The title of Ronan Farrow’s upcoming #MeToo exposé, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, is a reference to the practice of editors buying exclusive rights to a story that contains incriminating information, then burying it as a way of protecting the publication or its powerful allies. So it’s apropos that Farrow, in attempting to expose the media’s practice of suppressing information, is facing a lawsuit from a powerful publisher attempting to do exactly that.
Dylan Howard, an executive at the mega-tabloid publisher American Media Inc., is suing Farrow and his publisher Little Brown Book Group Limited in an attempt to prevent Catch and Kill from being published. According to the book description, Catch and Kill tells the story of “surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability and silence victims of abuse.”
Howard has retained attorneys in New York, London, and Sydney to reportedly send threatening letters to the publisher, as well as to stores that plan to stock the book when it comes out on October 15th, according to the Daily Beast. In a letter sent to the British bookstore chain Hive Store Limited, a representative for Howard alleged that Catch and Kill contains “false and defamatory” allegations about Howard. “We have put the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group Limited on notice that, if the offending content is included in the book, we are instructed to take such legal action as may be appropriate,” the letter said, advising the bookseller “that the offending references to our client [be] removed prior to distribution by your company.”
So who, exactly, is Howard, and why is he so worried about Farrow’s book? Howard is the vice president and chief content officer at American Media Inc., the company that owns US Weekly, In Touch, and a number of other tabloids, including the National Enquirer. Much of Farrow’s reporting on powerful men’s attempts to silence, discredit, and intimidate survivors of sexual assault has been focused on AMI, particularly its alleged efforts to “catch and kill” stories containing incriminating information about the company’s allies.
In 2017, Farrow reported in the New Yorker that Howard had sent a reporter to discredit sexual assault allegations made by the actress Rose McGowan against Harvey Weinstein, the now-disgraced Hollywood mogul. In one 2016 email, Howard informed Weinstein about an interview one of his reporters did with the ex-wife of director Robert Rodriguez, who briefly dated McGowan after their divorce, which supposedly contained information that could discredit McGowan. “I have something AMAZING . . . eventually she laid into Rose pretty hard,” Howard said in a 2016 email to Weinstein about the interview.
In a statement to the New Yorker, Howard said that he had asked the reporter to collect information on Weinstein as part of the due diligence process, as AMI had a (now-defunct) production agreement with Weinstein at the time. Howard denied that he had violated journalistic protocol by providing “‘off the record information to Mr. Weinstein,” and said that he “resisted Mr. Weinstein’s repeated efforts to have AMI titles publish favorable stories about him or negative articles about his accusers.”
Howard’s name surfaced again in Farrow’s 2018 New Yorker reporting about David Pecker, the CEO of AMI and a longtime friend of Donald Trump. In the piece, Farrow alleged that AMI paid Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Trump, a six-figure sum for exclusive rights to her story, offering her the opportunity to pen almost one hundred columns for the company and potentially collaborate on a skincare line, neither of which came to fruition. Farrow reported that the company regularly engaged in such “catch and kill” agreements, and that AMI did not publish any stories critical of Trump without Pecker’s permission. When another New Yorker journalist attempted to interview McDougal for a separate story about AMI, Howard was allegedly dispatched by AMI to keep her happy, engaging her in discussions about potentially hosting AMI’s future awards show coverage (which also did not come to fruition).
In a separate 2018 New Yorker story, Farrow reported that AMI had similarly paid off a former Trump Tower doorman who alleged that Trump had fathered a child with one of his employees in the 1980s. When the Associated Press tried to report on the National Enquirer buying and burying the story, Farrow reported that AMI dispatched a legal team led by Howard to discredit the source and successfully prevent the AP from running the story.
In addition to more information about AMI and Howard, Farrow’s book also reportedly contains new details about NBC’s handling of its investigation into Matt Lauer, the former Today Show anchor who was fired after a former staffer accused him of sexual misconduct. Farrow’s book will reportedly publicly identify Lauer’s accuser for the first time, as well as reveal more allegations against Lauer from former NBC staffers. (Lauer has denied the allegations against him, referring to them as “absolutely false.”)
Page Six also reports that Catch and Kill will contain more information about the reporting process behind Farrow’s initial Weinstein expose, for which he won a Pulitzer prize. In 2017, Farrow brought the story to his former employers at NBC News before ultimately taking it to the New Yorker, where it was published. Farrow and his producer Rich McHugh have maintained that NBC News went out of its way to kill the story, presumably as a result of pressure from Weinstein, a claim that NBC has long denied.