Why Did George Clooney Engage the Daily Mail?

George Clooney and his fiancée, Amal Alamuddin (Image: thewrap.com)
George Clooney and his fiancée, Amal Alamuddin (Image: thewrap.com)

At this point in his life, George Clooney is used to tabloids printing falsities about his personal life. Instead of further inflaming sensationalized journalism, the typical policy—for Clooney and most all celebrities—is to let the tabloids be and let the stories die.

That changed this week after the Daily Mail published an article on Monday which claimed that Baria Alamuddin—the mother of Clooney's fiancée, Amal Alamuddin—is against her daughter's decision to marry the actor. The story asserts that Baria Alamuddin is a member of the Druze religion, and the author explains that in the Druze culture, marrying outside of the religion can end with the death of the bride.

On Wednesday, Clooney wrote back. In an op-ed published by USA Today, the actor refuted the Daily Mail story point-by-point, calling the article "at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous." And when the Mail published an apology, Clooney wrote back again, calling it "the worst kind of tabloid....one that makes up its facts to the detriment of its readers and to all the publications that blindly reprint them."

From a communications standpoint, Clooney's public lambasting of a news source that many already regard as untrustworthy is surprising. His decision to respond is fraught with problems, as it raises the profile of the story and, in some people's eyes, brings him down to the level of the Mail.

Still, after the Mail's story was picked up by the likes of Boston.com and the New York Daily News, Clooney's decision to take action and set the facts straight provides an example of how the target of a negative story can fight back against irresponsible journalism—and win.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene