George Clooney gave an interview on Friday to Variety, opening up about his problems with the Daily Mail and why he's worried about journalism.
Variety's David S. Cohen recalled a phone interview with the Ocean's Eleven actor in "Clooney on Beating the Daily Mail: ‘It’s Fun to Slap The Bad Guys’".
After a long career in the entertainment, Clooney's accustomed the weird statements tabloids will make. In fact, he'd make a game of it.
“I would sit with my friends and we’d just go, ‘So they just sat at a computer and just went, “OK, this is what I’m gonna say today.” I mean, literally, because you just go ‘There isn’t literally an element of truth in this.’"
So in usual fashion, he just laughs the inaccuracies off. What else can a star do, really? The activist is far more interested in finding solutions for which global atrocity or charity to focus on. Tabloid fodder's not even on his radar anymore since "every day they write things that aren’t true."
Sometimes there's a line, though, and the Daily Mail finally crossed it. "But every once in a while they write something that is actually dangerous to your family, and it’s probably not true. And that’s the one you pick.”
When news broke of his engagement to Amal Alamuddin, an activist, lawyer, and author, Daily Mail claimed his future mother-in-law greatly disagreed with the marriage based on cultural and religious differences. The point of supposedly telling all of Lebanon, even though she hadn’t visited the country the entire time her daughter and Clooney had dated—much less gossiped.
And according to the Hollywood star in his exclusive op-ed to USA Today, the story included jokes “about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride."
Daily Mail shot first, but lost in the ensuing mess.
As someone born to a journalist and a famous aunt, he understood the value in fact checking and responsible reporting. "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.”
But he absolutely could not tolerate the more dangerous element to the story, citing a connected, global family where actions may have deadly consequences. “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."
Clooney has no love for the Daily Mail, but there's a more worrying element to the paper's reach. He told Variety, “The thing that bothers me is how much the Daily Mail is now bleeding into American press and becoming a source for some pretty legitimate newspapers." And his op-ed piece pointed out “hundreds of other outlets citing the Daily Mail as their source” agrees with the paper’s actions through linking content.
The plainspoken actor wants everyone understand why it’s a problem. “Those are really bad guys and they do tend to tee off on everybody." Given the number of lawsuits the publication faces, there's some legitimacy to his words. Just ask the likes of Harry Potter author JK Rowling or legend rocker Sir Elton John.
Earlier this year, Rowling received substantial damages over false claims of a story written for Gingerbread, a single parents' charity. In the story, she described how "a single occasion involving a woman who had visited the church one day while she was working there" created some unease.
However, using click-baiting techniques, the paper had implied churchgoers had taunted the young mother while she was single. And Daily Mail openly admitted to libelous actions. An apology didn't really register on a personal level.
And in 2006, Elton gained £100,000 for false claims about his behavior and manners at his annual charity ball event, White Tie and Tiara, in June 2005. Apology or not, his lawyer said the accusations caused "considerable embarrassment and distress."
For the disciplined Good Night, and Good Luck actor, proving The Daily Mail wrong is a personal joy and an exercise in fostering the importance of journalistic integrity.
"It’s fun when you can go, ‘Well, this one, I know I have all the facts right.’ Usually the argument is: ‘Hey, we’re not gonna tell you our source,’ and, ‘Prove it.’" And he's smart enough to bring the receipts when he finally battles. "When they actually do it themselves it’s so great. You go, ‘OK, well you obviously just screwed this (up), so I think I can get you now."
And he did. The paper issued an apology that he didn't accept, but nominally thanked for doing the “right” thing.
But Clooney ended the Variety interview on a high note by complimenting his fiancée with a definitive “I’m marrying up.”