Many criticized the site for breaking the news too soon.

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Harvey Levin, the founder of TMZ, insists that Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa, knew that her husband had died in a helicopter crash before his site broke the news, according to an interview with Los Angeles radio station KNX. Levin reportedly got permission from "Kobe's people" and published the story, contrary to reports that said his family first heard the news through social media.

Kobe Bryant
Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

"We dealt with Kobe's people for an hour before we published the story and we were told very clearly that [Vanessa] had been notified," Levin told KNX's In-Depth.

According to Yahoo, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called out TMZ during a press conference on Sunday for its approach to breaking the news. Bryant's helicopter crashed around 9:45 a.m. and TMZ published its report at 11:24 a.m.

"I got the tip initially from law enforcement," Levin said on the radio show. "Then, we talked to Kobe's people and we were dealing with them for an hour before we published the story and they said, 'Go for it.' At a point we were all trying to confirm it and we confirmed it, but they all knew and they said, 'Go for it' and they said she knew."

Levin added that he believes that any leak actually came from ABC, which reported false details about the crash, including who was on board. He added that law enforcement may have had something to do with it, as well, something that Twitter users suggested when actor Ellen Pompeo slammed TMZ for what she saw as a disrespectful way to cover the tragedy.

"I talked to one of Kobe's people today and they felt that there was a leak that ABC published a story that all of Kobe's kids perished in the crash, which was erroneous," he said. "Somebody from Kobe's camp told me they felt that may have been a leak from the sheriff's department and they had their own issues when they walked out there. So, I'm not sure what [Villanueva's] talking about."

"There is wide speculation who the identities are," Sheriff Villanueva said during a press conference on Sunday. "It is entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identifications through their deliberate process and made notifications to next of kin."

He continued, "It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one has perished and you learn about it from TMZ."