Three days after a "Hard Copy" report alleged that Michael Jackson was videotaped in an illicit sexual encounter, the pop star filed a $50-million lawsuit against the tabloid television show's reporter and a radio talk show that aired her assertions.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that "Hard Copy" correspondent Diane Dimond slandered Jackson with a false and unsubstantiated report, and compounded the injury by repeating the allegations on KABC-AM radio.
The suit also alleges that Dimond falsely reported that authorities had renewed their investigation of child molestation against Jackson.
The suit--which also names "Hard Copy" producer Stephen Doran, Paramount Pictures Corp. and KABC talk show hosts Roger Barkley and Ken Minyard--stems from a Jan. 9 episode of "Hard Copy" and an appearance on Barkley and Minyard's show that morning.
Jackson's lawyer, Howard Weitzman, said the show was based on British tabloid reports published last weekend and on a claim made by Victor Gutierrez, a self-proclaimed biographer of Jackson who is also named in the suit.
But a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said an investigation into Jackson has not been reopened, and Weitzman said "The tape doesn't exist. The conduct never took place."
Moreover, he said, he warned the producers of the TV show that if they aired the story, they would be making a false report.
"I called and said, look . . . no tape exists. This is a vicious lie and a rumor," Weitzman said. "They said they were going to air it anyway."
After the report was broadcast, Jackson announced he would sue members of the media who "spread vicious lies and rumors about me in their attempts to make money, benefit their careers, sell papers or get viewers to watch their programs."
Lawyers for "Hard Copy" and the other defendants could not be reached for comment. But a spokesman for the TV show told the Associated Press that the show's producers stand by the report, and view the suit as an attempt by Jackson's lawyer to discourage "independent ongoing investigations."