If the year 2019 had a curriculum, She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey would be required reading. The book is an exhaustive account of how Kantor and Twohey reported out the groundbreaking 2017 story about how producer Harvey Weinstein allegedly paid off women who accused him of sexual misconduct for decades.
Prior to the article’s publication, women had been speaking out about their alleged experiences with other prominent men — and people had been starting to listen. Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes’ oustings at Fox News were notable examples of women’s voices finally being heard (and listened to). Yet it wasn’t until the Weinstein allegations emerged that a sea change truly started to occur.
What Kantor and Twohey do in She Said is expose all the work that happened off stage, before the curtain rose and exposed Hollywood’s seedy underbelly. The reporting feats, the difficult conversations, the moments when Twohey and Kantor doubted an article would come to fruition. The months without sleep. The nights spent in front of a computer, shifting words around for maximum precision. The ways Weistein’s accusers convinced themselves to go on the record, like actor and activist Ashley Judd and former Weinstein Company employee Laura Madden.
Kantor and Twohey’s article (along with the work of Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker) dismantled the system of corporate cronies, enablers, and ex-Mossad agents that had insulated Weinstein from facing consequences. Despite being arrested by the New York City Police Department in 2018 and charged with two counts of rape and another count of a criminal sexual act, Weinstein continues to deny all allegations. His trial has been pushed to 2020, and he was recently spotted at Cipriani.
She Said isn’t a victory book. Kantor and Twohey move beyond Weinstein and examine what the expose unleashed: the exhilaration and confusion of a society in the middle of growing pains. The book culminates in a behind-the-scenes retelling of Brett Kavanaugh’s Congressional hearing in September 2018. “Had a novelist tried to conjure a scenario to capture the swirl of strong feelings around#MeToo, it would have been hard to write one more flammable,” Kantor and Twohey write of the hearing, during which California-based scientist Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her in high school. Kantor and Twohey interviewed Ford for the book.
If She Said proves anything, it’s that there’s always more to the story. Here are some of the book’s most incendiary revelations.
Weinstein said it was his mission to “conquer women” daily.
We know this — but hearing him admit it is shocking. So far, 80 women have come forward to accuse the film titan of sexual misconduct. Some, like Rowena Chiu in She Said, are only speaking out now. The book features many accounts with women who say they were victims of his alleged toxic approach.
Women at the Weinstein Company developed tactics to avoid their predatory boss. In an interview in She Said, Zelda Perkins said she was warned to sit in armchairs, not sofas, around Weinstein. She wore winter parkas when she saw him, even in the summer.
At the Venice Film festival in 1995, Chiu had the job of “tending to” Weinstein at night. She wore two pairs of tights as protection. It didn’t work — she says she was assaulted.
Per She Said, after these trips, Weinstein would give his assistants lavish gifts.
Weinstein asked unimaginable things of his employees.
Some women at the Weinstein Company say they were enlisted to help Weinstein carry out his sex life.
Sandeep Rehal, Weinstein’s 28-year-old personal assistant, says she had to prepare hotel rooms and cultivate the roster of “Harvey’s friends,” aka the women he saw regularly. She also claims to have organised his stash of erectile dysfunction medicine. Perkins, another assistant, says she often had to “rouse the partially or fully nude Weinstein out of bed in his hotel room, and turn on his shower, as if he could not rotate the handle himself.”
Similarly, literary scout Lauren O’Connor says she found herself in the similar position of facilitating Weinstien’s sex life. O’Connor told Twohey and Kantor that she would meet with aspiring actresses after they had “‘personal’ appointments” with Weinstein. “Managing Harvey’s past and present sexual conquests was never something I imagined being part of my job responsibilities,” O’Connor wrote in a 2015 memo to Weinstein Company executives.
Those who survived the Weinstein Company formed a club.
Former employees would gather in what they called “Miranon” meetings, as if they were in recovery from the Weinstein Company (whose production shingle was called Miramax). “For many, working there had been an education, a crucible, a privilege, and a trauma,” the book reads. Many endured verbal and sexual abuse at his expense.
