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Why The 'Las Vegas Review-Journal' Didn't Publish A 1998 Investigation On Steve Wynn

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a story about an article it didn't print 20 years ago - an investigation of sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn, one of the titans of the casino industry. Last month, a separate Wall Street Journal investigation raised similar accusations against Wynn. Now, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has written about why its investigation was not published 20 years ago. The reporter of that story from 1998, Carri Geer Thevenot, is now metro editor at the paper and joins us. Welcome.

CARRI GEER THEVENOT: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: How did this story end up coming out now, 20 years after you wrote it?

THEVENOT: I was sitting at my desk when I read The Wall Street Journal story, and our editor-in-chief came to see what's going on and, you know - and I started to tell him the story, and I don't think it sunk in right away. But he came back a little while later and said, are you going to go home and look for that file? And that's when I said, you know what? Let me just check this box that I've kept in the newsroom before I do that. And sure enough, it was sitting right there. And I think when he started seeing what I actually had, it was he who said I think this is a story, that the story was killed.

SHAPIRO: Wow. Will you summarize what that story contained that you reported in 1998?

THEVENOT: Yes. I came across some court documents as part of a discrimination lawsuit that had been filed against the Mirage Casino by 11 cocktail waitresses. Two women alleged that certain cocktail waitresses were being required to, quote, unquote, "sexually accommodate" high rollers. And one of these women claimed that she also knew a woman who had been sent to Steve Wynn himself to have sex with him. And I filed a story about their claims, and that's how we get to where we are today.

SHAPIRO: And not only did you persuade these women to tell their stories on the record, which is difficult to do, the paper actually had a couple of them take lie detector tests.

THEVENOT: Right. So I was called into a meeting in the publisher's office with several Mirage attorneys, and clearly, you know, they did not want us to publish this story. It was after that meeting, as I recall, that our publisher Sherman Frederick suggested that we polygraph the women. And when the results came back, I was told we were not publishing the story and to delete it from the system.

SHAPIRO: And the reporting now says that one of the women passed the polygraph test. The other - it was suggested that maybe she was unreliable, and she has since said that she was extremely nervous, didn't sleep the night before.

THEVENOT: Correct.

SHAPIRO: Why do you think the paper decided not to publish this story?

THEVENOT: You know, looking back, no one ever gave me a reason. I assumed it was fear of litigation.

SHAPIRO: Were you - I mean, I imagine if I were in that situation, I would have been furious.

THEVENOT: I was upset. You know, I guess I just felt powerless, and I don't remember making a stink about it, but obviously it stayed with me.

SHAPIRO: Your byline is not on the story the Review-Journal published this week. Why do you think this account is coming out now?

THEVENOT: Well, we're really a completely different newspaper now. We have new owners, new management, so, you know, I know that's why I felt like I could bring it up now.

SHAPIRO: The new owner of the paper, Sheldon Adelson, is a casino mogul himself and a business rival of Steve Wynn. Do you think that had anything to do with this story being told now?

THEVENOT: I don't. I mean, maybe I'm naive, but that didn't even cross my mind when I first brought this story up. What went into the decision-making by others in publishing it, I don't know, but I can't believe that that was something they considered either.

SHAPIRO: Do you feel at all vindicated to have this story told 20 years later? I mean, how does it feel?

THEVENOT: I do feel somewhat vindicated. I mean, I know I hung onto that file for a reason, and I probably envisioned someday talking to journalism students or my grandchildren about it. It's just one of those stories that it's not every day that a reporter writes a story that gets killed and it stays with you.

SHAPIRO: Carri Geer Thevenot, thank you so much for talking with us.

THEVENOT: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: She is metro editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and reported on sexual misconduct claims against the casino mogul Steve Wynn 20 years ago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.