THE journalist who was widely vilified after her profile of Woody Allen’s wife, Soon-Yi Previn, was published in New York magazine, has responded to her many critics.
After Sunday’s piece — in which Previn accuses her adoptive mother and Allen’s ex-girlfriend, Mia Farrow, of being a callously abusive parent — was published, Previn’s adoptive brother, Ronan Farrow, accused Allen of “planting stories that attack and vilify my mother to deflect from my sister’s credible allegations of abuse”. (His sister, Dylan, accused Allen of sexually assaulting her in 1994, which Allen has denied.)
Meanwhile, Ronan’s partner, Pod Save America host Jon Lovett, called the author of the piece, Daphne Merkin, a “Woody Allen superfan” and said that New York magazine allowing her to write the story amounted to “malpractice.”
But Merkin told The Postthat, far from planting the story, the Annie Hall director tried to kill it.
Merkin said she emailed Previn directly to suggest the piece, and that when Previn agreed to speak, Merkin contacted New York magazine to pitch a piece about “what Soon-Yi feels and thinks”.
Veteran critic Merkin told The Post she believed Allen was reticent about the article from the beginning.
“I think his view was, ‘Ignore this; don’t get involved,’” she said. While Slate’s Christina Cauterucci suggested Allen may have been “pulling some strings” to influence the story, Merkin said: “There was no influence, other than he told me more than once to pull the piece. He just thought: Don’t.”
Merkin — who said she feels no need to defend her article but that additional context may help with understanding it — told The Post she agreed she would be an inappropriate author for the piece if it had been a forensic investigation into Dylan’s allegations. But she insists the story had been intended as “human interest” and “cultural criticism” about Previn’s life and how she coped with the alleged abuse.
Meanwhile, she said New York magazine editors knew of her friendship with Allen (she says she had only met Previn a handful of times before starting work on the story) and that while they imposed no rules on her work because of it, editors were at great pains to ensure the tone of the article was “dispassionate.”
Merkin has written extensively about abusive childhoods — including her own — and said: “In some ways the piece, for me, was an extension of 40 years of writing, sometimes about controversial issues.”
But when The Post suggested it was naive to believe that during the #MeToo movement the piece could have been seen as being about anything other than the allegations, Merkin said: “I would call it either naive, or my hope was the story was constructed carefully enough that it wouldn’t become a story about that.”
Responding to the online criticism that her article was an affront to the #MeToo movement or anti-feminist, Merkin told The Post in an email: “I felt I was opening the door on their townhouse and showing us an odd but affecting couple.
“It’s strange how critics don’t think Soon-Yi deserves to be heard, that the abuse she suffered, because it was at the hands of a woman and not a man, is somehow less valid. My intention was to let a silenced woman’s voice be heard.
“Far from seeing the piece as anti-feminist, I think the attacks on it are sexist (even — or especially — when made by women) and more than a tad racist.”
Originally published as Crucial detail left out of Soon-Yi tell-all