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ABC News Under Fire For Payment To Murder Suspect

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ABC News Under Fire For Payment To Murder Suspect

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ABC News Under Fire For Payment To Murder Suspect

ABC News Under Fire For Payment To Murder Suspect

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ABC News is being criticized following revelations it paid murder suspect Casey Anthony $200,000. Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Red Huber/AP hide caption

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Red Huber/AP

ABC News is being criticized following revelations it paid murder suspect Casey Anthony $200,000. Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Red Huber/AP

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

ABC News is facing sharp criticism because it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a woman accused of killing her daughter.

NPR's David Folkenflik has this story behind the money.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: The disclosure came yesterday in a state court in Florida. Attorney Jose Baez was explaining to a judge why his client, Casey Anthony, needed help in paying legal bills. Anthony is on trial for killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee, and Baez had to explain publicly where her past funds came from.

Mr. JOSE BAEZ (Attorney): 200,000 came from...

FOLKENFLIK: It's awfully tough to hear. But as the judge made him reiterate, he's saying $200,000 came from ABC News.

Unidentified Man: From where, I'm sorry?

Mr. BAEZ: ABC.

Unidentified Man: From ABC News?

FOLKENFLIK: On September 5th, 2008, Casey Anthony was released from a Florida jail on bail for charges of child neglect and endangerment. That day, ABC promised an inside look at the doubts growing around the young mother. Here was Elizabeth Vargas on "Good Morning America."

(Soundbite of TV show, "Good Morning America")

Ms. ELIZABETH VARGAS (Host): Even if you think you know the details, there are new insights and new exclusive, intimate pictures like these...

FOLKENFLIK: Anthony was indicted for murder a month later. Today, ABC News declined repeated requests for comment. But the network now confirms paying Anthony for what it says was only exclusive access to the family's home videos and photographs. It got no interview with her. The disclosure is nonetheless a bombshell in journalistic circles.

Lawrence Grossman is the former president of NBC News.

Mr. LAWRENCE GROSSMAN (Former President, NBC News): It is, I regard, as a totally unethical, journalistic practice to pay people for access that way.

FOLKENFLIK: He says it's particularly galling to see the revelation of such a large payment so soon after the announcement that ABC was flashing hundreds of jobs to save money. Grossman says such a hidden payment undermines the network's...

Mr. GROSSMAN: Trustworthiness, integrity, honesty of reporting in a serious way.

FOLKENFLIK: Staffers at ABC News, speaking on condition of anonymity, say they found it equally appalling. All the major network news divisions have a rule against paying people for interviews. Yet, many of them bend the rules as they chase big stories. NBC News recently flew a man back from Brazil with his son on a GE corporate jet after an international custody battle. He soon appeared on NBC. Yet, Casey Anthony received a big payday from ABC, and the network never told viewers.