My previous post on this story here.
When Fox Cable executive Darlene Tipton contacted Sarah Bajc about raising money to compensate her for the loss of her life partner on Malaysian Flight 370, Sarah was less than enthusiastic. The American teacher living in Beijing thought the plan was a scam and wanted nothing to do with it. That hasn't stopped Tipton and her husband Ken from setting up a gofundme.com account with a goal of raising $22 million using Sarah's companion Philip Wood as the lure.
The campaign is an "'All or Nothing' plan," Tipton writes on the site. "If $22 million dollars is raised in 30 days, the funds will be offered to the legal rep of Philip Wood's family in exchange for them waiving all legal claims. Each family member will be compensated about $2.5 million dollars."
The strange saga culminating in this unwelcome money-raising began on the first of April when Darlene Tipton sent an email offer of help to Sarah from her Fox email account including her full title Vice President, Standards and Practices in her signature.
From the email exchanges it is apparent that Sarah would not have interacted with Tipton except that Tipton’s upper level position with Fox imbued her with some credibility as did the fact that the couple had a Los Angeles lawyer Stan Lieber vouching for them.
But the tone of the emails grew increasingly weird. Tipton told Sarah that she and her husband knew where the passengers were and had a lot of information about Flight 370.
“However, before we can release the info, we are REQUIRED to make sure that all immediate family members of passengers of Flight #370 are compensated and sign a waiver to not sue anyone BEFORE we are allowed to release the info.”
“Don't ask me to tell you the info because I just can't. Stan (Lieber) has been told and he can verify whether or not that the info is more then (sic) just plausible. The info can explain everything such as what happened, why, when, where, what screwed up, where did they go, and what government has control of the situation - for now.”
After reading this, which included a suggestion that movie deals and paid interviews would be part of the Tipton’s assistance to the Flight 370 families, Sarah Bajc felt obligated to notify Fox. She said that either the emails were from someone, “posing as a management person working for Fox, or at worst an actual management person at Fox who is capitalizing on her role with you to feed a scam together with her husband.”
Other than to say her concerns were being passed on, no one from Fox ever got back to Sarah. On April 9, she got an email from Ken Tipton. His wife had lost her job and been escorted off the property after 24 years with Fox.
"Was your intent to have my wife fired? We are trying to do something good. You just have to wait and see.”
Contacting a woman who has just lost her partner in an apparent air accident with promises of information in exchange for waiving legal rights and then blaming her for the loss of your wife's job are two of the many errors of judgment demonstrated by the Tiptons. So it came as no surprise to me that the broadcasting giant terminated Ms. Tipton’s employment.
What is surprising is that the Tiptons are undeterred.
In one of her email pitches to Sarah, Darlene Tipton’s frustration with Sarah’s reluctance becomes clear. Tipton writes, “The fact is that I don't need anyone's permission to do what I need to do in regard to raising money to compensation the passenger s family members. (sic) Whether the family members take the money or pass on it is not my problem. Money raised for family members who then pass on receiving it will be used to pay others.”
To Sarah Bajc’s alarm, the money-raising has begun and though there were 239 people on the plane and presumably they are all together in whatever universe the Tiptons suggest they are channeling, Philip Wood is the only passenger being used to front the couple’s crowd-sourced compensation campaign.
Lieber, the attorney told me on Friday that the Tipton's were “not trying to get money out of this. They’re trying to raise money for the victims.”
That’s an interesting choice of words because “not trying to get money” was pretty much the same comment made about another curious event in Ken Tipton’s past.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1998, Tipton masterminded an internet pay per view event that would draw spectators for 18 episodes culminating in what viewers would expect to be a teen-age first time sex act. But in the end, it would be a hoax.
Tipton said it was going to be a public service announcement for teen celibacy like War of the Worlds in public impact.
The Tiptons may be tone deaf about what is acceptable behavior but give Mr. Tipton credit, he knows what events have legs when it comes to getting publicity.
Whether the increasing public attention to the couple's campaign for MH 370 families will generate dollars is an entirely different matter. Earlier today, the Philip Wood gofundme site had$500, a prime-the-pump donation made by Ken Tipton. But something changed and by early Monday morning the account was back to zero.
View the movie about Ken Tipton's vision of what happened to MH 370, here.
My previous post on this story here.