertaking, detailed in a report on The New Yorker’s website Monday, included the use of an agent who posed as a women’s rights advocate to befriend and spy on one accuser, the actress Rose McGowan. The same agent posed as a woman with a possible allegation against Weinstein in an attempt to lure journalists into sharing information about other possible accusers, according to the magazine’s report, which relied heavily on internal Weinstein documents and e-mails.

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A contract with one of at least three private investigation firms that Weinstein employed, Black Cube, listed its “primary objectives” as providing “intelligence which will help the client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY Newspaper” and obtaining content from a book that was to include “harmful, negative information on and about the client.” The magazine identified the newspaper as The New York Times and the book author as McGowan, who has stepped forward to allege that Weinstein raped her. (He has denied forcing women into “nonconsensual sex.”)

The contract, which the magazine published on its website, had as its signatory a Weinstein lawyer, David Boies, a Democratic Party stalwart who argued for marriage equality at the Supreme Court and represented Al Gore in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Boies’ firm, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, provided the Times with outside legal counsel in three libel cases over the past 10 years, including two that are in progress, and the newspaper released a stern statement about Boies’ involvement in the effort to undermine its reporting and its reporters on Monday night.

“We learned today that the law firm of Boies Schiller and Flexner secretly worked to stop our reporting on Harvey Weinstein at the same time as the firm’s lawyers were representing us in other matters,” the statement read. “We consider this intolerable conduct, a grave betrayal of trust, and a breach of the basic professional standards that all lawyers are required to observe. It is inexcusable and we will be pursuing appropriate remedies.”

On Monday night, David McCraw, The Times’ deputy general counsel, declined to say what those remedies might be. But, he said, “I think that what they owe us is an explanation of what actually happened,” adding, “We need to know much more.”

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Boies did not respond to an e-mail inquiry on Monday. But he told The New Yorker that while he oversaw the contract, he himself did not select the firm or direct its agents. And while he said he did not believe his work for Weinstein and his firm’s representation of The Times represented a conflict, “We should not have been contracting and paying investigators that we did not select and direct.”

Black Cube promotes itself as “a select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units.”

One of its agents posed as a potential Weinstein accuser to secure two meetings with Ben Wallace, a New York magazine reporter who was pursuing a Weinstein article that never came to be. She also reached out to one of the two lead Times reporters on the Weinstein story, Jodi Kantor, The New Yorker reported, an attempt that went nowhere.

Kantor was also investigated, along with the New Yorker reporter on the Weinstein story, Ronan Farrow, by another firm Weinstein hired, PSOPS. The firm had been used, as well, to dig up dirt on accusers like McGowan, producing one long briefing that included a subheading that read, “Past Lovers,” The New Yorker reported.

Weinstein’s habit of using investigators to undermine accusers and reporters dates back more than a decade, according to the New Yorker article published on Monday, which was also written by Farrow. The magazine reported that Weinstein had used Kroll “to dig up unflattering information” about the former New York Times media columnist David Carr, who died in 2015, when Carr was working on an article about Weinstein in the early 2000s for New York magazine. The article quotes from a report about Carr that Weinstein’s investigators produced, noting that he had learned of McGowan’s allegations.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein, Sallie Hofmeister, denied Weinstein had assigned a private eye to look into Carr when The Times asked her about it last month. Hofmeister did not respond to e-mails on Monday night.