Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's unborn twins are worshiped by the entertainment press as a sort of double celebrity messiah. Bidding for exclusive first pictures has reportedly reached $15 million and is poised to rise further. So it was with no small measure of elation Friday that Entertainment Tonight delivered news that the twins had just been born in the south of France, a big scoop. But People and Us Weekly soon reported denials from reps for the couple. Brad Pitt attended a Grand Prix event across the border in Italy, which would be an odd decision for a new father. The celebrified Associated Press, which obtained a denial from Pitt's manager, asked, "Was Entertainment Tonight punk'd?" Maybe not. Maybe it is the victim of a MASSIVE ANGELINA JOLIE CONSPIRACY.
The conspiracy goes like this: Entertainment Tonight ran its story past a personal assistant to Jolie and Pitt named Holly Goline, who used to work at CNN with one of its producers. The assistant "said she was there for the deliveries and everyone was doing well," according to AP, which reviewed the emails.
Jolie's attorneys said the emails came from a Goline imposter. But an anonymous Entertainment Tonight executive told the AP they had an email address for Goline dating back to Goline's time at CNN, where the executive worked with her.
If the emails are geniune, why would Jolie's people pretend they were fake? Said the AP:
Millions of dollars could be at stake. After Shiloh was born, Pitt and Jolie were at the forefront of a growing movement by celebrities to auction off exclusive rights to first public pictures of their babies (Pitt and Jolie donated the money to charity). Sometimes exclusive details on the birth come with these rights.
So the possibilities are:
- Brangelina twins actually born; lawyers covering it up to comply with a lucrative exclusive news/photos contract.
- Entertainment Tonight emailed an address that used to belong to Goline (say, on a service like Hotmail or blackberry.net) but now belongs to someone else, who decided to have a bit of fun with the show.
- Entertainment Tonight emailed the right person, but misinterpreted Goline's statement that "she was there for the deliveries and everyone was doing well" (AP's summary) to mean a birth had occurred, when in fact everyone was waiting for the deliveries but they never occurred due to a false alarm or somesuch.
Entertainment Tonight has pulled its story but refuses to issue a retraction. "We are waiting to see how this story plays out," the show's executive producer told AP.
It's good to see the American news media finally investing in some rigorous reporting and internecine fact-checking, and on a story so vital to the national interest.