George Clooney – actor, human rights campaigner – is engaged to British-Lebanese lawyer and author Amal Alamuddin. The tabloids are to be expected to take an unhealthy interest in the love life of a couple like this, but sometimes, just sometimes, a peeping Tom like the Daily Mail can go too far.
Clooney has penned an excoriating statement for USA Today, damning a recent story in the Mail that alleged that Alamuddin’s mother “has been telling ‘half of Beirut’ that she’s against the wedding”, and that her family “joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride. Let me repeat that: the death of the bride.” He points out that Alamuddin’s mother is not Druze, has not been back to Beirut since the engagement was announced, and that she is in no way against the marriage.
However, he is damning in where he goes next:
I am, of course, used to the Daily Mail making up stories — they do it several times a week — and I don’t care. If they fabricate stories of Amal being pregnant, or that the marriage will take place on the set of Downton Abbey, or that I’m running for office, or any number of idiotic stories that they sit at their computers and invent, I don’t care.
But this lie involves larger issues. The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous. We have family members all over the world, and the idea that someone would inflame any part of that world for the sole reason of selling papers should be criminal.
He finishes by writing that “when they put my family and my friends in harm’s way, they cross far beyond just a laughable tabloid and into the arena of inciting violence”.
Read the full statement here.
UPDATE: Roy Greenslade at the Guardian is now reporting that the Mail has issued a statement of apology. It reads:
The Mail Online story was not a fabrication but supplied in good faith by a reputable and trusted freelance journalist.
She based her story on conversations with a long-standing contact who has strong connections with senior members of the Lebanese community in the UK and the Druze in Beirut.
We only became aware of Mr Clooney’s concerns this morning and have launched a full investigation.”
However, we accept Mr Clooney’s assurance that the story is inaccurate and we apologise to him, Miss Amal Alamuddin and her mother, Baria, for any distress caused.
We have removed the article from our website and will be contacting Mr Clooney’s representatives to discuss giving him the opportunity to set the record straight.”