BIG BUSINESS around Bashir’s Documentary. Time to find Who was Who in the game
Have you noticed that when you search for something rare and cannot find it you are often rewarded with something equally valuable instead?
This is what happened to me when I tried in vain to find a confirmation for a Spanish article called “Víctor Gutiérrez, asesor de Bashir” about Gutierrez working as Martin Bashir’s assistant on a number of his films.
Instead I came across the New York Times article telling a lie that CBS had paid millions to Michael Jackson for Ed Bradley’s interview which we recently discussed in this post.
The article was part of a series about Bashir’s documentary and besides confirming that the New York Times did indeed lie about CBS it also showed how NBC offered Michael Jackson $5mln. to get him into a trap and what a mad race was arranged by several TV networks to make huge profits at the expense of Michael Jackson.
The first thing I’ve learned from the New York Times is that February (when Bashir’s documentary aired) is the crucial month for setting TV advertising rates for the rest of the year – so airing the documentary in February 2004 was not a chance one.
The race for grabbing money started with British Granada TV’s perfect timing for offering their film to the market and was picked up by almost all major networks. They ferociously competed in selling Jackson to their viewers in February as it is a sweeps month when advertising rates are set – which by the way may be valid for newspapers too (?). The New York Times reveals that,
“In the end Mr. Jackson took up more than 10 hours on prime-time network television and another 10 hours on cable in the two-week period beginning last Feb. 6, during a sweeps month, when advertising rates are set.” (The NYTimes, Jan. 21, 2004).
Please don’t be misled by the phrase saying “Mr. Jackson took up” something – it wasn’t him but the TV networks who made huge business on his name. Actually from the way the NYT describes Michael Jackson he is no human being at all but a huge selling item and a tool for boosting someone’s ratings.
The fact that Michael’s own career was sacrificed for their profits was not even an issue with them. Actually the decline in sales of his albums was one of the hottest selling points too – seeing the heavy market demand for anything incriminating Jackson, the networks turned hour-long specials into two-hour ones and speculated on every piece of negative news about the man. The article below admits it even in its headline:
Networks Scramble for Anything Jackson
By BILL CARTER
Published: February 14, 2003
With his recording career in sharp decline, Michael Jackson may no longer be the king of pop, but he certainly is the king of sweeps.
In the last week, Mr. Jackson, 44, has generated a frenzy of bidding and counterbidding for Jackson-related programming among the four major television networks, all seeking an edge in the special ratings period known as the sweeps month.
The sheer volume of Jackson material, as well as the ferocity of the competition to acquire it, has amazed even the network executives participating in the process. ‘‘Michael Jackson is the ultimate traffic accident,” said Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Entertainment. ”People can’t take their eyes off him.”
The rush for Jackson-centered programming, and the scheduling chess match among the networks, began in earnest after more than 27 million people tuned into ABC on Feb. 6 to watch a British-made documentary about Mr. Jackson, which ABC paid [to British Granada Television] almost $6 million to acquire.
Fox then beat bids from the other networks, including NBC‘s $5 million offer, for the rights to film made by the Jackson organization, which hopes it will counter some of the negative impressions of Mr. Jackson left by the documentary.
Yesterday, ABC agreed to pay an additional $500,000 to the show’s British production company, Granada Television, for rights to rerun the original documentary next Monday. The documentary will be preceded by yet another hour — produced by ABC News — about Mr. Jackson’s career and the controversies surrounding his interaction with children.
ABC’s three-hour Jackson block on Monday is intended to blunt the finale of ”Joe Millionaire,” Fox’s hit reality show, and a ”Dateline NBC” documentary about Mr. Jackson, largely centered on his extensive facial surgery.
But when NBC learned about ABC’s decision to rerun the two-hour documentary from 9 to 11 Monday night, it expanded its own planned hour long Jackson report to two hours. VH-1 will present the original Granada documentary five times this weekend, beginning Saturday night at 9.
Most networks acquire the rights to run programs at least twice, and it is not unusual for a successful show to be rebroadcast within a short period. But Granada sold rebroadcast rights to VH-1 before the documentary even appeared on ABC.
CBS, the only network so far not to have a Jackson program in the sweeps month, is still trying to land Mr. Jackson for an interview on its newsmagazine ”60 Minutes,” executives from the network said. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/14/business/networks-scramble-for-anything-jackson.html?src=pm
Then the New York Times article shows how marvelously “unbiased” their approach to Michael Jackson is. You can practically feel their satisfaction at the decline in sales of Michael’s albums and see them making innocent eyes at their own and other media’s role in it.
The point of the show is to emphasize that Michael’s decline in success was wholly his own doing and was the result of a natural process of the public loss of interest in his talent and a growing interest in his “increasingly eccentric behavior”.
