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HealthSouth Ex-CEO Launches TV Show

March 02, 2004|From Reuters

Former HealthSouth Corp. Chief Executive Richard Scrushy, who is awaiting trial as the accused mastermind of a $2.7-billion accounting fraud, Monday began hosting a local morning TV show that he used to paint the media as the devil incarnate.

Using a folksy manner and repeated biblical references, Scrushy compared the media to "old Satan sneaking in the back door" and said he hoped to use the medium to deliver what he called truth "without negative media spin."

Scrushy bought the daily half-hour time slot for 12 months -- a period that goes well beyond the scheduled August start of his own criminal trial, according to the general manager of local independent Birmingham, Ala., station WTTO.

"It's just like Ron Popeil's pocket fisherman," said Scott Campbell, comparing the Scrushy show to infomercials often used to sell gadgets. "We take it as paid programming."

The show, with Scrushy's wife, Leslie, as co-host, appeared to at least one interested attorney to be a blatant attempt to influence the potential jury pool in this Bible Belt town.

"It seems fairly transparent in terms of trying to sway a jury," said Doug Jones, who is representing stockholders in a civil suit against HealthSouth

Scrushy has pleaded not guilty to 85 criminal counts in the massive accounting fraud at the operator of rehabilitation hospitals and surgical centers he founded. Fifteen former HealthSouth executives have pleaded guilty to various fraud charges and may testify against Scrushy.

"Richard has been victimized ever since the story started by inaccurate press reports," said Charlie Russell, a media consultant to Donald Watkins, one of Scrushy's lawyers. "Richard was looking for a consistent vehicle to present his point of view on some issues related to him personally."

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