Reporting (and Fact Checking?) “High-End Gossip”

“Lies are the new facts.” So says Gina Gershon, the actress who has been seeking a retraction from Vanity Fair for the following sentence in Todd Purdum’s now-infamous “hatchet job” on Bill Clinton.

[A]ides have winced at…high-end Hollywood dinner-party gossip that Clinton has been seen visiting with the actress Gina Gershon in California.

Lies? It’s “high-end Hollywood dinner-party gossip!”

More Gershon: “Journalists today… they get these rumors, hearsay, put it in the story, and that story goes around the world in a minute… Vanity Fair never even did fact checking.”

Surely Vanity Fair’s fact checker confirmed that the wincing by unnamed aides — provoked by what Purdum vaguely calls some alleged “visiting” — actually occurred, if not the thing that supposedly sparked said wincing.

Which is kind of what Vanity Fair said in its official reply (minus the fact checking part):

Todd Purdum’s article does not indicate that former President Bill Clinton had an improper relationship with Gina Gershon. The story merely examines the concerns of some of Clinton’s aides about reports of his behavior. We don’t believe that any correction is warranted.

Just as I argued that we should not let what’s right with Purdum (his “nicest guy” and “ex-New York Timesman” cred) distract us from talking about what’s wrong with his Clinton article (namely that, as Jay Rosen wrote in explaining why it doesn’t meet OffTheBus’s standards for publication, “it supports damaging allegations with unnamed sources”), let’s not let how we feel about Show Girls, for example, (or the fact that Gershon made the above statements while on Regis and Kelly to Regis-substitute Mario Lopez) overshadow the valid questions that Gershon raises about Purdum’s piece.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.