The war of words surrounding The Assassination of Gianni Versace and its source material rages on.
After the Versace family came out swinging with a statement alleging that FX's second installment of American Crime Story should be considered a work of fiction, the publisher of Maureen Orth's Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in US History, the book that Ryan Murphy & Co. based the season on, has entered the fray with a firm defense of the book.
"First published almost 19 years ago, Vulgar Favors is a carefully reported and extensively-sourced work of investigative journalism by an award-winning journalist with impeccable credentials," Random House told E! News in a statement. "The book has stood the test of time and is widely regarded as the definitive account of Andrew Cunanan's chilling crime spree. Random House stands by the book and its author, Maureen Orth."
The statement comes following the Versace family's most recent statement on the matter, which slammed Orth's book as nothing but gossip. "As we have said, the Versace family has neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about the death of Mr. Gianni Versace, which should only be considered as a work of fiction," the family said in a statement. "The company producing the series claims it is relying on a book by Maureen Orth, but the Orth book itself is full of gossip and speculation. Orth never received any information from the Versace family and she has no basis to make claims about the intimate personal life of Gianni Versace or other family members. Instead, in her effort to create a sensational story, she presents second-hand hearsay that is full of contradictions.
"As just one example, Orth makes assertions about Gianni Versace's medical condition based on a person who claims he reviewed a post-mortem test result, but she admits it would have been illegal for the person to have reviewed the report in the first place (if it existed at all)," the statement continued. "In making her lurid claims, she ignores contrary information provided by members of Mr. Versace's family, who lived and worked closely with him and were in the best position to know the facts of his life.
"Gianni Versace was a brave and honest man, who engaged in humanitarian work for the benefit of others. Of all the possible portrayals of his life and legacy, it is sad and reprehensible that the producers have chosen to present the distorted and bogus version created by Maureen Orth," the statement concluded. "The Versace family will issue no further comment on the matter."
The family's first statement prompted a full-throated defense from producers FX Productions and Fox 21 Television Studios, with Murphy telling E! News that he stands by the series. "The book that we based our show off of, that we own, Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth, has been out for nearly 20 years," Murphy said. "And it's a work of nonfiction. It's been scrutinized and vetted for close to two decades. And a lot of if not all of Maureen's reporting in that book was on the record, and it's been sourced out, and we had our own sources.
"So I just respectfully say," Murphy continued. "It is not a work of fiction. And I stand by the reporting of our female reporter. And to sort of impune her and say that what she dedicated a large portion of her life to, to say to a female journalist, ‘You're a liar and what you're saying is not the truth,' I don't think that's cool."
The series stars Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace, Darren Criss as his killer, Andrew Cunanan, Ricky Martin as Gianni's boyfriend Antonio D'Amico and Penélope Cruz as his sister, Donatella Versace. Cruz admitted that she reached out to Donatella prior to taking on the role and even received flowers from the fashion designer as recently as this week.
"I have seen her over the years and she has always been very nice to me. I said to Ryan, ‘Before I say yes I need to make this phone call,' so he knew I was going to call her," the actress told E! News' Will Marfuggi at the show's premiere on Monday. "She said to me, that if somebody was going to do it, that if somebody was going to play her, that she was happy it was me. For me to hear those words was what made me make the decision, because I think in a way maybe she felt—she knew that I was going to put all the respect that I feel for her was going to be there,"
She added that she planned to reach out again to ask why the family had made the decision to release their first statement. "She just sent me flowers yesterday...What I have seen [of the show]…is that it's treated with a lot of respect…Everybody else approached this from the same place of respect," she said.
In response to the Versace family's first statement, FX Production and Fox 21 Television Studios said, "Like the original American Crime Story series The People v. O.J. Simpson, which was based on Jeffrey Toobin's non-fiction bestseller The Run of His Life, FX's follow-up The Assassination Of Gianni Versace is based on Maureen Orth's heavily researched and authenticated non-fiction best seller Vulgar Favors which examined the true life crime spree of Andrew Cunanan. We stand by the meticulous reporting of Ms. Orth."
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. on FX.