CBS denied in the strongest terms a New York Times report Wednesday that CBS paid Michael Jackson an extra $1 million to air his entertainment special in exchange for his 60 Minutes interview last Sunday.
A spokesman called the Times reporter, Sharon Waxman, and the Times itself "irresponsible," suggesting that the newspaper’s story failed to report most of the network’s detailed rebuttal.
CBS issued the following statement Wednesday after the Times published its story:
"The story published in TheNew York Times today regarding CBS' interview with Michael Jackson is misleading and false- CBS did not pay for its interview with Michael Jackson on "60 Minutes." The origins of this story are unclear as the Times did not see fit to name its single, admittedly disgruntled, source within the Jackson camp. We will, however, reiterate what multiple CBS representatives told the Times on the record: CBS licensed an entertainment special, nothing else. There was no payment for a News interview.
In response to CBS's claim that it got the story wrong, the Times said, "Our story was balanced and accurate. CBS's position was set out fully in the second paragraph and in other paragraphs."
In the report, a CBS spokesman is quoted as saying, "CBS News doesn’t pay for interviews." But the spokesman in the story didn’t address the accusation made by an unnamed source that an extra million was coughed up from the CBS Entertainment budget in the guise of additional compensation for the Jackson prime time special but was actually in exchange for the interview.
The interview drew the best demographic ratings the program has seen in nearly four years. The entertainment special was originally scheduled for the November sweeps, but CBS postponed it when Jackson was charged with multiple counts of child molestation.
At the time, CBS said it was postponing the special "given the gravity of the charges against Mr. Jackson." CBS also said it would consider airing the special only "after the due process of the legal system runs its course." But network officials subsequently changed course. After the 60 Minutes interview aired, they announced that the entertainment special would air Friday, Jan. 2, well before due process on the molestation charges could run its course.
Waxman stood just as strongly by her story: "CBS had a comment that there was only one disguntled source for the story, which is not the case," she told Broadcasting & Cable. "There were multiple sources for most of the story. My reporting subsequent to that story being published has also confirmed that the story is accurate."
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