by Rick Worley
Introduction by Robert Weide:
I don’t make a regular habit of handing this blog over to guest writers, but here we have a worthy exception. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video entitled, “By the Way… Woody Allen is Innocent” by Rick Worley, a writer, cartoonist, and movie geek best known for producing videos covering Star Wars esoterica. Worley’s Woody Allen video distilled much of my own research, along with the published accounts of Moses Farrow, Soon-Yi Previn, Woody Allen and any number of others who have researched and written extensively about the case, all connected with interstitial discoveries and insights from Worley himself. To date, the video has reached 67,000 views, which is impressive considering it has a running time of 2.5 hours. Before long, Worley and I had connected on the phone and started comparing notes.
In my previous writings about this case, I’ve said that no one essay could ever adequately cover this topic in full. Each piece feels like the tip of another iceberg. Worley admitted that even in creating his detailed video, he felt like he was only scratching the surface. We agreed that the most you can do, short of a book, is reveal one iceberg tip after another, and hope that a handful of people will connect enough dots to realize the narrative about Woody Allen pushed by the Farrows and indeed, the mainstream media, simply doesn’t hold water. The challenge in setting the record straight is you have at the center of this story a young woman who claims she was sexually assaulted at the age of seven. How do you expose the impossibility of that claim without sounding like one more jerk denying a young woman’s agency, or the often-virtuous aims of the #MeToo movement?
But my writing about this case and Worley’s intent behind his video have nothing to do with the MeToo movement, which we both support in principle. It has everything to do with making the case that an innocent man continues to be vilified for a crime he did not commit. To us, that’s still a worthy cause, regardless of how few people care to listen, or how many insults or death threats you acquire along the way.
Clearly, for the past few years, many people’s opinions about Woody Allen have been informed by the writing and statements of Ronan Farrow, whom we assume to be Woody Allen’s biological son (though Mia Farrow claims Ronan may “possibly” be the son of Frank Sinatra). But soon after Worley and I made contact, the floodgates started to open for other writers and reporters claiming that Farrow’s research was shoddy and his reporting was often uncorroborated and failed to meet basic journalistic standards.
Of course, much of Farrow’s fanbase couldn’t care less. The thinking seems to be that if Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein had a favorable outcome, it’s best not to pick it apart. But does a celebratory end always justify questionable means? Even if one’s reportage helps to put bad people away, ignoring facts and fundamental journalistic ethics is more than a slippery slope; it’s a perilous cliff.
Among the iceberg tips to choose from for a new essay, Worley and I decided on this one: How much of public sentiment about Woody Allen is based on Ronan Farrow’s statements and writing, and how reliable has that information been over the years? Worley and I decided we would consolidate our respective research; he would do the heavy lifting by writing the initial draft, and I would serve as editor. Among the research I would bring to the table were the complete transcripts of the infamous 1993 custody hearing in New York County Supreme Court: “Woody Allen vs Maria Villers (Mia) Farrow.” These transcripts are jaw-droppingly revealing in countless ways (a few brief excerpts are offered here), but that’s an iceberg for another day.
For those who would respond to this piece with, “But Woody Allen married his daughter” or “the judge said he did it,” we’re sorry, but we’ve both addressed those and countless other fallacies elsewhere, and since you didn’t bother reading it the first time, we’re not going to reiterate it here. One iceberg at a time.
I’ll close with this thought: When the publication of Woody Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing was announced, Ronan and Dylan Farrow cried “foul,” complaining that they weren’t given the opportunity to fact check it before publication. Of course, that claim is too ridiculous to even counter. What’s interesting is that there have been so many specific critical facts brought to light that Ronan and Dylan have had an opportunity to respond to, but instead, they become tellingly silent. For instance, when Moses Farrow concisely states that the functioning electric train set in the attic that Dylan claims to have watched all during the alleged assault never existed, or when Woody Allen says that Ronan’s leg surgery was purely cosmetic to add height, and not the result of treating an unnamed “bug” caught in the Sudan, the Farrows never counter. They offer generic blanket statements along the lines of “I believe my sister,” or “We stand by our mother.” Fine, but what about that train? What about the surgery? What about any number of damning charges they could put to rest? Crickets. The recent spate of articles accusing Ronan Farrow of journalistic misdeeds have been met with the same kind of responses. “I stand by my story.” Really, Ronan? As they say on the streets of New York, “Is that all you got?”
