An L.A. publicist denies making up quotes by Ryan Phillippe and supplying them to a magazine as an exclusive about the breakup of his marriage to Reese Witherspoon.
How to file that item? Dog Bites Man? PR Secrets? Celebrity Myth Revealed?
Celebrity magazines are an art form. They triangulate the star power or level of ridicule appropriate for their subjects, wrangle quotes, photo sessions and gossip from publicists, "friends", enemies and passers-by, and seek out details and images that will either feed or undercut the myths constructed for the celebrities who are in or out of favour.
The exclusive comments and revealing admissions about the stars are often pasted together by, or negotiated with, the publicists.
When a magazine posts an item revealing that Charlie Sheen has copies of The Iliad (in the original Greek) and War and Peace on his bedside table, what is more shocking -- that Charlie Sheen has a bedside table, or that it's possible he reads less esoteric literature?
If a celebrity has clout (and a lot of them do), the magazine is in the position of either currying favour or losing access. A lot of favour is curried, and when access is cut off or reduced, the editor rarely lets it be known. The gushing nature of most celebrity coverage overlooks or underplays the fact that much of the coverage is heavily controlled and managed by publicists, or is originated by publicists to affect how their celeb is perceived.
So, getting back to Ryan Phillippe, we find that the New York Post assigned three reporters to chase down a rumour that a publicist subcontracted to help him position himself during his marriage breakup was quickly unsubcontracted because quotes attributed to the star may have been fabricated. Or maybe because an exclusive already arranged for one publication got handed to another publication. Or maybe the firm that's been handling Phillippe's media relations for years decided they'd rather live with the conflict of interest while juggling with the interests of the star couple that is now uncoupled.
Liz, a public relations student, writes in her Crazed PR blog that this is an example of bad PR, because the publicist fabricated quotes.
I highly doubt this is the first instance of quotes being attributed to a celebrity that weren't spoken out loud by the celebrity and faithfully transcribed by the publicist. And, other than a single unnamed source, my quick search didn't turn up any corroboration of the claim that this is something other than a freelance publicist losing a gig.
I suspect all celebrity publicists would prefer that their clients be available at all times to agree on a PR plan, provide quotes, approve edits, confirm facts and sign off on agreements negotiated with various media outlets.
In instances when that doesn't happen, I'll reserve judgement on whose fault it is.