BOSTON (AP) _ Kathie Lee Gifford today lambasted the news media and defended Michael Kennedy, the late son-in-law of her husband, Frank Gifford.

On her talk show ``Live with Regis and Kathie Lee,'' Mrs. Gifford disputed news reports last year that Kennedy had a sexual affair with his family's baby sitter that began when the woman was 14 years old.

Mrs. Gifford said Kennedy had taken three lie detector tests administered by two experts that showed the affair did not become sexual before the woman was 16, the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

``Now, that does not mean that what he did was right,'' Mrs. Gifford said. But they proved Kennedy's action were not criminal, and ``his children deserve to know that,'' she said.

She did not say who had the tests administered.

Massachusetts authorities considered bringing statutory rape charges against Kennedy but decided to drop the case after the baby sitter, now 19, refused to press charges. Prosecutors would not say whether they had evidence that the relationship was sexual before the baby sitter was 16 years old.

Kennedy was killed New Year's Eve in a skiing accident at Aspen, Colo. The 39-year-old businessman was the middle of 11 children of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy.

Mrs. Gifford attended his funeral Saturday, along with her husband, the ABC sportscaster, and his daughter, Vicki Gifford Kennedy. She and Michael Kennedy, who had three children, separated just before reports of his relationship with the baby sitter were published in The Boston Globe.

The past year was difficult for the Giffords. A tabloid published pictures and a story purporting to show Frank Gifford having an affair, but the couple remained together.

Mrs. Gifford said that following Kennedy's death, it was an appropriate time to break her silence about the allegations against him. As she did so, she urged reporters to be more responsible.

``Please respect the truth enough to find out what it is and then report it, because it may give you headlines and it may give you some ratings, but it damages people's lives and it's irresponsible and the press has to look at these things,'' Mrs. Gifford said.

The studio audience applauded her remarks.