The media is presented as an innocent baby of course whose business is only to register the horrendous “crimes” of Michael Jackson which include dangling the baby over a hotel balcony (I don’t remember it being “over” anything), the audacity to never disclose details of his facial surgery (as if he was obliged to do it) and “inviting” children to sleep in his bed (which is a flat lie as he never invited anyone there).
The New York Times further proves it complete “neutrality” by explaining in detail that the interest in the Fox rebuttal special based on the film created by “the Jackson camp” is quickly “fading” as networks “feel discomfort” and “uneasiness” about the “source” of the tape – Marc Schaffel, who is producer and director of pornographic films and who is now thought to be back in the Jackson “camp” again.
This news is accompanied by a small but piquant note from a spokeswoman for Jackson, Ann Gabriel who said she didn’t know about Schaffel’s involvement but described him as “merely Michael’s friend” – thus adding a little more spice to the description of Michael Jackson’s “criminal” character.
- In her testimony at the 2005 trial Ann Gabriel said she had worked in Michael’s team for full six days, had never met Jackson personally and was so concerned about Michael’s “friend” Scaffel and another guy Konitzer that she asked Michael’s lawyer LeGrand to investigate both of them because she “couldn’t allow Mr. Jackson’s reputation to fall into total ruin in the press.” After her dismissal, she spent six hours telling Jackson’s brother, Jermaine, that the singer was surrounded with “detrimental” people who were draining him dry.
Marc Schaffel does indeed own a copyright to Debby Rowe’s episode in Michael’s rebuttal video and sued both Jackson over it and the Fox News when they showed the episode in their news program soon after Michael’s death. So much for him being a friend…. (for the full story please go here ).
However the readers of the New York Times don’t know these small but crucial details and easily buy the idea that Michael Jackson’s rebuttal video, made by a porn producer, should be something fishy, untrustworthy and probably even a lie intended to disprove the “truth” told by Bashir.
TV networks knew that no money could be derived from positive news about Jackson, so few competed for his own footage of Bashir’s interview and as a result a relatively small number of people saw it – as witnesses to those events recall it. Compare the number of viewers on the first days of airing different specials (with numerous reruns of Bashir’s documentary not taken into account):
- Feb.24, 2003 Michael Jackson TV special, FOX’s “The Michael Jackson Interview: Footage You Were Never Meant to See” drew a mere 14.2 million viewers on Thursday, about half as many as the 27 million who watched British interviewer Martin Bashir’s “Living with Michael Jackson” on a special Feb. 26 edition of ABC’s “20/20.”
- About 14 million viewers also greeted last week’s Dateline NBC special, “Michael Jackson Unmasked.” The FOX special, which was sanctioned by Jackson, was meant to serve as a rebuttal to Bashir.
Since Fox was the only one who made a special based on Michael Jackson’s own video footage and there were practically no reruns, the New York Times felt free to join or echo the accusations against Fox that they “had much lower standards” than the rest of the networks and “did anything for higher ratings” – thus showing how terribly worried they were about a non-existent speck in other people’s eye without noticing a big log in their own.
The NYT chose not only to repeat these outrageous statements in full earnest but stressed the shakiness and untrustworthiness of anything coming from Michael’s camp by the unusual number of “but” used in their piece about the Fox special. It naturally starts with the news of Michael declining success:
“The fascination with Mr. Jackson flies in the face of declining sales for his albums. Mr. Jackson’s latest album, ”Invincible,” has sold two million copies in the United States since its release in 2001, and ”HIStory,” a greatest hits album, has sold 2.5 million copies since 1995, according to Nielsen SoundScan. By contrast, ”Thriller,” Mr. Jackson’s 1982 hit album, sold 26 million copies.
But network executives said that the public was now less interested in Mr. Jackson’s talent than in his increasingly eccentric behavior, including inviting children to sleep in his bed and dangling his baby over a hotel balcony.
Because the first broadcast on ABC of the documentary was the most-watched show of the month so far, the Fox special on Feb. 20, created from film shot by the Jackson camp, is now expected to be even more of an attraction. But the rush to acquire it generated discomfort among several of the participants, who registered uneasiness about the source of the videotape that was being offered.
Specifically, two networks said that their interest in the material faded as soon as they learned that one of the intermediaries in the negotiations was F. Marc Schaffel.
Mr. Schaffel had previously been associated with Mr. Jackson, even producing his charity music video for victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks. But the video was never released, and Mr. Schaffel was thought to have been excluded from the Jackson camp after revelations about his background in producing and directing pornographic films.
Still, several network executives said Mr. Schaffel participated in the negotiations about newly available tape of Mr. Jackson. A spokeswoman for Mr. Jackson, Ann Gabriel, said she did not know Mr. Schaffel’s official position in Mr. Jackson’s camp, describing him merely as ”a friend of Michael’s.”
