George Clooney has hit out at British tabloid the Daily Mail, alleging the paper has run a false story about his fiancee, the human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, that has put her life and the lives of her family at risk.
The Mail, which has been ramping up its coverage of Hollywood stars and has targeted the U.S. as a growth market for its website, claimed that Alamuddin’s mother, Baria, opposed their forthcoming marriage on religious grounds, and cited unnamed family members as its source.
In a statement published by USA Today, Clooney wrote: “I want to speak to the irresponsibility of Monday’s Daily Mail report. I seldom respond to tabloids, unless it involves someone else and their safety or well-being.
“The Daily Mail has printed a completely fabricated story about my fiancee’s mother opposing our marriage for religious reasons.
“It says Amal’s mother has been telling ‘half of Beirut’ that she’s against the wedding. It says they 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 goes on to refute key details of the Mail’s story: “None of the story is factually true. Amal’s mother is not Druze. She has not been to Beirut since Amal and I have been dating, and she is in no way against the marriage.”
He adds: “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.”
Clooney, whose father was a TV journalist and broadcaster, continued: “I’m the son of a newsman; I accept the idea that freedom of speech can be an inconvenience to my private life from time to time.”
He concluded: “The Daily Mail, more than any other organization that calls itself news, has proved time and time again that facts make no difference in the articles they make up.”
He cites several examples of Mail stories that were wrong, including that Alamuddin was pregnant, their marriage would be held on the set of “Downton Abbey,” and that he is running for political office. He adds that their stories have been picked up by other media outlets around the world.
“And 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. They must be so very proud.”
UPDATE: The Mail version of the story online was amended six hours after it was first posted on the website, and has since been removed entirely. The tabloid subsequently released the following statement in response to Clooney’s piece:
“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 U.K. 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.”