President Trump tore into NBC News with a "fake news" tweet on Tuesday over not airing the Harvey Weinstein #MeToo expose as executives sought to control damage to the network's reputation.
Trump tweeted that the Comcast Corp.-owned NBC was "now fumbling around making excuses for probably highly unethical conduct." He ended the tweet cryptically with "Look at their license?"
It was unclear what Trump meant in his tweet by linking NBC and licenses. Broadcast licenses are held by the individual television stations and not the national network.
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcaster licenses, was not immediately available for comment.
Comcast's stock dropped sharply around the time of the Trump tweet at 11 a.m. After recovering some of the initial loss, the stock closed down 1.65 percent at $36.38. The Philadelphia media and entertainment conglomerate — a frequent target of Trump — had no comment on Tuesday.
Trump's tweet, in addition to those by journalist Ronan Farrow and ex-NBC producer Rich McHugh on Monday and Tuesday, fuels a scandal that has engulfed NBC News over why it passed on Farrow's 2017 expose of Weinstein's alleged repeated sexual assaults on movie starlets when he was one of Hollywood's biggest moguls. The New Yorker published Farrow's story in October, helping to launch the #MeToo movement.
Last week, ex-NBC producer McHugh, who worked with Farrow on the Weinstein expose, broke his silence and told the New York Times that NBC effectively killed the Weinstein story by being "resistant" to the reporting.
"For the past nine months, it has been our belief that the 'story' here is about Harvey Weinstein's horrendous behavior and about the suffering and bravery of his victims, rather than a back-and-forth between a reporter and his producer and a news network," Andrew Lack, the chairman at NBC News and MSNBC, said in a memo to NBC employees on Monday.
NBC News also distributed a 10-page fact sheet (below) on an internal investigation into the episode, the project's timeline, and the content of Farrow's scripts. It described Farrow as distracted with other projects in 2017, one of which was his book War on Peace, and a lack of actresses who were willing to go on-air on NBC and name Weinstein.
Actress Rose McGowan's lawyer sent NBC a "cease and desist" letter in early August, saying that she could not be identified by NBC in its report. NBC said in the fact sheet that "there was not a single victim of — or witness to — misconduct by Weinstein who was willing to be identified" at the time, causing the network to pass on the story.
During the same period, Weinstein sought to kill the story.
Lack answered Weinstein's first call but then did not respond to nine additional calls and four emails in 2017, NBC News said. "In September , Weinstein attempted to isolate Lack at an event both attended. Lack rebuffed him, said only 'hello,' and walked away."
Lanny Davis, a lawyer representing Weinstein who also represented then-President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, showed up without an appointment in the lobby of the Rockefeller Center to discredit McGowan. Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, told him that there was no story ready to air on NBC and that Davis should leave.
McHugh, the former NBC producer, tweeted on Monday that no one from NBC contacted him for a review of what transpired with the Weinstein story.