… Fox executives said they were unaware of Mr. Schaffel’s background when they negotiated with him for the new Jackson film. But one senior Fox executive said, ”It was almost like, don’t ask, don’t tell.”
A senior executive at a competing network said of the frenzied negotiation for Jackson material: ”The whole thing gives me a stomachache. We’ve never been closer to Paddy Chayefsky.” Mr. Chayefsky wrote ”Network,” the movie with an apocalyptic vision of an anything-for-ratings television future.Other networks accused Fox of having much lower standards about what it was willing to do to acquire a show that will attract big ratings.
But Joe Earley, the corporate spokesman for Fox, said: ”This is obviously a case of sour grapes. The other networks were aggressively vying for this footage. Since they were unsuccessful, we’re now suddenly the only network that would ‘stoop’? That’s transparent and laughable.”
Well, I don’t know anything about Fox, but now that I see what they had to go through to show Michael’s rebuttal video they have gained my immense respect…
However the most interesting news is yet to come.
Two more New York Times articles tell us of an incredibly treacherous way in which the NBC network wanted to interview Jackson and their openly blackmailing methods to try and force Michael into this interview:
“NBC chose to play a valuable card in its hand. NBC made a written offer to pre-empt an investigative program into Mr. Jackson by ”Dateline,” an NBC News program, an offer that the Jackson side understood to mean the segment’s cancellation, a senior Jackson adviser said, not just its indefinite postponement, as NBC insists.”
To understand what the above piece is all about we need to read the official offer made by NBC to Michael Jackson detailing the rights of both parties. To me it looked like a positive trap they expected Michael to walk into at the price of $5mln.
Please note that their offer was sent to Michael immediately after Bashir’s documentary by the NBC West Coast Vice-president in charge of the business affairs of NBC and was copied to an Entertainment chief and producer of a NBC News program (these details are important).
Here is the full text of the NBC offer for your full enjoyment of it: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/21/arts/text-of-nbc-s-inducements-to-jackson-camp.html?src=pm
Text of NBC’s Inducements to Jackson Camp
Published: January 21, 2004
On Feb. 15, 2003, Marc Graboff, executive vice president of NBC West Coast, sent an e-mail message to David G. LeGrand, a lawyer for Michael Jackson, asking Mr. Jackson to consider a bid by the network for the exclusive rights to an interview. The e-mail was copied to Jeff Zucker, entertainment chief of NBC at the time, and David Corvo, executive producer of ”Dateline NBC,” a news program. Mr. Jackson’s representatives also received a term sheet for a Jackson special and interview. Following are the texts of the e-mail and the term sheet, both provided to The New York Times by a representative of Mr. Jackson.
I am the executive vice president of NBC West Coast, in charge of the business affairs of NBC. As you no doubt are aware, NBC is extremely interested in acquiring the rights to the Michael Jackson footage and to an interview with Mr. Jackson.
David Corvo of ”Dateline” has forwarded to me an e-mail from you that indicates that you are close to finalizing a deal with another outlet.
However, before you do so, I urge you to review and consider the Term Sheet that we will be sending you shortly, which, among other things, offers $5 million for the exclusive rights to the footage and the interview.
NBC’s Claudia Eaton and Robert Jarrin are now in Las Vegas standing by to meet with you to work out the terms of the arrangement and the logistics of the production. I am also available to discuss these matters, whether in person or by telephone.
Again, we urge you to seriously consider the offer we are about to send to you. Unlike with other networks, the acquisition of the rights to this special on NBC will have the added benefit of pre-empting NBC’s planned broadcast of the one-hour ”Dateline” scheduled for Feb. 17.
Feb. 11, 2003
1. Purchase Price: $5 million.
2. Personal Interview: Exclusive right to conduct the next Michael Jackson interview to be published in any medium (to be conducted by Pat O’Brien or T.B.D.). General areas of interview questions to be provided in advance.
3. Footage rights: Exclusive rights to the existing footage in Jackson’s possession or control, including without limitation:
a. Two (plus) hours Martin Bashir footage
b. Three (plus) hours Debbie Rowe footage (other than three minutes previously sold to ET) [Entertainment Tonight]
c. Footage [of the boy, whose name is being omitted by The Times]
(collectively, the ”Footage”), consisting of, without limitation, the exclusive right to edit the Footage for use in a one- to three-hour (as determined by NBC) prime time television special to be broadcast on NBC (the ”Special”), the exclusive right to broadcast any part of the Footage, whether as part of the Special or in advertising, publicizing and promoting the Special, and the exclusive right to use excerpts in other NBC programs such as ”Access Hollywood,” ”Dateline” and the ”Today” show
4. Limitations on exclusivity: Special and the Footage are exclusive in all media throughout the world in perpetuity, to NBC and its related cable systems and affiliated broadcast platforms (e.g., Bravo, Telemundo, MSNBC, CNBC). Embargo on sale or use of any unused portion of the Footage.
