When Ben Affleck was spotted cradling a golden retriever puppy in Atlanta last week, hearts melted the world over.
The puppy was cute, but a newly single Ben carrying the fluffy dog...decidedly cuter! Here was the perfect gentleman: a man who had given up his L.A. digs to move into an Atlanta guesthouse and lend an extra hand while the mother of his three children, Jennifer Garner, was busy shooting a movie.
But now it seems as though his presence might have been simply practical as well because, if a source is correct, Jen had fired their nanny because she suspected Ben had a fling with her—a rumor first reported this week by Us Weekly, the start of a parade of nanny-themed headlines that have, er, dogged Ben since his heart-melting puppy pics popped up.
Another insider, meanwhile, simply said that the nanny in question, Christine Ouzounian, was let go because she "wasn't doing her job of being a nanny." Affleck's rep, meanwhile, flatly denied the initial dating report.
But a friend of Christine's says the now-former Affleck-Garner household staffer has been dishing the details of an intimate romance between her and the actor that led to her firing.
Seems as though these stories always have to get more twisted before they're tied up with a bow, right?
If Ben did get too close to the nanny, then one could only imagine how that must have made Jen feel.
The actors were already separated (they had been apart for 10 months when they announced in June they were divorcing) when Christine was hired. But she was the nanny, someone who probably had a key to the house and spent quality time with the Affleck children, Violet, Seraphina and Samuel.
So any whisperings of a relationship, real or not, would have been hard to tolerate.
The "story is not true," Affleck's rep told E! News on Wednesday. "It's tabloid journalism hiding behind blind sources. It's a shameful ploy to stay relevant for the magazine. We are considering legal options."
It's taken Ben years to shake off the ghost of the man who used to drive around in a white Bentley with Jennifer Lopez. He was one half of the original Bennifer—but being the first celebrity couple to marry their first names didn't mean they were meant to be. They split when she discovered he preferred the company of strippers and a pack of cards.
But that was a lifetime ago, especially in Hollywood years! Ten years of marriage, 10 years of family sightings at the Brentwood Country Mart with one, two and then three adorable children, an increased devotion to philanthropic causes and some excellent, ultimately Oscar-winning career decisions meant Ben was reborn. Voila! The loving father and husband had emerged and his name was back in business alongside the likes of the stand-up guys, Matt Damon and George Clooney.
But is all that good will out the window now?
Last month, as Ben and Jen prepared to announce their split, they decided to hunker down together at a compound in the Bahamas. Initially that read as the exes having sacred private time for them to focus on how to harmoniously co-parent post-split.
But according to Christine's friend, the nanny was there, too, having flown there with Affleck and the kids while Garner arrived shortly afterward. The friend claims that Christine told her that Garner was "very, very suspicious of what was going on" between her and Ben and that she was fired after Jen found out that she and Ben had been intimate at the house in the Bahamas.
A source told People yesterday that Christine went with Ben, when he left the Bahamas, to join him at a poker tournament in Las Vegas.
A source close to the actor maintains, however, that right now he is "absolutely not dating anyone. There is nothing physical or romantic between Ben and Christine. Dating is not his focus and it hasn't been his focus throughout the separation period."
We can't help but feel sorry for everyone involving, including Affleck. Divorce is difficult enough, but having to go through it in front of the world must be a nightmare. And Ben is going to be targeted—by women, by tabloids, by the public at large.
When video emerged Thursday of Christine, now a tabloid darling, running her fingers through her hair and smiling wide at the paparazzi, I was shocked. It looked like she was enjoying the media attention a little too much. One source we have spoken to claims Christine may have been partly responsible for the as-yet-unconfirmed story hitting the press.
And there are clues to indicate that might be the case. The details in the story are the kind you would only know if you had intimate knowledge of a situation. Either that or someone has a very active imagination! I have covered lots of stories similar to this over the years and there is a common lesson—beware a scorned lover. Christine's friend claims that she was told Ben had started to back off, keen to protect her from the media.
So much for that.
But who could possibly benefit from the media finding out? Ben's got a huge movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, coming out soon, so he certainly didn't need the headache.
And we can't really blame the nanny if she did indeed get too close to her boss. She certainly wouldn't be the first.
Ultimately, Nannygate does not make Ben a villain. He's only human, with all the flaws that come with it. Whether he had a fling or not, it doesn't take away from the fact he was married for a decade (or "forever," in Hollywood speak). It's hard for celebrities to find people they can trust, let alone take the time to get to know, so that's why we often hear about them hooking up with someone in their team.
The media may just as well forgive Ben, because if he really did turn to the nanny as his marriage as falling apart, we can at least understand why.