LOS ANGELES (CBS) — NBC News was under fire Thursday for airing an interview with Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.
A documentary is scheduled to air later this week on MSNBC that contains extensive interviews with Murray conducted by an independent filmmaker. NBC News bought the rights to air the documentary.
In exchange, they were granted an exclusive interview with Murray, conducted just days before the verdict was announced.
Portions of NBC’s interview aired Thursday on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Jackson’s family members are furious.
“He had is chance in court,” said Jackson’s brother Jermaine. “And he didn’t stand up, which makes him a coward.”
Jermaine believes Murray’s interview was motivated by money. “He must have been paid handsomely to do this,” says Jermaine. “And that says a lot about MSNBC.”
Jackson’s sister LaToya wrote a letter to the president of MSNBC saying, “I feel it morally reprehensible to cloak a murderer and convicted felon with celebrity status, which the airing of Dr. Murray’s views will undoubtedly accomplish.”
NBC denied requests by CBS for an on-camera interview, but did admit the connection between the purchase of the documentary rights and the granting of an interview by Murray.
“NBC Universal licensed the documentary from Zodiak Rights,” NBC representatives said in a written statement. “In connection with the documentary, NBC Universal had the opportunity to conduct a promotional interview with Dr. Murray. Neither Dr. Murray nor his legal defense were compensated in any way.”
Matt Belloni, news director for The Hollywood Reporter, says the deal raises questions.
“You can’t turn a blind eye to one thing and say we don’t pay,” says Belloni. “When you’re paying for the access to the video, and along with that comes this free of charge extra thing, which is the interview.”
Lawyers for Jackson’s estate sent a letter to NBC saying, “We demand that you exercise proper judgment and refrain from airing this program.”
At this time MSNBC still plans to air the documentary as scheduled.