5. Representation and warranty that Jackson owns all rights to the Footage and that NBC’s use of the Footage as described above will not infringe on any third party rights (including, without limitation, Martin Bashir and/or the BBC).
6. Indemnification with respect to any claims related to NBC’s use of the Footage
7. Copyright to the Special to be owned by NBC.
8. Consultation/approval rights on editing the Footage. Jackson may predesignate certain Footage segments to be incorporated into Special, provided appropriate disclosure made pursuant to NBC broadcast standards and integrity guidelines.
9. Jackson assistance in obtaining music clearances/licenses or other music rights for network/cable broadcast and home video.
10. Jackson cooperation in prebroadcast publicity/promotion of the Special.
Claudia Eaton talking point: not for inclusion in formal deal memo:
Pre-emption of scheduled Feb. 17, 2003, ”Dateline” special on Michael Jackson to be discussed.
I regard this magnificent document as an effort to blackmail Michael Jackson.
The very beginning of it makes you immediately apprehensive – their desire to lure Jackson into giving an interview by promising to pre-empt the Dateline one-hour program looks more like a threat “See what we will do if you don’t agree…”
The terms offered are discriminative to the degree of being an insult:
- they will inform Jackson of only “general areas of interview questions” which leaves much room for all sorts of ‘queer’ questions meant to take him completely unawares
- they will receive exclusive rights to all Michael’s materials without limitation, which will make him unable to use them himself or offer them to anyone else if he doesn’t like the NBC’s version of the story
- the NBC rights will include the exclusive right to edit the Footage – which is the right to totally disregard Michael’s opinion – as well as the exclusive right to broadcast any part of the Footage for promoting the Special and using it in other NBC programs like ”Access Hollywood,” ”Dateline” and the ”Today” show (I can imagine what episodes were to be selected)
- the clause on “limitations on exclusivity” says that there will be no limitations on exclusivity as the Footage will be shown exclusively by NBC and its affiliates all over the world – with no one else having access to it!
- moreover, if NBC does not use some parts of Michael’s footage – which may easily turn out to be crucial for his exoneration in the eyes of the public – there will be a worldwide embargo on sale and use of the unused material!
- knowing in advance that Michael will make claims against NBC they are offering an unknown sum of “indemnification” which is yet to be discussed and which will be naturally turned into another piece of sensational news
- consultation/approval rights on editing the Footage are limited to a permission for Jackson “to predesignate certain Footage segments to be incorporated into Special” which is followed by a virtually incomprehensible condition that it will be done “provided appropriate disclosure made pursuant to NBC broadcast standards and integrity guidelines”.
- Jackson is required to assist NBC to obtaining music rights to songs for network broadcast and home video of him (so if they, for example, want to mock at his home video or decide to bury Michael’s music forever he will not be able to complain – as he himself gave his okay to that).
- and finally Michael Jackson will be under an obligation to cooperate in “prebroadcast publicity/promotion of the Special” – even if he doesn’t like it, doesn’t agree to it, didn’t have the right to edit it and has claims against NBC because of it!
Let us imagine ourselves in Michael Jackson’s shoes – he either gives an interview on these slavery terms or they will broadcast their Dateline news program about his facial surgery which from the way they speak about it should be something really nasty? Well, even in a danger like that I wouldn’t agree if I were him. He didn’t agree either, but his associates nevertheless checked up whether the Dateline program would indeed be cancelled.
And to their big surprise the NBC network said that all they had in mind was just an indefinite postponement!
“When first reported a year ago, deep in a Washington Post gossip column, Mr. Graboff said the offer ”was not a quid pro quo: ‘You give us the interview, and we’ll kill the Dateline special.’ ”
But a close adviser to Mr. Jackson who negotiated with NBC said the offer had been precisely that. ”They said they would remove it, that they would not run the special if we gave them the interview,” said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ”They would get rid of the special.”
In the end, the Jackson adviser said, the deal with Fox went ahead for more than $5 million [other sources say it was $3mln], even without an interview with Mr. Jackson, his advisers said, and the NBC offer was spurned”.
When Michael Jackson refused NBV had their revenge on him by expanding the Dateline program to two hours and trashing him there under the title of “Michael Jackson Unmasked” over such issues as his plastic surgery and ties with his porn “friend” Schaffel:
”Dateline” expanded its Jackson segment to two hours, and it ran on Feb. 17. Titled ”Michael Jackson Unmasked,” the special was critical and featured Mr. Jackson’s extensive plastic surgery and his ties to a former producer of pornographic films, Marc Schaffel.”
