A former medical corespondent for an NBC News affiliate in Los Angeles has been charged with asking a nine-year-old girl with sexually suggestive photos.
Dr. Bruce Hensel, who was charged in Santa Monica on Wednesday, is 71 years old.
“The Los Angeles Police Department said detectives began a child sexual exploitation investigation involving a nine-year-old child after inappropriate messages and photographs were shared between the child and a man believed to be Hensel,” CBS News reported Thursday.
The nine-year-old child is the daughter of an acquaintance of Hensel’s, the report noted. Hensel allegedly requested the racy images from the girl, whose name will not be revealed, via a messaging app on August 4th, according the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The former correspondent faces one felony count of contact with a minor for sexual purposes, according to Deputy D.A. Angela Brunson.
The 71-year-old was being held on $5,000 bail after the Wednesday arrest but was later released, reported CBS.
If convicted, Hensel could serve out 18 months in state prison.
The former NBC employee maintains his innocence.
A lawyer for Hensel said his client “is completely innocent of the charge.”
“We are cooperating with the authorities and look forward to a speedy and complete exoneration,” the lawyer told reporters.
“Hensel is well known in the area as the former chief medical correspondent for KNBC-TV. He won 11 Emmys and two Golden Mike awards for his work in Los Angeles media,” CBS reported, noting that his “LinkedIn profile says he spent 29 years with NBC — much of that time at KNBC as its medical and science reporter but left the station in May of 2016.”
NBC has been plagued with controversy since journalist Ronan Farrow claimed his bombshell story exposing Hollywood producer and alleged serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein was spiked by the network.
In Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill,” the journalist exposed another hit against NBC, a rape accusation against their former star morning host Matt Lauer. According to the accuser, Brooke Nevils, the accusation was known throughout the company before she filed a formal complaint.
Nevils, a former NBC News employee herself, claimed she was anally raped by Lauer in 2014 while covering the Sochi Olympics.
Nevils told Farrow that she, then-“Today” anchor Meredith Vieira, and Lauer had drinks at the hotel bar where the NBC team was staying during the Olympics. After socializing, Nevils said she went to Lauer’s hotel room to get back her press credentials, which she said were taken by Lauer as a joke. She then returned to his room a second time upon invite, when the alleged rape took place.
“Once she was in his hotel room, Nevils alleges, Lauer — who was wearing a T-shirt and boxers — pushed her against the door and kissed her. He then pushed her onto the bed, ‘flipping her over, asking if she liked anal sex,’ Farrow writes. ‘She said that she declined several times,’” the Variety report detailed the alleged encounter per Farrow’s book.
Nevils claims she “was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it,’” Farrow wrote in the book. “Lauer, she said, didn’t use lubricant. The encounter was excruciatingly painful. ‘It hurt so bad. I remember thinking, Is this normal?’ She told me she stopped saying no, but wept silently into a pillow.”
It was suggested last month by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that former NBC employee Megyn Kelly was canned by the network for publicly asking for an outside investigation into the apparent mishandling of both the Weinstein story and accusations against Lauer. Kelly did not comment on Carlson’s accusation.