MSNBC is rejecting accusations that it engaged in checkbook journalism to get an interview with Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Michael Jackson’s 2009 death, the Hollywood Reporter wrote.
October Films produced a documentary on Murray which MSNBC licensed for a “six-figure fee” according to the Hollywood Reporter. According to the Hollywood Reporter, MSNBC said it “licensed the documentary from Zodiak Rights.”
But, the documentary buy included a “‘promotional’ interview with the doctor.” The interview was conducted before Murray’s verdict and aired the day after Murray was found “guilty of involuntary manslaughter for administering the fatal dose of propofol that killed Jackson in June 2009.” MSNBC denied paying Murray, according to a statement published by the Hollywood Reporter:
“In connection with the documentary, NBCUniversal had the opportunity to conduct a promotional interview with Dr. Murray. Neither Dr. Murray nor his legal defense were compensated in any way.”
While the film company denied that it paid Murray “save for a contractual notional $1,“ the Hollywood Reporter cites anonymous “sources” claiming that Murray was paid “in the low- to mid-six figure range” in licensing fees.
Gawker-owned blog Jezebel questioned “Did NBC inadvertently fund Conrad Murray’s legal defense?” noting that Murray “was in debt” and had his “medical license … suspended” since earlier this year, but Murray still had an “expansive” legal defense.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
“Murray was in debt close to $800,000 on the day Jackson died and his financial circumstances worsened in the months that followed as intense media coverage hurt his ability to earn money as a cardiologist. But after signing a deal with a British producer in 2009, he was able to assemble a defense team that included four attorneys, a jury consultant, a publicist, and a host of medical experts.”
A separate report by the Los Angeles Times added that Murray’s driver, Louis Perry, told the newspaper that one of the documentary’s producers, the aptly-named Leon Lecash, bought “Murray and his defense team” lunches and paid for Murray’s “rides to court,” among other things.