Critical of Jackson? They mocked at him speaking about only two operations for full two hours (though he was probably right – some surgery could be corrective as was the case with his broken nose) and said that he had more than 50 operations instead, because a certain person “shared an office” with Jackson’s plastic surgeon and therefore knew better!
“Earlier this week, a “Dateline NBC” special examined the singer’s denial that he had only two plastic surgery operations. A doctor who shared an office with Jackson’s personal plastic surgeon claimed the pop singer had over 50 operations”. http://www.lifewhile.com/news/1995933/detail.html
Now, considering that the offer from NBC to pre-empt the Dateline program was made in writing and that all of us understood it to be a cancellation how did NBC explain that they never meant it that way, I wonder?
They said that the “entertainment” section of NBC (which pays for its interviews) cannot have power over “the news” section of NBC (which doesn’t pay) and that Dateline is a news program and “entertainment” TV cannot affect news which runs on its own.
The above is said with a straight face of no jokers who claim that a Dateline program on Michael’s facial surgery is a news program and that the offer made by the vice-president of NBC on behalf of the whole network is nothing but a useless piece of paper:
“Two executives named in the memo — Mr. Graboff and Jeff Zucker, who was the president of NBC Entertainment at the time — were not available for comment, said Rebecca Marks, an NBC spokeswoman. David Corvo, the ”Dateline” executive producer, who was named in the message, said yesterday,
”At no time did anyone discuss not running the ‘Dateline’ material.” He said he did not see the term sheet and did not remember seeing the e-mail message. He said the negotiations broke down before anyone could consider moving the ”Dateline” report, but said, ”We would not have agreed” to cancel it. ”I can’t imagine that happening.”
Ms. Marks, the spokeswoman, said that the offer to cancel the ”Dateline” special had been only an offer to move the broadcast date. ”It wasn’t that ‘Dateline’ won’t run ever,” she said. ”It’s that we weren’t going to run two specials in February.”
Ms. Mautner, the spokeswoman for ”Dateline,” said the special would have been shown later, though she acknowledged that Mr. Zucker, now president of NBC Entertainment, News and the Cable Group, is in charge of programming prime time, including ”Dateline.”
”There’s a line between our entertainment and news divisions, and they cannot kill a news special,” she said. ”Entertainment doesn’t have the authority to kill a news special.”
The above means that if Michael Jackson had agreed to the exclusive interview with NBC (passing over to them all his footage and never having the right to use it elsewhere) NBC would also have deceived him by showing the Dateline “Michael Jackson Unmasked” too, but only a little time later…
Amazing, isn’t it?
The New York Times somewhat whitewashes this little trick on the part of NBC explaining it by the tendency to blur the lines between news and entertainment, which is a correct interpretation of the phenomenon itself, but is no justification for NBC’s fraudulent actions, of course.
”A senior NBC executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the lines between news and entertainment are increasingly unclear. ”We’re at a crossroads, quite frankly,” the executive said. ”It needs to be clear. You can’t play it both ways”.
And it is at this point, after impassionately telling its readers of NBC’s deception plan, that the New York Times chooses to tell a lie of its own – about CBS this time whom they put on a par with NBC with their “checkbook journalism”:
“The furor over Mr. Jackson has raised other allegations of checkbook journalism. CBS denied a recent allegation by a close Jackson adviser that the network’s entertainment division agreed to pay $1 million to Mr. Jackson for an interview to run on ”60 Minutes” last February.
Both CBS and the adviser said the interview had fallen through after CBS refused to pay for the interview in advance, while the ”60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley sat waiting at Neverland Ranch. CBS says it never agreed to pay in advance and insists that CBS News was not paying.
The adviser also said that CBS had paid another $1 million for a Christmas Day interview with Mr. Jackson by Mr. Bradley for ”60 Minutes.” CBS has denied this, too”. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/21/arts/nbc-offered-jackson-deal-to-pre-empt-documentary-criticizing-him.html?pagewanted=3&src=pm
The specific thing about CBS was that it somewhat stood apart from the disgusting race for profits over Michael’s name and though Ed Bradley of CBS “60 minutes” did plan an interview at the same period of time he wasn’t offering Michael any money.
Their arrangement was a more honest and simple one – Michael talked to Ed Bradley for several hours prior to the interview and despite all those millions offered to him by others agreed to do an interview with Ed Bradley just because he developed a trust for the man and didn’t expect any distortion of fact from him.
As you remember their initial interview was scheduled for February 2003 (same period when NBC made their offer to Jackson) but was put off because Michael received a phone call before its start that Jordan Chandler’s “deposition” had being released on the Internet and would soon be in the US papers (though it was a declaration only and was supposed to be sealed in Larry Feldman’s office – see this post for details about it).
