Over three years after Mickey Rooney’s death at the age of 93, the movie icon’s widow today is suing The Hollywood Reporter for elder abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress in a piquant complaint that alleges some very underhanded journalism on the magazine’s part.
Naming THR itself, Prometheus Global Media and magazine staffers Scott Feinberg, Gary Baum and Features Editor Peter Flax, the October 5 filing by 79-year old and “frail” Janice Rooney against the mag (read it here) seeks wide-ranging but unspecified damages. The whole action stems from an article posted online by THR on October 21, 2015 entitled “Tears and Terror: The Disturbing Final Years of Mickey Rooney.”
According to Janice Rooney and her lawyers at Woodland Hills’ Buckholtz & Associates, the real disturbing story is the “deceiving” THR article, which was published in the print edition of the then Janice Min run mag on October 30, that she “felt coerced and pressured” to participate with. A court document citing article that Rooney says took her words “out of context and relayed in a manner designed to portray (her) in a publicly negative and personally disgraceful light” after she agreed to talk to THR in late 2015, over a year after her husband’s death on April 6, 2014.
THR Editorial Director Matt Belloni did not respond to a request for comment from Deadline on today’s filing.
Rooney asserts that in agreeing to the October 2015 piece she was promised by Feinberg that “none of the questions would be published without also publishing her answers thereto in the article.” The Tears and Terror piece did fulfill that requirement in a manner of speaking with a link to the full transcript. A link that, as an exhibit to today’s lawsuit reveals, had Rooney responding “I don’t mean to be rude, but I can’t believe that’s a serious question” when asked if she believed around 2010 that “the government was going to put some Americans into camps and execute the elderly?”
“In the Article, the THR Defendants repeated the essence of the slightly reworded false and humiliating allegations and innuendos brought to them by Charlene against Jan,” the Thursday filing in LA Superior Court states with reference to Janice Rooney’s daughter-in-law, who is also named as a defendant in the sordid multi-claim and occasional typo containing complaint. “Astonishingly, there were no allegations against Jan of abusing Mickey in either the restraining order filed on February 14, 2011, or the September 15, 2011 lawsuit filed against Chris and Christina Aber and others,” the eighth Mrs. Rooney goes on to say, mentioning the since settled 2011 action by her husband of almost four decades’ court-appointed conservator Michael Augustine against her eldest son and his spouse in the family civil war suit.
Chris Aber managed the four time Oscar nominee’s business affairs for several years before his younger brother Mark and his wife Charlene took over as Rooney’s caregivers, beginning a new stage in the obviously still ongoing bitter fight over the Babes In Arms actor’s finances, legacy and name. As a part of that fight, Janice Rooney was accused of physically abusing her husband in his latter years, something she says was a misunderstanding.
“This exemplifies the extent to which Charlene was willing to go to exact her revenge against Jan, knowing how emotionally and mentally damaging and injurious it would be’ for her,” the extremely dense 28-page complaint adds of the material allegedly provided to the THR journos by Rooney’s daughter-in-law. “It also exemplifies the lengths to which the THR Defendants would go to write their tabloid Article.”
“The conduct on the parts of the THR Defendants alleged herein was done by these defendants with knowledge of Jan’s advance age, and her frail and vulnerable physical and emotional condition, as well as the sensitive nature of the subject matter, all of which they, themselves, acknowledged, “ the suit says of a supposedly months in the making piece that Mrs. Rooney claims went to print mere weeks after she first spoke to THR. “Despite this knowledge, however, the THR Defendants nonetheless engaged in the conduct alleged herein, whereby they took advantage of Jan’s vulnerability and frail condition, and threatened and coerced her, for their own personal gain.”
Though he showed up on-screen several times in his final years, the extremely fragile Rooney last prolonged public appearances was in 2011 when he testified before Congress to say he had “suffered silently” for years as a victim of elder abuse. A 2013 $2.8 million stipulated judgment in the actor’s favor in the case against Chris and Christina Aber remained was never received as Rooney died while insurance companies were locked in a legal battle of their own over who would pay out.
Along with THR, its trio of staffers, and Prometheus, the complaint also lists Mark Aber and Charlene Aber as defendants.