Every Ronan Farrow story features a predictable villain, who unleashes lawyers to harass and heckle reporters off a story. But in 2018 that villain was Farrow himself, according to journalist Daphne Merkin.
Farrow and his family directed a pressure campaign toward top brass at New York magazine in the days before they published Merkin’s lengthy profile of Soon-Yi Previn, the wife of Woody Allen and adoptive daughter of Allen’s ex Mia Farrow, Merkin — who has never spoken publicly about the conflict — told The Post.
“I wasn’t used to this level of fear … fear of Ronan, of being sued, of the power of Mia and Ronan, simply culturally, their power on Twitter,” Merkin said.
Allen, 84, infamously began an affair with Previn, now 49, in 1991 when the director and actress Mia Farrow were still together, and Previn was only 21 and living in the Farrow home.
Merkin’s story included Previn’s brutal assessment of Mia Farrow’s parenting and her dismissal of decades-long Farrow family allegations that Allen sexually assaulted his 7-year-old adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992.
Previn had been silent on the matter for decades and Allen consistently denied Dylan’s accusations. Ronan Farrow, 32, and his 75-year-old actress mom, remain bitter toward both.
“What’s happened to Woody is so upsetting, so unjust,” Previn told Merkin in the piece. “[Mia] has taken advantage of the #MeToo movement and paraded Dylan as a victim. And a whole new generation is hearing about it when they shouldn’t.”
The alleged pressure campaign succeeded in knocking the story off the cover of the Sept. 17 issue, which Merkin says she was promised in exchange for agreeing to changes from Team Farrow.
The Farrows also specifically demanded the insertion of a line conceding Merkin had been “friends” with Allen for over 40 years. They cited her 2014 book, “The Fame Lunches,” in which she revealed she developed a correspondence with Allen after writing a fan letter to him. Allen also helped Merkin while she was suffering from depression and encouraged her writing career.
After the piece came out, critics zeroed in on this admission of friendship to savage Merkin as incapable of reporting objectively.
“I wasn’t that friendly with Woody Allen — saw him maybe once or twice, if that, a year for a drink,” Merkin said. “I was never invited to his Christmas parties or any of that stuff.”
In an email to her editor at the time, obtained by The Post, she called the decision by the magazine to bump her story from the cover a “personal betrayal.”
Merkin, 65, a former staff writer at the New Yorker, has spent decades covering hyper-litigious people and institutions. But she says nothing compared to the full-court press the Farrows brought to bear.
“I had never had this much interference [and] oversight,” she said. “I said more than once that maybe I should pull it.”
The irony that she was fending off a journalist famous for exposing Harvey Weinstein and sparking the #MeToo movement was not lost on Merkin.
“This is someone who is big on women telling their stories,” she said. “This was a woman telling her story and the effort to simply invalidate it and simply stop it was pretty steady.”
The pressure campaign included a direct and contentious call from Ronan Farrow — author of the #MeToo-inspired book “Catch and Kill” — to then-New York magazine editor-in-chief Adam Moss demanding he pull the plug on the 9,000-word story, a person who spoke to the former editor about the matter told The Post.
“Ronan did call Moss and Moss expressed unhappiness about the call. [Farrow] definitely tried to prevent New York magazine from publishing,” the source said. The magazine also confirmed Farrow did try to “discourage” the piece.
Moss, who stepped down from the publication in January 2019 to pursue other interests, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Post.
“Ronan is a powerful journalist now with lots of connections. It had absolutely influence on what we’re doing,” Merkin’s editor, Laurie Abraham, told Merkin in a Sept. 10 email explaining the phone call.
There was also a flurry of emails from lawyers and other representatives of Dylan Farrow, now 34, to the magazine, said Merkin.
A New York magazine source confirmed to The Post that PR reps for Dylan and family did reach out but insisted the correspondence had been “standard for a controversial piece” and that no lawyers were involved.
Emails to Merkin from Abraham viewed by The Post, however, alluded to the “assertiveness of Dylan’s legal team” and warned that Moss was “nervous.”
Merkin — whose fifth novel, “22 Minutes of Unconditional Love,” is out soon — also says Team Farrow was able to obtain at least a partial, and possibly full, draft of her story before publication, a dire concern she raised to her editors at the time.
“In my long journalistic experience, which has included writing critical profiles of Madonna and the Kabbalah Center, both media heavyweights, neither ELLE or The NY Times ran the pieces by” the subjects, Merkin wrote in an email. “I feel there is some cowering going on in the face of The New Yorker’s holy status & Ronan’s cultural capital.” Farrow is a contributing writer to The New Yorker.
Dylan Farrow told The Post her efforts were necessary to push back against “falsehoods that Woody Allen has been pushing for a long time.”
“I did my best to respond to inaccuracies and flat-out lies about my assault and my family, and I was shocked that a magazine I respected was planning to run a one-sided piece on such a sensitive topic pertaining my childhood sexual abuse,” she said. “So, yes, I expressed my very real concerns about that, and I’m glad I did, because if I hadn’t, there would have been even more misinformation in what was already a puff piece about my abuser written by his friend.”
Ronan Farrow declined to comment, though a person close to him insisted Farrow “didn’t want to kill that story,” and accused the magazine of “deeply unethical” behavior.
He “only wanted to understand the story better, so he could advise his sister, who was worried about a piece that discussed her sexual assault,” the source continued.
A New York Magazine rep denied Merkin had been promised the cover, or that Team Farrow saw an advance copy.
“The decision not to put it on the cover was an editorial decision by the magazine that had nothing to do with pressure from Ronan Farrow or the Farrow family,” the spokesman said.