Usually when we write about the potential pitfalls of anonymous sources, we’re writing about political reporting. But apparently the same caveats apply to the world of gossip writers. To wit: on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that “diamond heiress-actress” Zeta Graff was suing “hotel heiress-actress” Paris Hilton, in large part because of anonymous comments published this past summer in the New York Post.
As it turns out, the casual use of anonymous sources can lead to all sorts of perils, whether you’re reporting on political knife fights in the back corridors of Washington or catfights on the dance floors of London.
The trouble began this past summer when the Post published a story chronicling an alleged attack on Paris Hilton that took place in a London nightclub. According to the Post, Hilton and her then-paramour Paris Latsis were dancing to the last verse of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” when jealousy reared its diamond-laden head.
“Paris Hilton was attacked on the dance floor of a London nightclub Thursday night by a jealous ex-girlfriend of the hotel heiress’ fiancé, Paris Latsis,” reported the Post. “Zeta Graff, who dated Latsis for two years before he dumped her for Hilton, went berserk at Kabaret, where she had to be restrained by security men who escorted her from the club.”
Cue anonymous sources, going beserk: “She was screaming and it looked like she was trying to strangle Paris,” one anonymous witness told the Post.
“It’s one thing to lose your boyfriend to Paris Hilton — it’s another to find her wearing your family jewels,” said another anonymous source.
“This is a woman who is older and losing her looks, and she’s alone. She’s very unhappy,” yet a third anonymous source sniped about Graff.
On the surface, all of the Post’s anonymous sources shared one thing in common: they were all willing to dish dirt about Hilton’s alleged attacker. But according to yesterday’s AP article, the anonymous sources also shared something else — they were all the same person. Namely, Paris Hilton herself (insert your own Deep Throat joke, here).
“Former Hilton publicist Rob Shuter said in a deposition that Hilton asked him to help plant the story and that he gave the paper comments attributed to himself, Hilton and anonymous sources that were dictated by Hilton,” reported the Associated Press.
Hilton’s spokesman retorted, “I can assure you that when all of the facts are revealed in this matter, they will show that the victim is, in fact, Paris Hilton.”
Felix Gillette writes about the media for The New York Observer.
We’ll leave it to the enterprising reporters at the Post to turn up a yet fresh batch of “anonymous sources” confirming Hilton’s innocence.