The ongoing tussle between George Clooney and Arianna Huffington isn’t cooling off. It’s heating up.
This week Clooney told New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove that he’s furious after his phone conversation with the Huffster. He said Arianna told him that all this publicity since his statement denying writing a blog for her Huffington Post website – a blog she compiled using several of the Oscar-winner’s unattributed past quotes – could be "bad for his career."
But judging from the responses of Arianna’s readers to this incident posted on her site, it looks like it’s her blog career that may be in jeopardy.
Respected blogosphere denizens, such as the The New Republic’s "The Plank" blog and web-guru Jeff Jarvis, are baffled less by her blunder in not securing approval from Clooney and his uberpub Stan Rosenfield than by her insistence that it was kosher to post Clooney’s quotes without attributing the sources, Britain’s Guardian newspaper and Larry King‘s CNN talk show.
“Public domain” is how she justified using his unattributed quotes in our March 15 phone conversation for a March 16 story in the LA Times Calendar section. C’mon. Every journalist knows they’re not supposed to run quotes without attributing them. Writers have been forced to resign from major newspapers, including USA Today, when it was discovered they’d used quotes from other sources without attribution. And bloggers routinely link to their sources when referencing stories and/or quotes. It’s not just ethical and non-copyright infringing, it’s also polite and inclusive.
Arianna’s stubborn insistance that she did nothing wrong is raising hackles. And suspicions.
“She got caught because Clooney wouldn’t let get her get away with it,” an inside source told me. “Now everyone is wondering if this is the first time this has happened. Given her arrogant reaction, she may have bull-dozed her other celebrity bloggers like this – used past quotes – and they’ve just kept quiet about it.”
And people are wondering about the other celebrity bloggers on her long contributor list that includes Walter Cronkite, Diane Keaton, Nora Ephron, Bill Maher, John Kerry, Norman Mailer and Chris McMillan, Jennifer Aniston‘s hairdresser. So if any of you famous folks are unhappy, now’s the time to speak out.
On the surface, Arianna getting people to write for her site who know nothing about blogging, including etiquette and ethics, appears to be a generous attempt to include, in her words, “some of the most interesting voices of our time that are not already there.”
Gosh, how else would the voice of Larry David, whom she says phones his blogs in from a cell phone when he’s on the set of his HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm, be heard?
But make no mistake. Famous names are also a huge draw for her almost 1-year-old blog site. And admitting that she goofed using unsourced quotes for Clooney’s concocted blog might hurt business because it raises the issue that this is the norm, not the exception, on HuffPo. But that ‘s exactly what’s happening with her staunch refusal to take responsibility for a serious mistake.
The bottom line on the Clooney/Huffington tussle is this: if Arianna would simply admit making an error and apologize – to Clooney and her readers – for not crediting the quotes, all would be forgiven. Of course, she should also promise never to do it again. Ever. Since she’s relatively new to the blog world, it’s almost a slam-dunk that she’d get a pardon. Or at least a second chance.
Gosh, has the longtime political observer learned nothing from watching politicians such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush, even California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger do that always winning “Admit and Apologize” act?
Photo Credit: Arianna Huffington and HBO’s "Real Time" host Bill Maher, also one of her many celebrity bloggers, pose for the paparazzi outside Vanity Fair’s star-studded Oscar bash on March ,5 2006.