An intelligence firm tried to hinder the Times investigation.
Weinstein reportedly hired Black Cube, an elite Israeli security firm, to find out just how much Twohey and Kantor knew. Using the alias “Diana Filip,” an agent tried to get Kantor to speak at a (fake) conference for women in business. “Jodi never guessed that the rah-rah feminist messages she was getting were from an actor-agent hired to sabotage their investigation and undercut victims’ stories,” the book reads. The same agent targeted Rose McGowan in May 2017.
Rose McGowan was the first person to speak to the Times reporters.
When Kantor first reached out to McGowan, she refused to get on the phone, citing what she perceived as the paper’s sexist bias. But McGowan was impressed by Kantor’s history of writing stories about systemic sexual misconduct that actually lead to change. McGowan recounted a graphic assault by Weinstein in a hotel room.
Wanting to avoid a “he-said, she-said” scenario, Kantor wondered how many other actresses had similar experiences. But how to contact them?
Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner had the ultimate connections.
Kantor was having trouble finding people who would speak on the record. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof connected them with actor Ashley Judd, whose story would eventually open the landmark article. Lena Dunham and her former producing partner Jenni Konner introduced the reporters to more actresses. They “became a two-woman celebrity switchboard,” the book reads. That’s how Kantor met Gwyneth Paltrow, an important part of She Said.
The Jade Egg controversy almost eclipsed Gwyneth Paltrow’s speaking out.
When Kantor got in touch with Paltrow, she was in the middle of a PR disaster. Paltrow’s company, Goop, came under fire for selling a $66 Jade Egg with dubious health benefits. “On Instagram, Paltrow looked as untroubled as ever. Privately, she was feeling crushed and unsure if she could handle anymore controversy,” the book reads. Goop eventually paid a $145,000 fine for unsubstantiated market claims.
Paltrow feared that the story would be overpowered by her involvement. It would be “sensationalised” and “turned into the trashy celebrity scandal on the week.” She decided not to go on the record for the initial article, but remained instrumental throughout the reporting process. Paltrow’s story was prominently featured in a later article written by Jodi Kantor and Rachel Abrams.
Ashley Judd only agreed to go on the record 48 hours before the article’s release.
When the article came out, Judd was camping alone in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, completely unplugged from social media. Judd later revealed she has a “no media” policy and does not read anything written about her.
Judd succinctly explained her reasoning on an appearance on the Today Show along with Kantor and Twohey. “It was time. I’m good with the God of my understanding and I’ve been good with Harvey Weinstein for a long time because I know what he did to me, and I know what he did to a lot of my colleagues, and I was unafraid of him, and I was very comfortable with the power of these two and their investigative reporting and the power of the New York Times,” Judd said.
Harvey Weinstein once punched his brother, Bob, in the face during a meeting.
The incident happened in 2010, and was documented by people who were in the room. The brothers’ complicated relationship is detailed in the book. Bob Weinstein believed his brother was a sex addict, and wanted him to get help.
“You have brought shame to the family and your company through your misbehaviour,” Bob Weinstein wrote in a letter. “Your reaction was once more to blame the victims, or to minimise the misbehaviour in various ways. If you think nothing is wrong with your misbehaviour in this area then announce it to your wife and family.”
Lisa Bloom wanted Weinstein to emerge from this a hero.
In 2016, victims’ rights attorney Lisa Bloom reached out to Weinstein with a bid to clean up his reputation. The daughter of prominent women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Bloom developed a whole redemption tour for Weinstein. The entire memo is included in the book, and Huffington Post reporter Yashar Ali tweeted it out. “You should be the hero of your story, not the villain.” Weinstein put her on retainer. She coaches him throughout the book.
The day the article came out, she wrote in an email to the Weinstein Company board, “This is the worst day. This is the day the New York Times came out with a largely false and defamatory piece.” After the book came out, Bloom apologised in a tweet, citing her “three decades fighting mostly for the underdogs against the powerful.” But She Said shows how good Bloom is at preparing for, then planning, the perfect media-ready apology.