Yes, Ronan Farrow received a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Weinstein, but we’re living in a world where Rush Limbaugh got the Presidential Medal of Freedom, so let’s just admit we’ve stepped through the looking glass, even if we’re all glad that Weinstein is now in prison following a jury verdict. After two lengthy State-sponsored investigations, Woody Allen was never even charged.
I’ll cut Farrow some slack, and refrain from suggesting that he’s a bald-faced liar. He may just be a really mediocre journalist.
Robert B. Weide
July 21, 2020
THE RISE AND FAiL OF RONAN FARROW
By Rick Worley
Over the past couple of months, there has been a small explosion of articles suddenly questioning the honesty and accuracy of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow’s reportage. Certainly, it’s better late than never, but for those of us who have followed Farrow’s comments on Woody Allen over the years, the obvious response is: Welcome to the club. What took you so long?
The recent spate of articles pointing out the factual errors, unchecked sources, and a general willingness to bend the truth that provide the foundation of much of Farrow’s work seem to have largely steered clear of Allen. The likely reason for this is obvious: many now think that Allen is a monster, and they simply aren’t interested in any article that would question his guilt. But for a lot of those people, a huge part of the reason they feel this way about Allen is due to disingenuous statements from Farrow and associates – the same kinds of statements these articles are finally questioning. For anyone interested in examples of Farrow twisting the facts, they’re missing the mother lode if they ignore his ongoing “reporting” about the events allegedly taking place under his own roof.
Let’s start with a quick example from Farrow in 2014:
“I believe my sister. This was always true as a brother who trusted her, and, even at 5 years old, was troubled by our father’s strange behavior around her: climbing into her bed in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck his thumb — behavior that had prompted him to enter into therapy focused on his inappropriate conduct with children prior to the allegations.”
One could say it takes a special kind of talent to pack so many falsehoods into so brief a statement, but in this one example, the misinformation is so dense that unpacking it all truly becomes an arduous task. But let’s take a stab at it.
First, let’s quickly look at the timeline Farrow is suggesting. He claims to have memories of being disturbed as a five-year-old by Allen behaving in a creepy way toward Dylan. The problem is, the last time that Allen ever saw Dylan, Ronan was only four. What’s more, Allen’s visits with Dylan had been closely supervised for the previous seven months, before which Ronan would have been closer to three. And if the alleged behavior preceded the therapy sessions grossly mischaracterized by Ronan (more on that in a moment), that rolls the clock back to a time period when Ronan was only two. But he bumps his age up to five, presumably knowing that this will make his claim of remembering the event more plausible.
Aside from the issue of age, there’s the fact that Allen was never in therapy for inappropriate behavior toward Dylan, and no matter how often and how forcefully the Farrow camp pushes this canard, it remains provably false. The therapy sessions to which Ronan is referring were with Dr. Susan Coates, who was not hired to treat Allen, but rather… wait for it… a small boy called Satchel, later to be known as “Ronan.”
Coates, a therapist who specialized in treating young children with severe emotional problems, had been working with Satchel since shortly before his third birthday. She would later testify at the custody hearing that she always included the parents of the children in her therapy sessions. For this reason, both Woody and Mia spoke with her regularly about Ronan’s progress and also Dylan’s, who was seeing Dr. Nancy Schultz, a colleague of Coates’. Mia complained that Woody paid too much attention to Dylan at the exclusion of her six other children from her prior marriage to André Previn. While Dr. Coates agreed that Woody needed to set boundaries and give Dylan more space, she was also concerned that Mia had an “overly intense” relationship with Satchel. What Coates also testified to, repeatedly, was that she saw “no sexual element” in Woody’s behavior toward Dylan.
The endlessly repeated distortion suggesting that Allen was in therapy for inappropriate behavior toward Dylan is misleading to begin with, but then Ronan tries to up the ante by saying the behavior that precipitated the therapy was toward “children” (plural), to imply that there might be more than one alleged victim.
(A reminder that we are still unpacking one brief statement of Ronan’s consisting of only 65 words. Stay with us.)
Besides it being impossible for Ronan to have witnessed this alleged behavior he claims to remember, and besides the fact that the nature of the therapy Ronan describes is entirely inaccurate, it turns out the behavior itself never happened, either.
When I originally read Ronan’s statement claiming to remember Allen getting into bed with Dylan in his underwear and Dylan sucking his thumb, it had an immediate ring of familiarity about it. That’s because it originally came from Mia Farrow’s 1997 memoir, What Falls Away, in which Mia describes these incidents as things that she witnessed. They were never part of Ronan or Dylan’s version of events until over 20 years later, when they started passing off other people’s stories as their own memories. But when Ronan parrots this dubious information, he gets the details wrong and changes the story to say that it happened “in the middle of the night” for dramatic effect. Even Mia concurs that Woody Allen never spent one night at her apartment, so there’s no nighttime scenario in which this could have happened. The only possible times during which Allen would have even been in the same house with Dylan overnight were the occasional visits he made during the summer to Mia Farrow’s country home in Connecticut, where he would sometimes sleep over.
