LOS ANGELES - TMZ's Harvey Levin said that he spoke with Kobe Bryant's team before breaking the news of his death in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
“We got a tip that this had happened…it was from somebody who would have been in a position to know this and it wasn’t enough for me or for the team, so we worked for a solid hour after making a slew of phone calls, Levin told FOX 11 anchor Elex Michaelson.
“I was personally on the phone with various people in Kobe’s camp and I got it confirmed by them and we posted the story.”
During a press briefing following the crash, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized TMZ for posting the story before the families of some victims were notified.
Levin defended TMZ's decision making process.“The issue is…how long do you hold it?
As far as I could see, the Sheriff just identified Kobe in the news conference yesterday…” he said. Levin compared it to a TV network reporting on the crash of an airplane.
“You say where the plane is going and even the flight number, you’ve just informed 300 people that their relatives were on that plane..." Levin said.
In terms of web traffic, Levin said the death of Kobe Bryant is the biggest story in TMZ's 14 year history--by a long shot.
Levin said it is not clear whether Bryant will be honored at a public memorial at the Staples Center or at the Coliseum.
In addition to the Bryant story, TMZ has been working on a special report on Prince Harry & Meghan's relationship with the royal family.
It airs on FOX stations around the country on January 29th at 8pm.