The news ricocheted around the world, as does just about any story, tidbit, whisper or rumor involving Angelina Jolie.
“There’s another one on the way—and it’s a girl!” London’s Daily Mirror declared earlier this week. The actress “has sourced the next addition to her ever-expanding rainbow brood from an orphanage in Haiti,” the tabloid said, and “it was love at first sight” when Jolie visited the earthquake-ravaged country in February.
The specifics—that Jolie and boyfriend Brad Pitt would adopt the 4 year old, named Leah, who lost her family in the disaster, started appearing on other newspaper websites. “Angelina Jolie to adopt from Haiti,” blared a headline in the Times of Johannesburg. “Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt to adopt Haitian child named Leah,” said the U.S. site Examiner.com.
But the stories are flat wrong.
Jolie made that clear in an exclusive statement to The Daily Beast.
“Earlier this week, the Daily Mirror U.K. and others reported that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are in the process of adopting a child from Haiti,” says the statement provided by Adam Waldman of Washington’s Endeavor Group, who represents her. “There is no truth to these rumors.
“Rather, Ms. Jolie is focused on enhancing the welfare and legal protection of children within Haiti. As such, she has been meeting with government of Haiti officials, Haitian legal experts and non-governmental organizations regarding a new initiative of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. The recently launched Jolie Legal Fellows Program will assist the justice system in Haiti to improve child protection.”
Not only that, but Jolie never even met the Haitian girl named Leah, according to Waldman.
“There is no truth to these rumors,” the statement says. “Rather, Ms. Jolie is focused on enhancing the welfare and legal protection of children within Haiti.”
Only one word, then, can accurately describe these stories: fiction.
There was a time when news organizations wouldn’t run such a story—even if another outlet had reported it—without some kind of confirmation. A reporter would have made a couple of phone calls, tried to get official comment or some kind of statement.
That day is gone. Now a bogus story can spread from one website to another like a virus, long before anyone has a chance to assess its veracity.
On its face, the story seemed plausible. After all, Jolie has adopted three other kids in a family that includes her three biological children. And she had visited Haiti to express concern for the earthquake victims.
It was simply too good to check.
The Daily Mirror piece has all kinds of alleged detail—the adoption process was said to be in the “latter stages of authorisation,” with the child ready to visit the United States “to make sure Leah will adapt well”—but no comment from anyone connected with the actress.
Most celebrities in this age of endless gossip must grapple with false or exaggerated reports, and Brangelina more than most. Often they just let them wither and die without comment. But not this time.
Asked if Jolie was upset about the stories, Waldman said: “She just didn't want these false rumors to go unchallenged and interfere or distract from work in Haiti.”
Now it might be deemed news that Jolie is gearing up to help Haiti. The new initiative, under the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, will recruit and place lawyers for the Haitian government. They will serve as law clerks and special assistants to help government officials pursue child-protection efforts. The first Jolie Legal Fellow, an American-trained Haitian lawyer named Nathalie Nozile, began working in the country earlier this month.
That, of course, isn’t as exciting as Angie Adopts Again!
But it has the virtue of being true.
Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast's Washington bureau chief. He also hosts CNN's weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.