Writing this piece, we reached out to Allen about a few points which I had never seen him discuss publicly, and he was happy to respond candidly to all the questions I had. About the idea of him getting into Dylan’s bed, he said, “Even in its most innocuous form, this story is pure fabrication. The times I did stay at Mia’s country house, not only is it ridiculous to think that I would sneak out of bed with Mia at night to crawl into Dylan’s bed across the hall, but never once did Dylan even get in a bed with me when I wasn’t dressed, in the morning, at night, or any other time. Forget the added embellishments. The whole idea is pure fiction from the start.”
Mia said at the time of the custody hearing that she had been troubled by Woody’s behavior toward Dylan, citing as an example that when Dylan was two and a half or three, Allen would allegedly permit her to suck on his thumb. (Later, she would up the age to four.) Her description of events suggests that Dylan, as a toddler, would try to suck on Woody’s thumb and sometimes he would allow it. We asked Allen about this as well and he flatly denied it, saying, “Having a child suck on my thumb is not something I would welcome or allow. Did it happen once or twice for a second or two? I can’t say with 100% certainty. But I wouldn’t find it amusing or cute and certainly would never initiate or encourage it.”
But even if it did happen, Mia’s rather innocuous description of this event is a far cry from Ronan’s version of Allen “forcing” Dylan to suck his thumb in a sexual way, let alone “in bed…in the middle of the night.”
The common thread that becomes evident as you go through more of Ronan’s reporting is his habit of altering things by a few words or a phrase to change the implications of what he’s saying to something far more sinister than the facts support.
In Catch and Kill, his book about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations and the source of many of the incidents of shoddy reporting that have been recently gaining notice, Ronan tells the following anecdote:
“As September turned to October, [Weinstein] sought out the figure at the heart of his claims that I had a conflict of interest. Weinstein had his assistants place the call. On a movie set in Central Park, another assistant brought a phone to Woody Allen.
“Weinstein seemed to want a strategic playbook—for quashing sexual assault allegations, and for dealing with me. ‘How did you deal with this?’ Weinstein asked at one point. He wanted to know if Allen would intercede on his behalf. Allen shut down the idea. But he did have knowledge that Weinstein would later put to use. That week, Weinstein’s credit card receipts show his purchase of a book of interviews with Allen, written by a die-hard fan of his, documenting all of the arguments Allen and his army of private investigators and publicists had come up with to smear the credibility of my sister, the district attorney, and a judge who had suggested she was telling the truth.
“ ‘Jeez, I’m so sorry,’ Allen told Weinstein on the call. ‘Good luck.’ ”
This passage comes late in the book, after Farrow has spent many pages attempting to illustrate that Weinstein has a network of spies and secret agents who, in his supposition, seem to be a larger, more powerful organization than the CIA and who have been, for decades, engaged in the business of covering up Weinstein’s countless sexual misdeeds. Yet here Ronan submits that, for some reason, Weinstein suddenly needs Woody Allen’s advice on how to enact this same sort of cover-up and get Allen’s very estranged son off his back.
For a claim that large, you’d imagine there must be some kind of reliable source given, but you’d be wrong. The notes at the end of the book give no explanation for how Farrow could provide the exact content of this particular phone call. Like incident after incident in the book, if you stop and think about it for a minute, you’ll start to question how he would actually know the details of what he’s describing.
In the colorful scene, Farrow provides direct quotes from both sides of the conversation, down to “Jeez, I’m so sorry.” Did he speak with individuals who happened to be listening in at both locations? Maybe an assistant or somebody working for Weinstein stayed on the line throughout the conversation, but that seems unlikely in a call where the producer was openly asking for advice on how to cover up sexual assaults. If Farrow did have such a witness, you’d think he’d mention it, and be able to describe the call in more detail. He doesn’t, though.
When we asked Allen about this phone call, he remembered it clearly. “It was on the final day of shooting Rainy Day in New York. We were in Central Park by the Delacorte clock. My assistant tells me Harvey Weinstein is on her phone and wants to talk to me. I thought it strange as I hadn’t spoken with Harvey in at least a dozen years. He seemed disoriented. My impression was that maybe he was medicated. I clearly remember him saying that someone was following him and people were making up stories about him or trying to blackmail him. It wasn’t entirely coherent, but he did ask me, ‘How did you handle it? What did you do?’ I didn’t really know what to say, so I suggested maybe that he get a good lawyer or hire a detective if someone’s following him. There wasn’t much I could think to say.”
