Ellen Pompeo accuses TMZ of abusive behavior after Kobe Bryant death coverage

Ellen Pompeo
“For decades tabloid media emotionally abuses women and we are their biggest audience,” Ellen Pompeo tweeted Tuesday.
(Bob D’Amico / ABC)

Ellen Pompeo has let her feelings be known in the wake of TMZ’s early coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death, citing website founder Harvey Levin’s practices as an example of “white male privilege” and calling the outlet’s behavior abusive toward women.

“I wonder why police departments give @HarveyLevinTMZ all this sensitive info ? I wonder why @HarveyLevinTMZ puts out photos of women who have been attacked or assaulted. ...Who were victims? Exploiting women who have been abused... why is this guy still in business at all?,” the “Grey’s Anatomy” actress wondered Tuesday on Twitter after calling on her followers to sign a petition seeking the cancellation of the TMZ television TV show.

“So many questions I have ...if we are not tolerating abuse anymore... shouldn’t we be calling this out? Exploiting women who have been abused... exploiting the brutal sudden death of peoples loved ones is certainly emotional abuse... I call times up on his behavior,” she continued.

“For decades tabloid media emotionally abuses women and we are their biggest audience,” she added.


Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami had slammed “a media outlet” in a tweet Sunday for publishing news of Bryant’s death before law enforcement had officially identified all the victims of the Sunday helicopter crash and notified their next of kin.

The next day, in a televised news conference, Sheriff Alex Villanueva scolded TMZ by name for its actions.

“It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one … perished and you learn about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate,” he said.

Complete coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash.

Then on Tuesday, TMZ’s Levin stated in a radio interview that he “wasn’t sure” what the sheriff’s department was talking about, as he said “Kobe’s people” had assured him that the retired NBA star’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, was aware of the news before his website published it.

He told KNX In-Depth that it was a fair point that the other victims’ families might not have been notified yet, but seemed to think the Bryant news outweighed those concerns.

Levin said TMZ had confirmed the news with Bryant’s camp Sunday after he was tipped off to the 9:47 a.m. crash by a longtime law enforcement source. It first published the news on TMZ Sports just before 11:30 a.m.

The first 24 hours of television coverage of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others was frantic and emotional.

“We dealt with Kobe’s people for an hour before we published this story and we were told very clearly that she had been notified,” Levin said. Later, he challenged the interviewer as to whether his news outlet would have waited hours before publishing the story.

KNX had not waited, broadcasting a story that cited TMZ as its source. The Los Angeles Times tweeted early on that it was aware of reports about the crash and was investigating, then published a confirmed report of Bryant’s death around noon Sunday.

The first official public identification of four of the victims, including Bryant, came from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Pompeo on Twitter implied that “steady streams of cash” to law enforcement were involved in TMZ’s newsgathering process but defended other first responders against suggestions that they might be the source of leaks. “They are real heros and I work with so many of them and they are discreet and amazing,” she tweeted.

Tabloids’ stories are sketchy and their circulation has tanked — so how do they continue to survive at grocery checkouts nationwide?

She went on to imply that staff members at certain airlines were on the take as well when it came to paparazzi awaiting celebrities at the airport.

"[W]hat I’m saying is that there is a history with this outlet specific specifically having pictures and having stories that only the police have,” Pompeo said in a reply to one person on Twitter.

She followed up by tweeting to another, “And that is what you call ...wait for it...white male privilege! He simply says a ‘friend’ in law enforcement told him 1st &somehow because he is a white man saying it it makes it okay w you youre defending him. [Why] would law enforcement tell him anything?”

Then Pompeo turned her focus straight on Levin.

Harvey Levin, founder of TMZ.
(Craig Mathew / Associated Press)

“So many peoples lives will never be the same after this tragedy... but you got your scoop. Hope you sleep well at night @HarveyLevinTMZ I’m sure you do...,” Pompeo tweeted.

The actress’ publicist declined further comment Wednesday, saying that Pompeo had “made her point” in her tweets.

A Levin representative did not respond immediately to a request for comment.