6 Painfully Stupid Celebrity Journalism Fails

There are two undeniable journalistic facts: 1) The public will hold your work to a pretty high standard, no matter who or what you report on, and 2) Bill Murray will never grant you an interview, ever. But some journalists have figured out that there's nothing physically stopping them from saying they've interviewed Bill Murray. What could go wrong? Well ...

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6
An Award-winning Journalist Lied About Interviewing Colin Kaepernick's Parents

Der Spiegel is basically The New York Times of Germany. They're Europe's largest news magazine, and famous for investigative journalism. It was quite the scandal, then, when one of their award-winning journalists, Claas Relotius, was exposed as a giant fraud.

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Over the years, Relotius published many an article filled with fabrications, made-up people, and fake sources. One of those articles was a piece about American football player Colin Kaepernick's anti-racism activism. Kaepernick made headlines all over the world for kneeling in protest during the national anthem at games, so it wasn't a surprise that Relotius would want in.

He waxed lyrical about experiencing the magic of Kaepernick, finding meaning even in his pauses, which were apparently "like one who knows the truth but does not dare pronounce it." Later in the article, he describes speaking to Kaepernick's parents. "They were reluctant to talk on the phone about their son, they did not want to cause him any problems, they say, but they also want people to understand him." It would have been beautiful ... if any of it were true.

Despite speaking on her behalf, we're like 90% sure that this <i>isn't</i> Teresa Kaepernick.Krd/Wikimedia CommonsDespite speaking on her behalf, we're like 90% sure that this isn't Teresa Kaepernick.

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When an investigation was launched to verify his account, Relotius vehemently denied claims that he had made it all up, only to later admit that he never spoke to Kaepernick's parents. He's also never met Kaepernick. When confronted with these fabrications, as well as countless others, Relotius said he was mentally ill, and all the forging was a result of his fear of failing. Given that he's now facing embezzlement charges for allegedly asking readers to pay money into his personal bank account as donations to Syrian orphans, it's hard to feel sorry for a guy who, at the end of the day, just wanted all the awards.

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Related: The 5 Dumbest Times Journalism And Crime Overlapped

5
Reporters Are Constantly Mixing Up Celebrities Of Color

Remember that time Samuel L. Jackson piled on anchor Sam Rubin for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne? This happens to nonwhite celebrities all the time. Here's the Emmys Twitter account confusing Terrence Howard for Cuba Gooding Jr. in 2016:

6 Painfully Stupid Celebrity Journalism FailsTelevisionAcad/Twitter

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Here's Fox News' Jesse Watters mistaking Gayle King for Robin Roberts earlier this year:

And here's E! News reporter Sibley Scoles mistaking Jenifer Lewis for Wanda Sykes before ... mistaking her for Jennifer Lawrence? Maybe entertainment news is not this person's forte.

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"Oh, Lewis. Got it. Big hand for Jerry Lewis, everybody!"

That last one is even worse because E! News had recently hired Scoles to improve its inclusivity scores. But the faux that takes the pas is the time George Stephanopoulos confused the Boston Celtics' Bill Russell for Morgan Freeman. It's not like Stephanopoulos is some local news nobody; he's arguably one of the most recognizable anchors on TV. Thinking before he speaks is his whole-ass job.

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Related: The 5 Ballsiest Lies Ever Passed Off As Journalism

4
A Magazine Claimed To Have Intimate Knowledge Of Tom Cruise's Sperm Count

For reasons that are absolutely none of our business, Tom Cruise and his wife at the time, Nicole Kidman, adopted two children in 1996. German magazine Bunte insisted on badgering him about it anyway, and during the publicity tour for the first Mission: Impossible movie, he allegedly alluded to having a "situation." Of course, anything can be a situation. Maybe Kidman feared pregnancy's effect on her career, or the couple felt strongly about overpopulation, or he didn't want to pass on that weird middle tooth of his. But the magazine went ahead and assumed that meant he was sterile.

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Of course, we know now that couldn't possibly be true, since years later, Cruise had a daughter with Katie Holmes, and she could be young Tom in a wig. Back then, however, people were so willing to leap on the "Top Gun Shoots Blanks" story that part of Bunte's defense was that other German magazines were reporting the same thing. They took what they admitted was a vague quote and combined it with the rumor mill to get not just fertility problems, but "zero sperm count." No chance of producing children. Not a single soldier in the baby bag.

It's worth noting that in the ensuing lawsuit, Cruise claimed his career could be damaged by such allegations because it's "dependent upon the public's ... belief in his performances and in its willingness to believe that he does or could possess the qualities of the characters he plays." Apparently he thinks we're all looking at his movie posters and thinking "Oh yeah, that guy's got tons of sperm."

