Billionaires Bully the Media

The Harvey Weinstein scandal raised awareness of the tactics used by billionaires in the United States to keep the media from publishing critical stories. Weinstein used several tactics to prevent the sexual assault story from being published, including threatening to sue the New York Times for $50 million.

As Jim Rutenberg wrote in the Times: “There is also another dynamic at play, involving something akin to a protection racket. This is the network of aggressive public relations flacks and lawyers who guard the secrets of those who employ them and keep their misdeeds out of public view.”

News organizations that aim to expose the truth behind the actions of powerful individuals such as Harvey Weinstein often need substantial resources and legal support in order to navigate the protection rackets that are in place.

Examples abound of billionaires shutting down or attempting to shut down critical news coverage. Most famously, Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel worked with Hulk Hogan to sue Gawker out of business. Similarly, President Trump sent a cease-and-desist letter to author Michael Wolff in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the publication of the book, Fire and Fury. (Weinstein, Hogan, and Trump were all represented in these cases by the same attorney, Charles Harder.) While larger news organizations often have the resources to defend against these sorts of attacks, smaller news organizations and journalists do not.