CBS, Michael Jackson: Quid Pro Quo?


Was Michael Jackson’s Dec. 28 60 Minutes interview given in exchange for the airing of the King of Pop’s shelved music special?

A report in Tuesday’s New York Times cited unnamed Jackson employees saying the singer’s attorney and a member of the Nation of Islam had negotiated the interview with CBS President Les Moonves, and that airing the tribute was the quid pro quo. A network spokesman confirmed that Moonves was involved in the negotiation, but would not comment on who negotiated from the Jackson side.

As to the quid pro quo issue, the special and interview were clearly linked, but CBS said that it was in the driver’s seat. 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt had no comment, but show spokesman Kevin Tedesco said that the news interview had not been secured in exchange for agreeing to schedule the tribute. "Entertainment people have been saying all along that they wouldn’t put the show on unless an interview occurred in which he answered the allegations," Tedesco said. "Meanwhile, 60 Minutes has been trying to get that interview for over a year. The only deal we made is ‘you give us an interview and we’ll put [the interview] on the air.’"

But CBS also initially said it would not consider airing the entertainment tribute until "after the due process of the legal system runs its course," which it has clearly yet to do. Why the change? A CBS Entertainment spokeswoman reiterated that Jackson’s addressing of the charges in the interview cleared the way for the special, "the timing is better," she said, but would not comment beyond that.

CBS plans to run the special Friday night.