Paris Hilton Denies That NBC Deal Is In the Works

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007

Paris Hilton, responding to reports that NBC has offered her a large sum in seeking her first post-jail appearance, said last night that she is not accepting a dime for any television interview.

NBC executives disputed reports that "Today" has landed an interview next week with the incarcerated heiress, to be done after her release from a Los Angeles jail. But the executives could not rule out the possibility that NBC's entertainment division was trying to strike a deal with Hilton -- an increasingly common way for networks to smooth the way for a high-profile sit-down with a top anchor.

"Paris Hilton is not being paid for any television interview," her spokesman Mike Sitrick said in a statement. "Nor is Paris being paid for any collateral, including video and photographs, related to any interview."

After a New York Post report that NBC had offered Hilton as much as $1 million, the network said in a statement: "NBC News has not and will not pay for interviews."

The broadcast networks have rules against paying for interviews but often find creative ways around them, sometimes by paying for photographs and home movies. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, said on its Web site yesterday that a mega-payment might go toward personal video and images of the celebrity party girl.

While NBC says no interview is confirmed, the New York Post account yesterday said that Meredith Vieira will quiz Hilton on "Today."

The network has already done business with the family. Hilton's mother, Kathy, starred in an NBC reality show two years ago. Network executives acknowledge that big stars are usually more comfortable granting news interviews to a media company that is already compensating them on the entertainment side, an unspoken arrangement that critics describe as a circuitous form of checkbook journalism.

"Today" aired a Matt Lauer interview this week with Britain's Princes Harry and William that happened to take place after NBC's entertainment division agreed to pay more than $2 million for a July tribute concert marking the 10th anniversary of the death of their mother, Princess Diana.

In 2003, CBS's "60 Minutes" scored an interview with Michael Jackson right after the network's entertainment division agreed to air a music special featuring the singer, who was then charged with child molestation. CBS also dangled the possibility of movie and book deals when its news division was pursuing an interview with Jessica Lynch, the soldier who was rescued in Iraq.

With less well-heeled interview subjects, free travel and hotel payments sometimes help seal the deal, and experts are occasionally hired as consultants for access to their information.

In this case, ABC had been in a strong position to obtain the interview with Hilton, who called Barbara Walters shortly after being jailed to talk about how she was becoming more spiritual and wanted to do more with her life.

Hilton is serving part of a 45-day sentence for driving with a suspended license after a DUI arrest. The cable networks provided wall-to-wall coverage when the Los Angeles sheriff released Hilton after three days, citing her mental state, but a judge ordered her back to jail to finish the sentence.

In a newly released interview with Ryan Seacrest of E! News, Hilton said, "I just realize that the media used me to make fun of and be mean about it," adding that she is "frankly sick of it" and wants to "use my fame in a good way."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company