When we asked Allen specifically what Weinstein had to say about Ronan, Allen responded, “I don’t recall that Ronan’s name ever came up. Harvey would certainly know that I’d be the last person who would have any sway with Ronan.”
Allen gave us this description without having read Farrow’s book and having no idea how Farrow had described the call, so it’s striking to see how much of what he said lines up with Farrow’s account, but only on one side of the conversation. The description of the Weinstein side of the call bears little resemblance to what Allen describes. It seems possible that Farrow had a witness near Allen, and then simply imagined what he’d like the other half of the call to be, going so far as to place himself in the center of the action, and putting the imaginary dialog in quotation marks – all in the name of creating some sinister implications about Woody Allen’s complicity in covering up Weinstein’s sexual misdeeds.
Then there’s the book Farrow says Weinstein bought, which he attempts to describe as some sort of handbook with directions from Allen on how to beat sexual assault allegations. The trouble is that no such book exists.
Farrow describes the author as a Woody Allen biographer, and out of all the books by Allen biographers to date, there are only two that even remotely contain any response to the assault allegation. About two years prior to Farrow’s story, author David Evanier wrote a book about Allen which does contain a chapter dealing with the allegation and the aftermath, but it was a conventional biography, not a “book of interviews.” Allen did not participate in its writing, and although he made no effort to stop it, he didn’t authorize it either. Nor has he read it.
The only other remotely similar book is Start to Finish by Eric Lax. Start to Finish, however, also turns out to not be some sort of feature-length rape apologia. It’s a film book about the production of Allen’s 2015 feature Irrational Man. Since the book was written while the allegation against Allen was gaining renewed attention (due to pressure from Farrow and his sister), Lax couldn’t avoid mentioning it briefly in one chapter. He presents not some sort of fantasia of arguments smearing accusers, made up by an “army” of publicists and so on, but simply the account of Allen’s son Moses, who was in the house on the day in question and has a first-person account very much at odds with the one that Ronan and Dylan have been peddling. For Farrow to present Moses’s own personal memories as fiction created by private detectives and publicists is an interesting look for somebody who is, in the same sentence, attacking anybody who doesn’t believe the memories of his sister.
But why does there have to be all this guesswork? How hard would it have been to name the book to which Farrow is referring? You would think that, for a book making claims as serious as the ones in Catch and Kill, providing that very basic level of information would be the absolute minimum. Of course, if he did simply provide the name of the book, anybody could go read Start to Finish or Evanier’s biography and discover that they bear no resemblance to the book that Farrow is trying to plant in the readers’ imagination. He simply had a credit card receipt showing that Weinstein purchased a book about Woody Allen, and he goes to all this effort to make it into another example of sinister networking within some kind of organized cabal of sex offenders.
I’m no Pulitzer Prize winner, but it seems to me that clarifying your sources is a relatively easy task and a basic obligation for any journalist. For example, if I were to say that Farrow’s oft-repeated story that he was on crutches for years because of an unspecified “infection” that he contracted while working in the Sudan was actually a lie to cover up for a series of lengthy and painful cosmetic leg surgeries that Mia Farrow thought would benefit his political career, I would certainly provide my source, which is Woody Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, page 281 (American edition by Arcade Publishing), where Allen details this story as told by Moses Farrow, who was a first-hand witness and remembers his mother arguing on the phone with the insurance company because they would not cover a cosmetic surgical procedure.
Or if I were to say that Mia Farrow, who Ronan insists was a perfect mother who never did anything inappropriate with her children, slept in bed nude with Ronan until he was at least 11 years old, I would make sure to refer the reader to page 232 of Apropos of Nothing where this story is told as well, from a first-hand account by the household nanny, Sandy Boluch. Further backup to this claim is provided by Satchel/Ronan’s therapist Dr. Coates, who testified under oath that Mia followed this practice with her older son Fletcher, and planned to do the same with Ronan.
See how easy it is to provide sources when you actually have them?
By his own description, Farrow’s main sources on Woody Allen seem to primarily be two reporters. When asked by The Guardian about the dodgy prospect of presuming Allen’s guilt when all legal authorities have said otherwise, Farrow replied:
“If you look at Andy Thibault’s exhaustive reporting in Connecticut Magazine back in the day or Maureen Orth’s investigative reporting, it’s very clear that it is towards the end of the most heavily corroborated cases that have emerged publicly. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spoken out in support of my sister.”
