I just spoke by telephone to The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond, whose online column on Merv Griffin disappeared from his blog Past Deadline in the last couple of hours. (Disclosure: I have known Ray for many years, though we haven't spoken in more than a decade.) This was our conversation:
Q. Are you still employed by The Hollywood Reporter?
Q. Who owns Past Deadline?
A. Nielsen and The Hollywood Reporter. [Nielsen is the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.]
Q. Do you think they had the right to remove your column?
Q. Do you believe it was right?
A. No. I don’t believe it is right and I’m disappointed. I don’t believe that any wrong was perpetrated here.
Q. Do you think they were pressured to take it down?
A. Sure. I’m sure it was taken down because there was fear of litigation, and that the post was libelous and/or defamatory. And I certainly don’t believe that to be the case.
Q. Have you talked to your editors or bosses at The Hollywood Reporter?
A. I will have discussions with them, and I will hope at some point we can have it restored online. It seems that scotching the post gives the appearance of liability when there isn’t any. It was simply a factual, very informed discussion of the larger issue of the media’s difficulty in allowing someone to be labeled as gay in the mainstream, as if that is somehow a huge shame. My whole reason for doing the piece for the Reporter was to shine a light on that fact. Unfortunately that appears to be the case...even internally.
Q. Have you been contacted by anyone representing Merv Griffin?
A. No. I have not.
Q. What are you going to do next?
A. I am hopeful that I am going to defend my piece. I don’t feel anybody at the Reporter is culpable with regard to this –- this is about me and what I wrote in my column. This is my view, my take, my feeling.
I did this not with malice in my heart, but with concern. I wanted to make sure that the truth was out there and not a version of it that allowed everyone to make Merv the subject of gossip or the butt of jokes. I wanted to put the truth out there in a loving and concerned way. One could make the point that it was his business alone, but I don’t think this was true, because he was a public figure and this was who the man was.
Q. Anything else?
A. And I am proud of The Hollywood Reporter for letting me run it in its pages.
Q. What happens next?
A. I don't know.