Bob Woodward Is Criticized for ‘She Said’ Interview

Bob Woodward Is Criticized for ‘She Said’ Interview

During a career spanning nearly five decades, Bob Woodward has interviewed several presidents, dozens of cabinet officials and, most famously, W. Mark Felt, an associate F.B.I. director who helped him piece together the narrative that led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

But Mr. Woodward, a longtime Washington Post reporter who is an associate editor at the paper, was heckled on Wednesday night while interviewing the New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. They are the authors of the book “She Said,” a chronicle of their investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men that won them a Pulitzer Prize and was instrumental in jump-starting the global #MeToo movement.

The event, at Sixth and I, a former synagogue in Washington, started with Mr. Woodward referring to “She Said” as “a masterpiece.” At one point, according to an attendee, he said he planned to assign it to his journalism students.

Twenty minutes into the interview, however, the mood changed. Mr. Woodward repeatedly interrupted Ms. Kantor and Ms. Twohey and posed questions that, to many attendees, suggested a lack of understanding of sexual assault and workplace harassment.

Audience members voiced their objections — “Let her finish!” one person shouted during one of Mr. Woodward’s interruptions — and registered their complaints on social media in real time, according to several accounts and interviews.

One attendee, Robyn Swirling, the founder of the nonprofit Works in Progress, said Mr. Woodward had done a poor job. “It wasn’t just the interrupting,” Ms. Swirling said in an interview on Thursday. “It was some really inappropriate questions that were just so clearly lacking in any sort of understanding of the dynamics of sexual violence.”

In a statement after the event, Mr. Woodward said: “As a longtime believer in the First Amendment, I am glad people got to express themselves. Jodi and Megan signed a copy of their book for me after the session, which I enjoyed very much, and said, ‘Thank you for the fabulous questions.’ So there may be a difference of opinion. Welcome to America!”

In a statement, Ms. Kantor and Ms. Twohey said: “We’re just starting our book tour, and we’re grateful to all the moderators — Bob Woodward, Katie Couric, America Ferrera and many others — who have agreed to join us onstage. We welcome all questions, from them and especially from the audience, because each one is an opportunity to relate the wrenching decisions that many of our sources had to make and grapple with Metoo as an example and test of social change in our time.”

Accusing them of “artfully dodging” his questions, Mr. Woodward suggested during the interview that the behavior Mr. Weinstein was accused of had been at least partly to do with sex. The authors emphasized that based on their reporting, the misconduct many women accused Mr. Weinstein of — often occurring at work, or in a work context — was fundamentally about power.

“It’s not about sex in the romantic sense,” Ms. Kantor said. “I would say that part of the way it’s about power is it’s about work.”

The audience, which packed the historic room, applauded.

“He got a very clear answer about Weinstein’s behavior’s being a function of the exploitation of power,” Ms. Swirling said, “and he said, ‘O.K., so, power. But it’s about sex also, right?’ And half the audience was shouting, ‘No!’”

Mr. Woodward also described Mr. Weinstein’s behavior as “a weird foreplay,” she said.

Ms. Swirling said she felt nauseated after the talk. “Like many other survivors of sexual violence in that audience, I had a pretty visceral response,” she said.

Robin Runge, a former victims-rights lawyer, said two audience members had criticized Mr. Woodward directly during the post-interview question-and-answer session.

“He was gracious about it,” said Ms. Runge, who spoke to the reporters during their reporting in 2017. “There’s no way he didn’t know what was going on.”

Toward the end of the event, Mr. Woodward again praised “She Said,” calling it “a blueprint” for how investigative journalism should be done, Ms. Runge said. The audience applauded.

The interview will be shown on C-SPAN-2 at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday as part of the series “Book Talk.”


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