Gossip Site Defends Posting Of Rihanna Photo

Harvey Levin says TMZ obtained the picture legally.

Even as the Los Angeles Police Department conducts an internal investigation into how a [article id="1605454"]picture of a battered Rihanna[/article] made its way onto the Internet last week, TMZ executive producer Harvey Levin told Fox News that he obtained the disturbing image legally.

"It is a photograph of [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] that was taken shortly after the alleged beating a couple of weeks ago," Levin said during an appearance on Greta Van Sustren's "On The Record" show on Friday, noting that the LAPD essentially confirmed that the photo was real by launching the investigation. "We, obviously, believed at the time, convincingly, that it was Rihanna and put it up on the site. ... I'm not saying anything bad at all about the LAPD. I mean, what they needed to do, they felt, was conduct an internal-affairs investigation because they felt there was a leak. In so doing ... they did authenticate the picture."

Levin would not reveal how TMZ obtained the photo, but he said they did not initially believe that it was an image taken by the LAPD. "And we still are still not convinced it is," he said of the shot, which drew fire from [article id="1605481"]Rihanna's father[/article] and many [article id="1605531"]fans[/article], who called the leak "inappropriate."

In launching an investigation into the leak of the photo -- which appears to have been taken following the alleged altercation between Rihanna and her boyfriend, [artist id="1961441"]Chris Brown[/artist], on February 8 -- the LAPD said the image "has the appearance of one taken during an official domestic-violence investigation."

The LAPD has not named Rihanna as the alleged victim in the case, per department rules, but on Friday, following the release of the photo, [article id="1605533"]Rihanna finally broke her silence[/article].

"At the request of the authorities, Rihanna is not commenting about the incident involving Chris Brown," her representatives said in a statement. "She wants to assure her fans that she remains strong, is doing well, and deeply appreciates the outpouring of support she has received during this difficult time."

Following the bombshell posting of the post-altercation photo, TMZ also put up an image over the weekend of the singer getting out of a car in Los Angeles on Thursday, one of the first pictures of Rihanna in public since Grammy weekend.

Levin defended the posting of the Rihanna picture, saying that it presents both sides of the story on the alleged incident, which has brought the issue of domestic abuse into the spotlight.

"Chris Brown is not going to just say, 'I'm going to lie down on this one and not fight,' " Levin said of the 19-year-old singer, who issued a statement on February 15 saying he was [article id="1605148"]"sorry and saddened"[/article] over the incident. "I guarantee you that Chris Brown is going to mount a defense in this case. I know that. He will mount a defense in this case. So, the picture is not the be-all and the end-all, as far as he's concerned. ... But what it does do is it puts a face on what both sides really have been kind of leaking out over the last couple of weeks. ... Well, the bottom line is, here's the photograph, here's the end result. And frankly, Greta, I think it's pretty horrifying."

Brown, who turned himself in on the night of the Grammys and was booked on suspicion of making criminal threats, has not been charged in the incident.

Go here for domestic violence resources, or check out Think MTV for a video handbook on spotting the warning signs of abuse.

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