Harvey Levin, the founder of TMZ, claims the outlet had the OK from “Kobe’s people” to break the news of the tragic helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven other people.
During an initial press conference after the tragedy, law enforcement authorities had slammed the news website for publishing the story before authorities had notified family members of the victims.
But according to Levin, who defended the site in an interview with LA radio station KNX’s “In-Depth,” TMZ dealt with the star’s reps and got permission before going to press.
“We dealt with Kobe’s people … and we were told very clearly that she had been notified,” Levin said, appearing to refer to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa.
But when asked about the families of the other victims being notified, Levin admitted, “That is a fair point.”
According to the NY Post, Levin revealed he initially got the tip from a longtime law enforcement source and then called reps for the 41-year-old retired Los Angeles Lakers star.
“We were dealing with them for an hour before we published the story, and they said, ‘Go for it,’” he said.
Levin and his site TMZ have been highly criticized for their rush to break the news story, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva blasted the outlet during a press conference Sunday, explaining to reporters why he couldn’t confirm the identities of those aboard.
“It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one perished, and you learn about it from TMZ,” Villanueva said. “That is just wholly inappropriate.”
Levin responded to the criticism by reiterating, “We confirmed it … and they said ‘Go for it,’ and they said she knew. So I’m not sure what he’s saying on that.”