The interview with CBS took place almost a year later – on Christmas day, 2003, when Michael’s associates contacted Ed Bradley on their own and said he was finally ready to talk to him.
So why did the New York Times, the “pillar of journalism” as Larry King called it, tell a lie about CBS paying millions for the interview?
Most probably because they couldn’t bring themselves to say that despite NBC’s offer of $5 million Michael decided to give an interview for free.
Only recently (in Nov. 2003) the NYT reported his financial difficulties:
- “Mr. Jackson’s financial well-being appears fragile and with each successive record costing more and earning less than the last, he is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain his lavish lifestyle” .
And now they will have to admit that Michael Jackson turned down the offer of $5 million just because he liked the honesty of a journalist? No way!
So referring to some unknown Michael’s “close adviser’ and even Ed Bradley himself they invented details of a bargain between Michael and CBS saying that the initial interview had fallen through because Michael wasn’t paid $1 mln. as promised and it took place only after the second million was paid in addition to the first one – implying that all this time Michael Jackson had been bargaining with Ed Bradley …
CBS charged the New York Times with printing a colossal lie as is clear from this article:
CBS charges ‘Times’ printed ‘colossal lie’
Posted 1/5/2004 11:35 PM by Peter Johnson
“In a letter to the paper, 60 Minutes chief Don Hewitt said the Times printed a “colossal lie” when it reported CBS paid $1 million to secure the Dec. 28 interview. The interview made 60 Minutes the week’s top-rated show, drawing 18.8 million viewers.
In a phone call, Hewitt said, “I can tell you categorically that we at 60 Minutes did not pay Michael Jackson one cent.” Asked if another CBS division paid Jackson — which is what the Times alleged — Hewitt responded, “Was the deal sweetened? To the best of my knowledge, it was not.”
The Times said Monday it stands by the Dec. 30 article by reporter Sharon Waxman. “Our story was balanced and accurate,” spokesman Toby Usnik said. “CBS’ position was set out fully.” Waxman could not be reached but has said that her reporting was accurate.
Waxman’s story, that Jackson was paid by CBS Entertainment and not 60 Minutes, thereby allowing CBS News to maintain it does not pay for interviews, prompted intense criticism of the network.
“CBS shredded whatever remained of its news division’s ethical standards,” wrote Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times. “Checkbook journalism is a pretty dirty term, but it somehow seems inadequate to describe the arrangement. All that’s missing is a wire transfer to a numbered account in the Cayman Islands.”
The network denied it made any payment to Jackson for an interview, but acknowledged it had negotiated an unspecified deal to air a Jackson entertainment special during the recent ratings sweeps period.
CBS postponed the special after California authorities issued an arrest warrant for Jackson on child molestation charges. And CBS has said it told Jackson that unless he addressed the charges on 60 Minutes, the special would not air.
Waxman — quoting an unnamed, disgruntled Jackson associate — reported that to get the interview, CBS sweetened the deal by giving him $1 million beyond a reported $1.5 million it had already paid upfront for the special.
Waxman also reported that last February, Jackson had backed out of doing an interview with Bradley until he was paid $1 million. The Jackson associate quoted Bradley as saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” (Bradley, on vacation, could not be reached Monday.)
In his letter, Hewitt, 81 — now in his final semester at the top-ranked newsmagazine — questioned why the Times would allow a source “with an ax to grind to put damaging and utterly false words in the mouth of a journalist as respected as Bradley?”
He continued, “Is it not a violation of journalistic ethics to publish an unsubstantiated story … without getting corroboration that he actually said what you quoted him as saying?
Because we at 60 Minutes do not allow people with axes to grind to make wild, unsubstantiated accusations, we assumed all news organizations worth their salt adhered to the same standards.”
The Times wouldn’t say what it will do in response to Hewitt’s letter. A scandal last year involved reporter Jayson Blair, who admitted faking numerous stories and quotes. Since then, the newspaper has made a series of changes to better respond to complaints, including the appointment of a public editor who writes about such issues, and a standards editor to oversee accuracy internally.
60 Minutes also has faced ethical charges before: In 1995, it held a Mike Wallace interview with tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, a move widely viewed as caving into pressure from CBS higher-ups. http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/mediamix/2004-01-06-media-mix_x.htm
“CBS shredded whatever remained of its news division’s ethical standards”? “Checkbook journalism is a pretty dirty term, but it seems inadequate to describe this arrangement”? “60 Minutes also has faced ethical charges before”? And all of this “prompted intense criticism of the network’?
I am amazed more than ever… First they invent a lie about CBS and then they trash it for their own lie – while all this time all those TV networks which are indeed to blame for “checkbook journalism” feel safe and sound as no one is looking in their direction or cares about what they are doing?
