Yesterday, Clooney released an angry statement calling Huffington's methods "purposefully misleading," and she acknowledged that his so-called blog - slamming Dems who voted for the war in Iraq for fear of being labeled "liberal" - was actually compiled from Clooney's recent interviews with the UK's Guardian and CNN's Larry King.There's a minor and boring problem here: Who speaks for George Clooney? He has PR people, and if they agree to things on his behalf, and afterwards he decides he doesn't like it, it seems a bit unfair for him to portray the other party to the agreement as underhanded.
But Huffington insisted (and forwarded me E-mails that seemed to back her up) that she believed she had explicit permission from one of Clooney's PR reps to publish his disparate quotes as a single piece of writing. "This was a misunderstanding," she told me yesterday, as the disputed blog was removed from her Web site.
Clooney told me: "Nobody has ever written an op-ed piece for me. If I say I've written something, I've written it. When I go to the Oscars, I write everything I say...I stand by what I do, but I'm very cautious not to take giant steps onto soapboxes because I think they're polarizing."
Clooney said that when he demanded a disclaimer from Huffington, she refused. "She told me that it's a big no-no in the blogosphere, where people are supposed to write their own pieces."
The interesting thing is that Clooney's willingness to embarrass Huffington over what his PR people did throws light on how The Huffington Post operates. Now, the celebrity blog part of the Huffington Post looks like just a PR outlet, a place for assorted quotes and press releases to assemble in the form of a blog. Why looking like a blog works as a way to win readers is something of a mystery, of course. But there are all sorts of blog-looking things out there trying to get your attention. Do they detract from real blogs? Do you know the difference between a real blog and a fake one?
Do you know the difference between a real book and a fake one?
UPDATE: Here is Arianna Huffington's explanation of her interaction with Clooney, along with various assertions about how The Huffington Posts generally gets blog posts from celebrities. The claim is that 99% of the bloggers (which includes a lot of journalists and other non-stars) type directly into the blog software, and only 1% email, fax, or phone in their material. Presumably, the big name celebrities are in the 1%.
Very, very rarely (in 10 months, it's fewer times than you can count on your hand), we will work with a first-time blogger the way editors do in other, traditional media -- suggesting ideas and offering direction on what makes a blog different from, say, a New York Times op-ed. Part of what we've always tried to do with HuffPost is bring to the blogosphere some of the most interesting voices of our time that are not already there. This is the first time there was no back and forth with the writer -- our sample was approved 'as is' -- which is where the misunderstanding occurred.I read this as an open invitation to bloggers to find other HuffPo posts there that are cobbled together from various sources the way Clooney's was -- though we won't have any way to know if the star was involved in the approval process. I find it hard to believe that it only happened this way once and just by chance this was a person who would choose to make a public stink about it and embarrass Huffington.
MORE: An emailer writes:
I work for a Public Relations/Marketing firm.Yeah, it doesn't make any sense why he's pissed at her and not his own people.
The basic rule is that NOTHING goes out without the expressed approval of the client. When you write a statement for the client the person whose name appears on the statement personally reads and approves it. If you ghost an article for the client, the client reads and approves said article.
It is not uncommon for releases. etc. to go through 10 to 20 revisions before the client gives approval.
If things happened as described by Huffington, Clooney’s PR people did a very unprofessional job.