Guardian associate editor Xan Brooks has criticised a “bungling fraud” who accused him of misrepresenting a quote by actor Denzel Washington.
Brooks quoted Washington in a January article as saying he had “never befriended any white actors” during his career.
But on 19 February, Yahoo! revealed that one of Washington’s public relations representatives had claimed this quote was missing an important addition.
According to Yahoo!, they said: “I sat in on this interview… The part they failed to mention was after he said ‘never befriended any white actors’ he mentioned ‘except,’ and then listed Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, etc. They cut the rest of the thought out. The rest is fine though.”
The Yahoo! story spread around the US media and Perez Hilton described Brooks' work as “some shady-ass journalism”.
Brooks said that no representative had sat in on the interview – “although they may conceivably have been hiding silently in the armoire, where I couldn't see them”. And he has now uploaded the relevant section of the interview on to The Guardian website proving he was telling the truth.
According to Brooks, Yahoo! said it had got the quote from a “credible source” and that the organisation would stand by it. He also revealed that Washington’s publicist told The Guardian the story had not come from his office and that his office had not had a problem with the original story.
“The whole experience has given us a fascinating insight into the misty machinations of celebrity journalism. It shows how a bogus story (when not properly verified) can spread like wildfire across the internet, casually traducing the reputation of a writer and a newspaper as it goes. And once the story is out there, it's extremely hard to douse it down; let alone find out who lit the match,” Brooks wrote.
“I reserve my irritation for the bungling fraud who cooked up fake quotes and wound up spinning a non-issue into a full-blown falsehood. We may never be able to name the culprit. It is a relief, at last, to expose the falsehood.”