One of the only sources that Farrow supplies in Catch and Kill for his statements about Allen is an article by Andy Thibault, How Straight-shooting State’s Attorney Frank Maco Got Mixed Up in the Woody-Mia Mess, which he gives as his source for the idea that Allen hired a huge team of private investigators to smear the prosecution:
“When a pediatrician finally did report the allegation to the authorities, Allen hired what one of his lawyers estimated to be ten or more private detectives through a network of attorneys and subcontractors. They trailed law enforcement officials, looking for evidence of drinking or gambling problems. A prosecutor in Connecticut, Frank Maco, later described a ‘campaign to disrupt the investigators,’ and colleagues said he was rattled.”
Of course, Thibault is not a primary source. Where in his “exhaustive reporting” did he get his information?
Frank Maco was the prosecutor originally assigned to the Dylan Farrow case in Connecticut, and about whom Woody Allen filed a complaint over his inappropriate public comments regarding the case. Thibault’s article on Maco was timed to a hearing about Maco’s conduct by the state’s Grievance Panel and was, from the title on down, expressly written with the purpose of portraying Maco as a “straight shooter” who was being unfairly targeted by Allen. Almost all of the original information in this article is from a few police friends of Maco who were there to paint this glowing picture of him, and who seem to present a number of claims for which I have never found another source, and at times contradict what was said by the actual witnesses in the case.
The rest of Thibault’s information largely seems to be copied from Maureen Orth. I’ve already produced a lengthy video debunking the pieces Maureen Orth has written on the Allen story. The short version is that by her own admission, when the fact checkers at Vanity Fair went over her original article on Woody Allen, they declined to publish it until Mia Farrow provided them with a letter promising that if they were sued over the article she would appear in court to say that it was true “from her point of view.”
In other words, Orth’s article is an unverifiable opinion piece expressly representing Mia Farrow’s “point of view.” And yet, this article is where Thibault seems to find many of his “facts.” For example:
“On Aug. 4, 1992, a babysitter claims she saw Allen kneeling in front of Dylan, who was sitting on a couch in the den of the Bridgewater home. Dylan was wearing a dress, but no underpants. She stared blankly at the TV screen. The babysitter told authorities she notice [sic] that Allen’s head was between the girl’s legs, very close to her crotch.”
The story that Dylan was at one point that day without her underpants has been told in at least three very different, mutually contradictory, versions. In fact, the courtroom testimony from Mia’s witnesses is so wildly divergent that it has the distinct air of individuals who basically agreed to make an accusation, but then never bothered to work out the details. Casey Pascal, Mia’s close friend who was there that day with her children, has said simply that Dylan told her she took off her underwear because they were wet. One common element of all these accounts, though, is that when they say Dylan was discovered without her underwear, it was a completely separate incident from when Allen was said to have had his head on her lap.
In her article, Orth mentions the two incidents a few paragraphs apart, leaving an impression that there’s a connection, when none was actually stated by any of the witnesses at the house that day. Allen has said himself that at one point when they were in the TV room watching a video, Dylan was sitting on the couch and he was sitting on the floor in front of her, and he leaned his head onto her legs. He was sitting on the floor rather than on the couch because the couch was occupied by several other children. Alison Stickland, the nanny who reported the moment, didn’t see anything odd enough about it at the time to even mention it to anybody until she told her employer Casey Pascal later that evening. Pascal also didn’t seem too alarmed by it, because she didn’t say anything about it to Mia Farrow until the following day, meanwhile allowing Allen to spend that night in a guestroom at Farrow’s country house and the morning with Ronan and Dylan, helping them pick out toys from a toy catalog he’d brought. Until well after it happened, the alleged head-on-lap moment was treated as a non-event.
Because a non-event is what it was.
But then we have Orth attempting to imply it had something to do with the missing underwear story and Thibault, it would seem, copying this without reading it closely and saying outright that the underwear was missing when Allen had his head on Dylan’s legs, in spite of the fact that no witness at the house ever said any such thing. Thibault then adds the information that Dylan’s legs are close to her crotch, which isn’t much of a surprise for those of us who have seen a human being before, but it sounds pretty bad if you phrase it just so.
