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To Sue a Predator Catcher

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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ETHICAL STING? A scene from "To Catch A Predator"

A respected former Dateline NBC investigative producer is claiming that her opposition the "To Catch a Predator" franchise got her wrongfully canned by the network. Marsha Bartel, who spent 21 years with NBC, was laid off last year as part of NBC's "TV 2.0" reorganization. But in a lawsuit filed against NBC in Illinois last week, Bartel claims she was actually fired after she refused to participate in the "Predator" stings because the network's arrangements with Perverted Justice and local police violated NBC News ethical guidelines.

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According to the lawsuit, which was posted at the Smoking Gun, Bartel complained to network brass that "To Catch a Predator" presented a host of ethical problems and made quick work of NBC policies that she, as a producer, had a duty to comply with: The network pays Perverted Justice, a shadowy online vigilante group that trolls for perverts by posing as children; it "unethically pays or directly reimburses law enforcement officials to participate in the 'Predator' stings"; and "unethically provides unfettered access to live video feeds ... to law enforcement officials." The lawsuit describes the filmed arrests of "Predator" targets as "dramatically staged" and claims that "NBC unethically covers up the fact that law enforcement officials act improperly ... and goof off by waiving rubber chickens in the faces of sting targets while forcing them to the ground and handcuffing them."

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