ABC News Under Fire For Payment To Murder Suspect The attorney for Casey Anthony, who is accused of killing her daughter, told a court Thursday that ABC News had paid Anthony $200,000 for exclusive rights to reproduce family photos and a video. Several journalists said ABC's failure to tell viewers of the payment for the pictures was an ethical lapse.

ABC News Under Fire For Payment To Murder Suspect

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


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.

BLOCK: 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.

U: From where, I'm sorry?


U: 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."


BLOCK: Even if you think you know the details, there are new insights and new exclusive, intimate pictures like these...

FOLKENFLIK: Lawrence Grossman is the former president of NBC News.

BLOCK: 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 slashing hundreds of jobs to save money. Grossman says such a hidden payment undermines the network's...

BLOCK: 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.

BLOCK: I think they should say exactly what they did, whom they paid, what they paid, they should give their reasoning for pay.

FOLKENFLIK: Geneva Overholser, is a former ombudsman for The Washington Post. Overholser says she doesn't like checkbook journalism because interviewees can tailor what they say for money. But, she says...

BLOCK: The fundamental ethic in this case is transparency. To me, if ABC had been forthright about having made payments, then readers could - then viewers, I'm sorry, could judge for themselves.

FOLKENFLIK: Back in September 2008, when ABC did have a chance to be transparent, here's what Chris Cuomo asked Elizabeth Vargas on "Good Morning America."


BLOCK: Who bailed her out this time?

BLOCK: We're told it's a production company out of Tennessee, perhaps, that might've been interested in buying the rights to her story, her personal story. These are not insignificant sums of money, half a million...

FOLKENFLIK: David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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