By: Travis, Fairland, Indiana
A.B. Replies: You can't just sue over an inaccuracy. Otherwise, there would be miles-long tube running, Dr. Seuss-style, directly between Marty Singer's office and Star magazine. Every other time the word pregnancy appeared in print, another sheaf of lawsuits would go whiffling through the tube and land all over the sticky floors of the American Media building. In three days, it would look like an OfficeMax exploded in there.
I don't think so.
Britney Spears sued Us Weekly over what she says is a false story about a sex tape. Ashley Olsen sued the Enquirer for $40 million over a drug scandal story. (The tab later apologized.) And Cameron Diaz last year sued the Enquirer as well, saying it made up an unthinkable--just unthinkable--story about her cheating on Justin Timberlake.
Libel law is pretty clear on this. In order for a celebrity to sue--and sue successfully--here's what has to happen:
? First, a publication needs to print a lie about a celebrity.
? The publication needs to know in advance--or at least strongly suspect--that it's a lie.
? The publication needs to know that it's a lie and that the lie is going to hurt the celebrity. In other words, the publication must have malicious intentions. Cackling with glee before hitting the "publish" button is not necessary.
? The lie needs to be particularly mean or pose a threat to the star's rep. Just saying Nicole Kidman has a poof on her belly isn't enough. Nicole Kidman has to have a poof on her belly because she is trying to win back Tom, and she has impregnated herself with the frozen sperm of L. Ron Hubbard, and Kidman intends to dangle the child in front of Tom and threaten to feed it to Xenu if he doesn't dump Katie forthwith.
The celebrity then needs to prove all of this in court.
If any of those six factors are iffy, smart attorneys usually advise their clients to take a Klonopin, wait a day or two and watch the whole drama dissipate.
"Most of the time, it's just not worth it for the celebrity," says Bill Abrams, a Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney. "Sometimes drawing attention to the [lie] does more damage than if you let it slide."
Also, lawsuits are expensive.
"You're talking at least $500 to $600 an hour," Abrams tells this B!tch.
One other factor you should consider: Most of the public takes tabloid reports with a giant grain of salt anyway. So, in many instances, going through a lawsuit really isn't all that necessary.
"Nobody much believes what the [tabloids] say," media lawyer and former journalist Chip Babcock says, "including the celebrities, who don't want to invest the time and effort needed to prosecute a libel case."