Isn’t it a surprising coincidence that each time some network (Fox or CBS) made a more or less unbiased report about Michael Jackson this network also had to defend itself as it was immediately accused of violating ethical standards? Though it was actually them who were telling the truth?
Why didn’t their accusers look in the direction of NBC instead and say a couple of tender words about their fraudulent schemes and their total lack of journalistic ethics when they were setting a trap for Michael Jackson and openly deceived him by all those false promises?
The news veteran Ed Bradley didn’t throw tantrums over the unjust and colossal lie told about his program. The only thing he allowed himself was a quiet comment in his February 2004 interview with Larry King that no money had been paid to Jackson, that Michael chose him as he trusted the man and money was not a factor at all, and that he was infinitely surprised that no one from the New York Times had verified their false information or named the source of an unknown Michael’s “associate” who allegedly told that lie.
Below is an excerpt from Ed Bradley’s and Larry Kings’s conversation. Now the details they discussed about differences between “entertainment” and “news” are becoming clear at last:
KING: …The story that appears in the “New York Times” is “he says, first we have to make this deal. We need the money more on a live television show”.
BRADLEY: Never happened.
KING: Nothing like that ever — “New York Times” story was completely wrong.
BRADLEY: Completely wrong. Completely wrong. The “New York Times” story which was based on something that happened a year ago in February when we were at Neverland that this person said, we have to have more money for Michael.
KING: That was then.
BRADLEY: The quote was put in my mouth in the “New York Times” story saying I said, don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. Who said I said that? The person they attributed that quote to was described as a disgruntled former Jackson associate, unnamed, who felt that he was owed money. Now, that’s not a very credible source. What bothered me was that they never contacted me directly to say, did you say that?
KING: Never called you?
BRADLEY: They called — by the time they were ready to write this story we had finished the interview and I had gone on vacation. They called the CBS PR people and said, can we talk to Bradley? Bradley’s on vacation. They never said, here’s a quote. This is what they’re saying that Ed Bradley said, how does he respond to that?
KING: Back to a year ago, a year ago back in February, when they didn’t do it, did he say at that time, I want more money?
KING: Did he say, I’m doing the special, you must run it?
BRADLEY: No, this was a year before the special.
KING: The special hadn’t even been thought of?
BRADLEY: No, the special hadn’t been thought of. Maybe it had been thought of, but I didn’t know about it.
KING: Money was never mentioned?
BRADLEY: Money was not a factor. What happened a year ago was that when Marlon Brando told him that the deposition [declaration] was being made public he freaked out and he didn’t want to see anyone.
KING: So when you read the story, what did you think?
BRADLEY: I said, it’s a lie. I never said that. Who was the person who said I said that? Name him.
KING: Were you shocked that the “New York Times” ran that? I mean, here’s a pillar of journalism.
BRADLEY: You know, I expected more from them, frankly. I mean, if I had a quote from an anonymous source for a story I’m doing at “60 Minutes,” I couldn’t use that quote without contacting the person who’s quoted in that story in saying, this is what they say about you. We couldn’t do that.
KING: To your knowledge, is there any content between CBS Entertainment and CBS News where Entertainment could say do us a quid pro quo?
BRADLEY: No, there is no quid pro quo. There was no quid pro quo with Michael Jackson. CBS did not pay for the interview. CBS did not sweeten the pot. In other words, CBS did not say, OK, we paid you so much with a special, do the interview and we’ll pay you more for the special.
KING: Never happened.
BRADLEY: Never happened. Now, was there someone there from CBS Entertainment? Yes, because he knew Michael Jackson, having done the special with him and knew Michael Jackson’s people and he was a liaison with us, but he had nothing to do with the interview.
KING: Were they not going to run this special unless he did the interview?
BRADLEY: I don’t think they were going to run the special unless he answered the questions. Now it was his choice as to where he chooses, which forum he chooses to answer the questions. Now, would they prefer that he do it on “60 Minutes?” You bet.
What Ed Bradley is saying is that though someone from CBS Entertainment knew Michael Jackson (and could have paid to him if he had asked for it), this was not the case with Ed Bradley’s news program “60 minutes” which Michael selected himself because he trusted the man and gave him the interview for free – which makes the story told by the NYT “pillar of journalism” a flat lie.
Let me repeat that this lie looks to me like the only way the New York Times could explain the ‘impossible’ news that Michael had refused $5mln dollars from NBC and preferred an honest journalist instead.