I recently contacted Andy Thibault to ask him about this and a number of other inaccuracies in his articles, and his response was, “I advise colleagues / reporters that we ask questions and our work speaks for itself; also, that reporters never reveal sources.” Of course, I wasn’t asking him to reveal confidential sources. We know that the source of the story about Allen’s head in Dylan’s lap is Alison Stickland. I was asking him about the discrepancy between what the known witness has testified to under oath, and how he describes these events in his articles. I reached out once more saying as much, but that reply went unanswered. I give Thibault credit for standing by his credo: he’s not about to reveal his sources, and his reporting definitely speaks for itself.
If details like this aren’t absolute proof that Thibault is sourcing things from Orth, he also wrote an article entitled, Cool Justice: Maureen Orth cooks Woody Allen like Thanksgiving Turkey where he gleefully cheers Orth on for her biased and inaccurate reporting on Woody. In another article, he specifically names Orth as his source as he makes another incorrect claim — that Allen refused to take a lie detector test and that Mia Farrow was not asked to take one by the police. The actual fact is that neither were asked to take one by the police, but that Allen took (and passed with flying colors) one voluntarily, and when Allen’s lawyers asked Mia to do the same, she refused. Thibault might know this if he had a source other than Orth.
After Thibault copies Orth, she in turn appears to use Thibault’s reporting as a source in her articles where she refers to opinions of the State police, among other questionable statements. She’s also consistently vague about all her sources, but the cop buddies of Maco’s that appear as character witnesses in Thibault’s piece are the only sources I’ve found for some of the statements that she would later refer to as “undeniable facts.” In an op-ed for the L.A. Times in 2017, Dylan repeats the exact same misinformation about the polygraph test, cribbed from either Thibault or Orth. (An email to Orth on June 24, 2020, seeking clarification on these matters went unanswered.)
So, you have Thibault copying his homework from Orth, and then Orth copying from Thibault, and then Thibault copying from Orth copying from Thibault, and then Ronan and Dylan using the two of them as the sources for the things they say about Allen. If you read the statements by the four of them together, it’s like some kind of Möbius strip of fanciful, unsubstantiated claims. Try to figure out where one of them got something, and they’ll point to one of the other three, and around and around, without ever a primary source in sight. Thibault, incidentally, also lives in Connecticut near the Farrows, has made public appearances with Dylan and, on Dylan’s Twitter, she has directly used screenshots of Thibault’s work at least seven times.
Out of every word Ronan and Dylan have said about the story since they resurfaced it in 2014, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single detail that wasn’t first said in an article by either Orth or Thibault. These authors being their only source of information is a problem when you can easily see that they’re both completely unreliable.
In Thibault’s article about straight-shooter Frank Maco, he names Allen’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz as the source confirming that Allen hired ten or more private investigators. But his claim that these investigators were hired for some kind of smear campaign to intimidate police directly contradicts his quoting Abramowitz as saying, “We didn’t go into any kind of smear campaign against the police.”
When we reached out to Abramowitz for comment, his response muddied Thibault’s claims even further: “The quote you supplied is absolutely correct: We never hired any investigators to smear Maco or the police. The rest of the quote is completely false. I never would have disclosed to anybody that we had hired investigators even if we did, because to do so would have violated the attorney client privilege. Having said that, I have no recollection of any investigators hired through my law firm.” When asked if he had any idea where the notion of “ten or more detectives” came from, he responded, “Nope. It’s absurd.”
We also asked Allen about the private investigators working on the case and he said, “I hired just a team of two private investigators – a man and a woman. That was it. The instruction they were given was limited only to Mia. How was she treating the children? Was she poisoning the kids against me? Any of the typical stuff that would be helpful in a custody case.” When asked if the detectives were told to get any information on Maco or the judge or anyone in law enforcement, Allen responded, “Not at all. I had no beef with Maco at that time and certainly wouldn’t have been foolish enough to go after a judge or a cop. No, we were only trying to find out things pertaining to Mia and the kids.”
Despite a lack of any credible evidence or documented corroboration, Farrow would still maintain that an army of private investigators were hired directly by Allen, and further imagines some kind of organized campaign against the police with Allen as its mastermind.
Since Farrow himself says he wouldn’t have spoken out for his sister if not for the “exhaustive reporting” of Thibault and Orth, should we assume that since so much of that reporting can be proved faulty, Farrow will now walk back his support of Dylan’s story? (Don’t stress. It’s a rhetorical question.)
Farrow’s fact-challenged free-association can reach poetic heights in some of his Tweets about Allen. For example:
“My column about confronting [the Woody Allen allegation] as a brother and a reporter was less significant than the women who publicly accused Woody Allen of sex crimes with minors (my sister @RealDylanFarrow, @Babi_Engelhardt) and disclosure of his diaries about underage girls”
This is another of those trademarked Farrow flights of fancy where he manages to get something wrong in nearly every word.
