TMZ managing editor Harvey Levin responds to the backlash about his website breaking Sunday’s helicopter crash, which killed nine victims including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
The day of the incident, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized the news outlet for allegedly posting the story before the families of the victims were notified.
“It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one perished and you learn about it from TMZ,” Villanueva said at a press conference. “That is just wholly inappropriate.”
On Wednesday’s live episode of “The Real,” Levin revealed TMZ first heard about the news from a source, and then received confirmation from the NBA player’s camp.
“By the way, we got it confirmed by Kobe’s people, then ultimately that’s what happened. That’s how we ended up posting it, because the original source, I wanted more. And we got it confirmed by Kobe’s people,” Levin explained.
Harvey Levin also justified the decision by saying the story was a “big news event,” given Bryant’s worldwide fame.
“When somebody of that magnitude dies so tragically, this becomes a worldwide, massive story. When you look at the way these things come down, when you think about it, when there’s a plane crash… when you think about it, the media immediately says flight so-and-so going from Los Angeles to New York, and they’re basically telling 300 families knowing that their relatives were on the plane because it’s a news event. They’re not waiting for the sheriff or whoever to come out with all these notifications or whatever, because they report it because it’s a news event. This, in our judgment, was such a big news event.”
Additionally, Levin noted that the rest of media immediately reported the news after TMZ’s post.
“So look, I think it’s a fair discussion, but I do think it’s interesting that when you look at it, that the rest of the media immediately reported the story. This was not us off on our own. Everybody ended up reporting this, and there were mistakes along with the way. One network had said that all of Kobe’s kid had perished, which was not true. Another one said Rick Fox was on the helicopter, which was not true. So that all happened. But around that, I don’t know how you just sit on a story this massive, and nor I did think anyone else in the media felt that way, because they posted it too.”
During a Tuesday interview with Los Angeles radio station KNX’s “In-Depth,” Levin reiterated his point that TMZ “dealt with Kobe’s people,” and said “we were told very clearly that [Kobe’s wife/Gianna’s mother Vanessa Bryant] had been notified.”
However, when asked about the other victims’ family members, Harvey responded, “That is a fair point.”
In response to Villanueva’s criticism, Levin shot back, saying, “We confirmed it … and they said, ‘Go for it’ and they said [Vanessa Bryant] knew. So I’m not sure what he’s saying on that… We’re not law enforcement and he’s not a journalist. We do different things.”