And let me repeat that the cheek with which everyone else threw accusations at CBS for their “dirty checkbook” journalism is something simply unheard of. It is like calling white black or black white without batting an eyelid …
Though I hear that Thomas Mesereau later called Ed Bradley’s interview a disaster I would say that Michael Jackson wasn’t mistaken in Ed Bradley – the questions he asked were no provocations and showed his sincere desire to understand Michael Jackson’s way of life and thinking.
It was Michael who didn’t know how to explain that he saw no harm in giving his bed to others, that this was the way he was raised or that he was simply unwilling to give in to someone else’s dirty thinking by following their rules:
BRADLEY: As we sit here today, do you still think that it’s acceptable to share your bed with children?
MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: Of course. Of course. Why Not? If you’re going to be a ped-le, if you’re going to be Jack the Ripper, if you’re going to be a murderer, it’s not a good idea. That I’m not. That’s how we were raised. And I didn’t sleep in the bed with the child, even if it I did, it’s OK. I slept on the floor. I gave the bed to the child.
BRADLEY: What is your response to the allegations that were brought by the district attorney in Santa Barbara, that you molested this boy?
JACKSON: Totally false. Before I would hurt a child, I would slit my wrists. I would never hurt a child. It’s totally false. I was outraged. I could never do something like that.
It is clear that in contrast to other journalists Ed Bradley was at least making a serious attempt to understand the world of Michael Jackson and even in the midst of the 2004 events had the courage to say to Larry King he didn’t think him to be a molester:
KING: What’s your read on Michael Jackson?
BRADLEY: Michael lives in a world, I think his main residence is aptly named Neverland. It’s a fantasy world. I mean, I’m sitting outside waiting for this interview that never happened. I hear this noise and I look over my left shoulder and it’s an elephant and a trainer walking the elephant. I’m looking out at the lake in front of me and there’s a geyser at the other end of the lake and spawns, you know, gliding across the landing.
I look over here there’s a little waterfall and I see statues of pink flamingos and then I see the flamingos move, they’re real. And then I hear a half hour later to my right and I look over my shoulder, here comes another trainer with a camel.
All the time there’s a train going around and there’s a train station that’s as big as your house. And it’s all lit up with lights. And on other parts of the property, there’s other animals. There is a ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, and then there are all of these Disney-type programs being played on outdoor speakers.
It’s — he lives in a world that is still a child’s world. He never had a childhood. The one thing that struck me that he said was that when I was a kid and I would pass a playground and see kids out there playing, I had to go into the studio. From the time he was 7, 8 years old, he’s been the breadwinner for his family. So he now has re-created this world of fantasy where he can be a child.
Well, that’s not a real world. It’s not a real world, but it’s his world.
KING: Sad or what?
BRADLEY: I think it’s sad because it’s not real. And I think, in some ways, Michael is out of touch with reality, and I don’t think he has people around him who can say, Michael, can’t do this. Michael, you can’t do that. Michael, you can’t say this. You know, I think he has been so big for so long that he can do whatever he wants to do.
KING: Did you suspect — did you come away with any opinion?
BRADLEY: I came away not convinced that he is a ped-le. I think that that’s something that only a jury can decide. They have to look at the evidence, and I haven’t seen all the evidence. But I came away not convinced that he is a ped-le, but convinced that he doesn’t make sound decisions. That having already been accused in 1992, got to be extra careful about what it is that you do and not allow yourself to be put in a position where you could be accused again.
BRADLEY: I don’t dislike him. I mean, yeah, I mean, I don’t — I feel sorry for him more than anything else. I feel sorry that he didn’t have more of a normal life. And that somewhere along the line, as an adult, someone didn’t, you know, as we used to say, smack him upside the head and say, Michael, you can’t do this.
KING: Jermane has mentioned the black aspect. And you’re a black journalist. Do you see any of that in this?
BRADLEY: No, I don’t, no.
I was sorry to hear that Ed Bradley died in 2006 at the age of 65. He was an honest journalist and left a good memory of himself.
Here is the full text of his conversation with Larry King – two years before his death: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0402/04/lkl.01.html
As a POSTSCRIPT to this please don’t forget that in the above interview Ed Bradley also revealed absolutely sensational news that a year before his talk with Larry King (in February 2003, just before Bashir’s documentary aired), he was very close to making an interview with the Arvizo family as he saw them in Michael’s house that day!
As Ed Bradley was waiting for Michael to get ready for an interview they were all sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee. The Arvizos were eating doughnuts and praising Michael to Ed Bradley saying what a great guy Michael was. And it was only a chance occurrence that Ed Bradley didn’t record that interview – it just never entered his mind that several months later these very people would accuse Michael of unspeakable crimes!
Can you imagine that if only he had had a clue as to what they would say later we could have had a totally neutral and unbiased rebuttal video from Ed Bradley of CBS? I am thrilled even at a theoretical opportunity that it could have happened!
But this is a different story which you can read in this post…