In 2018, a freelance writer named Richard Morgan decided to go through Allen’s papers housed in Princeton’s Special Collections and write a manifestly dishonest article for The Washington Post, in which he scoured decades of documents, cited any example which referred to a woman as attractive, omitted everything else he read, intimated that the papers were composed of virtually nothing but these examples, and posited that a writer discussing sexual attraction between genders is somehow evidence of perversion.
Farrow references this article and decides to toss in an extra lie of his own, referring to the assortment of sketches, screenplays, notes, jokes and fictional stories, as a “disclosure of [Allen’s] diaries,” implying that these papers were in some way an account of his own private behavior and meant to be kept secret. In fact, the papers were voluntarily donated to the Princeton library by Allen himself, viewable to any researcher who makes an appointment. Farrow then goes on to say that they were about “underage girls” when, even in the spurious Washington Post article, the closest they can come to anything inappropriate about an underage person is a single fictional 16-year-old from an old television pitch who was described one time as “sexy” when wearing an evening gown. Out of 56 boxes of material spanning decades of a heralded writing career, the sum total of evidence displayed regarding underage women is a single adjective used to describe a fictional one.
Farrow then decides to toss the name Babi Engelhardt into the Tweet along with his sister, listing both as people who have “accused Woody Allen of sex crimes with minors.” Engelhardt, who was the one who initially approached Allen when she slipped him her phone number at Elaine’s restaurant in 1976, has said herself that they had no sexual contact before she was of legal age. To this day, she’s maintained that the relationship was consensual and that she doesn’t regret it. (She would later move on to Federico Fellini, proving she has admirable taste in directors.) Yet Farrow blithely tosses her name in with somebody who has said Allen molested her at age seven, as if those two things are in any way comparable. To say that Engelhardt ever accused Woody Allen of sex crimes with a minor is – to use an Old School expression – a lie. Farrow might want to tread lightly when invoking Englehardt as a witness for the prosecution, since she has also said that Mia Farrow was involved in her sexual encounters with Woody Allen, and stoned at the time.
Ronan does it again in his interview with The Guardian:
“There is an abundance of evidence that Woody Allen was engaged in a pattern with respect to underage women and that’s in the trove of documents the Washington Post uncovered; it’s in the civil proceedings that happened and the family court proceedings that happened in New York, where there was intense debate about the age of my other sister he was engaging in sexual relations with in our household. This was a serial fixator on underage girls.”
He says again here that the Washington Post “uncovered” the papers in the Princeton collection as though these public papers were secret dossiers. Farrow again lies about there being a pattern of the fictional women in those documents supposedly being underage. And then he says that there was debate about Soon-Yi Previn’s age when Allen began his relationship with her, and he happens to leave out that the debate about Soon-Yi’s age (her birth was not recorded) was about whether she would have been 19 or 21 when Allen began dating her. Without going into all the details of that story, which I also cover in my video, the younger age of 19 is highly unlikely given the circumstances of her adoption, and the higher age of 21 is based on what Mia and André Previn had concluded when they adopted her, with Mia saying herself that Soon-Yi was possibly even older, which would have placed her age at 22 when Allen became involved with her in December of 1991. (Interestingly, Mia was only 19 when she became romantically involved with Frank Sinatra, who was 50.) Peeling back the years on Soon-Yi’s age was a practice commenced by Mia Farrow only after the relationship with Allen was discovered.
The debate was about Soon-Yi’s birth year, not about when she began her relationship with Allen, and in none of those possible scenarios was Soon-Yi underage or close to it when Allen started dating her, and yet Farrow just drops it in there with his statement that Allen had a pattern with underage women, knowing that most people won’t bother looking into the details. And again, he’s implying a correlation here between a consensual relationship with a woman who was 21 years old and molesting a seven-year-old in an attic crawl space. His willingness to conflate the two to serve his own ends should be highly disturbing.
When Farrow repeatedly refers to this supposed “pattern” of Allen being a “fixator” on underage women, the only examples he can come up with are two women who were not underage.
You could continue to go on like this line-by-line through nearly everything Ronan has written, and just find more examples. The majority of Catch and Kill is an exercise in taking a thin basis of information, spinning from it vast conspiracy theories, and telling it in the manner of an exciting, international spy thriller in which Farrow casts himself as the dashing young James Bond figure. (One suspects that Farrow already had an eventual screenplay in mind while writing his book. It struck me as surprising that it didn’t include storyboards.)
