On this day in 1979, ABC-TV’s 20/20 program aired a report questioning the official cause of Elvis Presley’s death titled, “The Elvis Cover-Up.”
The episode caused great concern and sparked researcher’s interest. A book, titled “The Death of Elvis, What Really Happened” was based on an 11-year study by James P. Cole, a veteran Memphis newspaper reporter, and his brother-in-law, Charles C. Thompson II, a CBS-TV “60 Minutes” producer.
Cole and Thompson began writing their book soon after breaking the news about Presley’s drug problems on a 1979 “20/20” episode they worked on with talk-show host Geraldo Rivera. After the show, the reporters filed a lawsuit against the Shelby County medical examiner and district attorney to force them to declare the autopsy report a public document.
Although they lost the case, their efforts led to the indictment of Dr. George Nichopoulos, a Memphis physician who prescribed approximately 10,000 pills for Presley during the 20 months preceding his death. Nichopoulos was found guilty in 1980 of “oversubscribing” medication to a variety of patients, which cost him a three-month suspension of his license.