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Related: 6 Old-School Journalists Who Make Tabloids Look Tasteful

3
A Fake Drew Barrymore In-Flight Magazine Interview Was Just Absurd

In October 2018, a political analyst named Adam Baron was flipping through EgyptAir's in-flight magazine when he came across a completely insane interview with Drew Barrymore. The writer, Dr. Aida Takla-O'Reilly -- the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- asks questions in the form of insults, bringing up Barrymore's "several unsuccessful marriages" and alleged accusations from fans of "being overweight and neglecting [her] health" after her last pregnancy. Since Barrymore's answers were somehow not a series of slaps, but rather placid agreements that fatties are losers and Western women are a menace to society, something was clearly up.

It's standard practice when interviewing celebrities to, instead of taking their photo before the interview, use one from <A TARGET=_blank HREF=https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2017/04/03/crocs-launches-new-global-campaign-with-star-power.html>an unrelated shoe ad</A>.EgyptAirIt's standard practice when interviewing celebrities to, instead of taking their photo before the interview, use one from an unrelated shoe ad.

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Thanks to the misspelled byline, Dr. Takla-O'Reilly could have easily washed her hands of the situation and claimed to be a victim as well, but she has some integrity. After Barrymore's spokesperson confirmed the interview was obviously fabricated, Takla-O'Reilly took to Twitter to rage at anyone who doubted her decades-long dedication to the movie star whose name she doesn't know how to spell.

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EqyptAir, too, reminded everyone that the esteemed writer came with a resume:

Still, when absolutely nobody was buying these excuses, the HFPA themselves released a statement admitting that Takla-O'Reilly didn't write the entire piece herself, and may have borrowed quotes from other interviews. Disappointingly, they failed to cite the exact interview in which Barrymore did dismiss all those fat Western women she hates. You'd think that would have been bigger news at the time.

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Related: The 6 Stupidest Acts Of Journalistic Fraud Ever Attempted

2
The Daily Star Published A Fake Story About The Rock Attacking "Snowflakes"

While many have speculated in recent years about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson potentially running for president -- and we would absolutely vote for him, because we're what's wrong with America -- Hollywood's beefiest actor has always kept pretty quiet about his political leanings. That makes it all the more absurd that The Daily Star decided to publish this front-page headline in January 2019:

That insert up top reads Brexit Update: It's Still Boring, if you need a primer for the hard-hitting journalism we're dealing with here.The Daily StarThat insert up top reads "Brexit Update: It's Still Boring," if you need a primer for the hard-hitting journalism we're dealing with here.

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It's not clear why, in this exclusive interview, The Rock would claim that "whining snowflakes are draining positive change through their constant moaning" and "Generation snowflake or, whatever you want to call them, are actually putting us backwards," given that he's neither a conservative politician nor promoting a hacky Netflix special. That's because, according to a video he uploaded to Instagram, he didn't:

When The Daily Star was confronted about the story, they claimed that the interview was the work of a fly-by-night freelance journalist who gave the information to a staff reporter, who then wrote the piece under their own name without bothering to fact-check it. This is fairly standard practice for such tabloids ... which is exactly why nobody should have given the story any attention to begin with. But we're living in an age in which a strategically placed Facebook ad can convince your mom the Earth is flat, so that's life now.

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Related: 16 Reporters Who Totally Crossed The Line For A Story

1
The Keanu Reeves "Lonely Guy" Quote Came From A Recycled Fake Interview

The internet's love affair with Keanu Reeves began with revelations about his tragic past, because there's nothing worse than a person who's consistently fortunate. We demand that our heroes earn their comfortable lives by sacrificing themselves on the altar of relatability. So obviously an interview with Reeves lamenting his lack of romantic success went viral in May 2019.

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One problem: Reeves' publicist says he never gave any such interview. Apparently the bulk of the "interview" was made out of conversations that only happened in the writer's head, held together with quotes from completely different interviews. Specifically, the writer admitted that the "lonely guy" quote came from an interview he'd conducted with the actor in 2003 ... which Reeves' publicist also says never happened.

Given that Reeves' people don't seem to have a reason to lie -- it's not like he'd admitted to hosting underground puppy bakes -- there are two possibilities: 1) The writer, Philip Berk, experienced such a dearth of creativity that he recycled an already-fabricated interview, or 2) He forgot he made it up, and then still found nothing wrong with presenting a 16-year-old quote as recent information. You know things are bad when your fuck-ups start having their own little baby fuck-ups.

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By the way, if the name Philp Berk rings a bell, it's because Brendan Fraser accused the writer (another former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) of sexual assault. Berk's response to these allegations? "Mr. Fraser's version is a total fabrication." It's almost like professional liars have learned to scream "Fake news!" at other people before it can lobbed at them first. Crazy.

Zanandi also writes for Macaulay Culkin's trusted website. Follow her on Twitter.

For more, check out How Selfies Are Destroying Journalism:


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