Over the past few years, The New York Times has indulged in several rounds of public soul-searching over its Wen Ho Lee reporting, the Jayson Blair fiasco, its weapons-of-mass-destruction coverage and Judith Miller. While the self-flagellation can be painful to witness, it befits a publication that -- wrongly or rightly -- is often considered the Paper of Record.
But today we learn that Britney Spears has filed suit against Us Weekly for getting its facts wrong? Say it ain’t so.
Wenner Media’s Us Weekly has -- wrongly or just disturbingly -- become the Magazine of Record for millions of celebrity-obsessed readers, so what it prints affects big-name careers and huge flows of entertainment-industry revenue. And Ms. Spears apparently took it seriously when the Oct. 17 Us Weekly’s "Hot Stuff" column reported that Ms. Spears and husband Kevin Federline had recorded a sex video. Moreover, the magazine said, they acted "goofy" while watching it with their lawyers.
Now, however much MediaWorks wishes otherwise, celebrity sex videos are more common than car pools during a transit strike. We’re still trying to figure out how to re-gift the Tom Sizemore sex tape we received as holiday swag. And it is not obvious how much career damage they inflict, especially when the public doesn’t have copies.
But the Spears camp denied the item and sued after Us Weekly refused to retract it, according to the lawsuit, which The Associated Press said demands $10 million in libel damages, $10 million for misusing Ms. Spears’ name and image to promote sales and additional, unspecified punitive damages.
"There was no laughter, disgust or goofy behavior while watching the video in the company of lawyers because they did not watch any video, and because there is no such video," the suit says, according to the AP.
An Us Weekly spokesman defended the report. "We have a credible source and stand by our reporting," he said.