The digital age has made entertainment industry coverage more exciting, but the race to post and the hunger for eyeballs leads to increasingly shameful reporting of innuendo and flat-out falsehoods. Last Saturday, I attended a premiere of Out Of The Furnace when The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman comes up to me to scold me for attacking her and her publication. I hadn’t done that in awhile, but I asked if she was specifically sore that I quoted George Clooney accurately when he singled her out for what he said was a 100% false story that his movie The Monuments Men had been pushed to next year because of a pacing problem. She said something about me carrying George’s water. I said I would consider her complaint. Driving away that night, I was thinking, wait a minute, isn’t this the same person who blasted a story in early June proclaiming that Nikki Finke had been fired at Deadline by Jay Penske (100% false) and that she would leave by the end of the week (also 100% false)? And wait, didn’t The Wrap two weeks ago write a breathless exclusive that exposed the anonymous scribe behind the Scandal411 blog as an ABC reporter, only to retract it when ABC proved it was the network employee’s former roommate?
So today The Wrap is trumpeting that its most popular story is one about Mark Wahlberg bristling about a comparison between acting and soldiering in a Q&A held after an awards-season screening of Peter Berg’s powerful drama Lone Survivor. [Read Deadline’s report on Wahlberg’s AFI Fest comments here.] The headline reads “Mark Wahlberg: ‘How F____ing Dare You’ Compare Acting To Military; Hear That, Tom Cruise?” The article makes several references to Cruise. Seems credible until I reach out to the camps of Cruise and Wahlberg. The Cruise verbiage was based on a report (since refuted) that Cruise had drawn a parallel between working on a movie set to being in battle in Afghanistan during testimony when he sued Bauer Media Group for claiming in print he had abandoned his daughter. Later, it came out that he never said any of it. I saw some of the testimony. Cruise is asked, “Do you believe the situations are the same?” He answers, “Oh, come on. You, know, we’re making a movie. …” Many of the sites that spread the story have since refuted it. Then I ask Wahlberg’s camp. They tell me not only did Mark not know there was any allegation of Cruise having said something like this but Wahlberg had made the exact same comment in public two weeks prior, before any of the bogus Cruise stuff had even surfaced. I’m told that Wahlberg is clearly awed by the courage shown by Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg plays him), and the platoon mates he was with when they were attacked by Taliban forces. When you see the movie, it’s impossible to not feel that you could never be as courageous, as heroic as these guys were in the face of overwhelming odds.
I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for Cruise, but it does seem odd that here the actor sues a publication for slagging him as an AWOL dad. And then he is left having to justify something he never said that is offensive to war veterans, because one outlet publishes a story, and others pick it up as fast as their little fingers can type.
So my answer, Sharon, to whether I’m going to lay off The Wrap is this: When you stop pandering for traffic by publishing false stories with inflammatory headlines, and when you try to rise from the barrel bottom, sure I’ll lay off. Until then, I’d like to leave my options open.