“The Issue Is": Harvey Levin talks TMZ, 9/11, and 2024
LOS ANGELES - This week, Elex Michaelson takes "The Issue Is" on the road to TMZ Headquarters for an extensive, and revealing, conversation with its founder, Harvey Levin.
This, as TMZ gears up to launch their latest documentary "TMZ Investigates: 9/11: The Fifth Plane," an exploration of the suspicious events surrounding a possible fifth plane that was set to take off from New York on September 11, 2001, but was ultimately grounded.
Then, Levin recounts the origins of TMZ, which began as a website back in 2005 before expanding into television, game shows, tours, documentaries, and more. He also takes viewers behind-the-scenes of some of TMZ’s biggest stories, from Mel Gibson’s DUI to breaking news of the deaths of Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and Prince.
Levin also weighs in on the 2024 Presidential race, providing his thoughts on former President Trump, President Biden’s age, and public perceptions of Vice President Kamala Harris.
THE ISSUE IS: TMZ INVESTIGATES: 9/11: THE FIFTH PLANE
LEVIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "The documentary is called "9/11: The Fifth Plane," and the premise is that there was a flight, a United flight that was supposed to take off from JFK at 9:00 in the morning on 9/11, headed for Los Angeles. It was a 767. And there was a lot that happened on that plane that made flight attendants suspicious and the plane taxied out, and would have taken off, because the pilot says that normally there's only one or two planes ahead of him and he would have been in the air - for some reason, that day, there were 11 flights, 11 planes ahead of him."
"So, the World Trade Center got hit when they were at the taxiway. And when the second plane got hit, they closed the airport down. The plane went back to the gate. Everybody evacuated the plane. It was fully empty, locked. 20 minutes later, somebody on the ground saw two people running in the airplane, which seemed impossible because everybody was out. So, the authorities came, and they opened the door, and the hatch that goes from the belly of the plane, that opens up into the electronics area and then up into the cabin, that hatch was completely open and the FBI was alarmed enough to go to the hotel where the flight attendants were. Interviewed all of them. Actually took them to a lineup to see if they could identify four passengers in particular because of things that happened on the plane."
"This has never been mentioned in the 9/11 report, almost no reporting on this - a little bit, but almost none. Something weird was happening on this airplane. And we have interviewed the flight attendants. We've interviewed the pilot. They all believe that they were targeted as a weapon of mass destruction…."
THE ISSUE IS: THE ORIGINS OF THE TMZ EMPIRE
LEVIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "So I produced a show called 'Celebrity Justice' in the early 2000's. And I loved doing that show. And it was on for three seasons, and we just couldn't make a go of it business-wise, we just couldn't get the time slots. So when the person who ended up being my business partner at TMZ, was the president of Telepictures at the time, which was our parent company, and he called me into his office one day and he said, 'How would you like to how would you like to run a website?' And I said, 'I could not be less interested.' I said, 'I am a TV guy'...
"I said, 'I'm not going to do that.' I said, 'I have no interest in it.' And then I said, 'By the way, does this mean you're canceling my show?' And he said, 'Yeah.' And so I passed on it and I was going to do something else. And I went to Mexico a couple of months later, and I was drinking a couple of margaritas and in a margarita haze, I just thought, 'wait a minute, if you start a news operation online and you don't have a time period the way a television show does or a publishing cycle, the way a newspaper a magazine does, and when you get something right, you can get it up competitively, you can win’…
"It just seemed like such a simple idea. So when I got back to L.A. and I called Jim up and I said, 'is that thing still available?' And I said, 'if we can look at this as a news operation, I think I'm in’…"
THE ISSUE IS: BREAKING NEWS OF MICHAEL JACKSON AND KOBE BRYANT’S DEATHS
LEVIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "In both of those, we knew a fair amount of time before we actually hit the button. And, you know, you know, and then you think, are we missing anything? And you just want to check and you want to know. And, you know, this is not where you rely on one person and make a phone call. We made 100 phone calls on Michael Jackson, probably as many with Kobe, as well. With Kobe, we waited an hour-and-a-half, at least, before publishing it, when we knew…."
THE ISSUE IS: TRUMP’S 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
LEVIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "It scares the crap out of me... When somebody says that 'I will be your retribution,' that is a frightening prospect. Look, this country, I think, is in deep, deep trouble because of tribalism. And I think there has been tribalism in the media, on both sides, I think that there is tribalism in politics, and I think he is the king of tribalism. And, you know, it's that you're you're either with me or you're my mortal enemy. That's not the way to live. And I think he lives that way... if you run on a platform of revenge, where do you think that takes this country?…"
THE ISSUE IS: CONCERNS OVER BIDEN’S AGE
LEVIN’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I think it's an issue. To me, it's not an issue of whether he seems to have all of his faculties. I mean, he does. I mean, yeah, maybe there are moments he has, but look, the guy is engaged and everything else, but the reality is, we are now facing the prospect of an 86-yea-old president. I mean, we know how life works, right? And things happen in life. And the older you get when you get around that age, the reality is you don't last forever. So, you know, is age a factor? I think age is a factor. I don't think that necessarily means that his faculties have dimmed to a point where you have to be alarmed. I don't think that's so much the issue as just math…"
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.