Farrow likes to present himself as a benevolent underdog fighting to tell truth to power, when the truth is that the Farrows are a phone call away from having access to every media outlet in the world.
In 2017, when asked about Allen denying the charge against him, Farrow told CBS that Allen, “has gone very directly after any woman proximate to it. Huge, huge public relations apparatus designed to do that.”
There are a couple things about this statement that are exceptionally dishonest, the first being the way Farrow chooses to use the word “woman” to imply that somehow Allen would treat women talking about the issue differently than men. Farrow is always eager to make sure he’s seen as an advocate for all women, so that if you criticize him, you’re also against the entire gender for whom he is a champion. In Catch and Kill there are several passages where he attempts to cast aspersions at the media “elite” or to critique NBC for having too many white men in their management structure which are immediately humorous to read for anybody who has ever seen a picture of Farrow.
But the truly ridiculous thing here is the description of Allen’s supposed, “Huge, huge public relations apparatus.”
Woody Allen’s huge public relations apparatus consisted of his publicist, Leslee Dart (now retired), whose main responsibility was to arrange or decline promotional interviews when the director had a new movie coming out, and a small circle of friends and family members whose advice he’ll seek occasionally. Robert Weide, one of these friends, described to me the machinations of Woody’s gigantic PR machine at the peak of all the media frenzy over the allegation: “During the course of a conversation covering any number of topics, Woody might say, ‘I don’t think I should respond to this. I don’t know. What do you think?’ and I or whoever else might say, ‘I don’t know, maybe you should say something. But maybe wait to see if it dies down first.’ After reading the pulse of what he comically called his ‘brain trust,’ he would ultimately make the decision himself about whether to respond or how. Almost invariably, he’d decide not to act.” That was the extent of these elite, global media-shaping power summits.
After Dylan restated her claim in 2014, Woody wrote an op-ed providing a brief but detailed and credible rebuttal, and aside from a short interview on an Argentinian TV station in 2018, hardly spoke of it again. Because that’s how a huge, huge public relations apparatus would get the word out: on a Spanish-language TV station most people in Allen’s home country would never even see. It was almost six years after the claim resurfaced before he would type out on his 68-year-old manual typewriter a more detailed defense in his memoir. Meanwhile, Ronan Farrow was on a whirlwind tour of every talk show and news broadcast in the U.S. and abroad that would have him, which is almost all of them, spreading his nonsense that Woody has too much power and unfair access to the media.
Because of Farrow’s limitless media access and his involvement in reporting on sexual assault, many women with true stories of harassment and abuse have confided in him and trusted him to tell their stories. In Catch and Kill, there are a number of truly heartbreaking and horrifying stories told by women who are sharing with Farrow the worst days of their lives. This is the point where his glib disregard for the facts and for scrupulous reporting really starts to become infuriating. These women who are sharing these stories deserve to have them told by a serious reporter, not somebody who won’t do due diligence to get the details correct and who will put them in a book where serious, true accounts are freely intermixed with unfounded conspiracy theories and his James Bond fan fiction.
Ronan Farrow’s first column on Allen was called, “My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked”, and he spends much of it chiding the media for refusing to ask Allen the “tough questions.” The truth, of course is that Allen has been asked these tough questions endlessly for 28 years. Reporters still ask them constantly, and now he’s written a memoir, including a section that provides his answer in forensic detail. Ironically, when Allen made this attempt in his memoir to thoroughly respond to these tough questions, it was Farrow who unsuccessfully worked to have the book canceled.
Ronan Farrow, on the other hand, has been very careful to never put himself in situations where he would be asked questions he didn’t want to answer, and until recently, nobody wanted to ask them. I’m wondering how long it will be until Ronan gets asked some “tough questions” where his usual vague answers won’t cut it.
Once people see that much of the animosity toward Woody Allen is built on this very same house of cards and shoddy reporting, will they maybe start to ask themselves the tough question of why they were so willing to assume Allen was guilty when all the evidence pointed to the contrary?
The answer to that question is probably obvious. After all, what’s the fun in finding out if a person is actually guilty of something every time you want to cancel them?
Rick Worley is a writer, cartoonist, and creator of the comics series A Waste of Time. He might wish to challenge Robert Weide’s assertion that he’s best known for YouTube videos about Star Wars, but it’s probably true. He tweets at @bloodoftheland
Robert B. Weide is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker whose documentaries have covered the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, and Kurt Vonnegut. He was also the Executive Producer and director of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. He tweets at @BobWeide. Despite rumors to the contrary, he is not a meme.