May 19, 2009 -- The National Enquirer once again became the target of celebrity ire over the weekend, when Brooke Shields bashed the tabloid for allegedly sending freelance reporters to check her dementia-addled mother out of her assisted living facility.
Teri Shields, 75, was later found unharmed at a restaurant adjacent to her Old Tappan, N.J., nursing home talking to a reporter, according to police. As of Friday, no arrests had been made but police were still investigating the case.
Brooke Shields' lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, told ABCNews.com that he may seek legal action.
"We're considering it," he said. "There are potentially many claims, criminal and civil."
The actress herself had harsher words for the publication.
"My mother Teri Shields has been diagnosed with dementia. For her safety, she has temporarily been in a senior living facility, a very difficult decision for me," Shields told People magazine Friday. "Late Thursday afternoon, I was alerted by Old Tappan Police that my mother had been signed out of the facility by two reporters of the National Enquirer … who falsely claimed they were friends of hers."
"They then drove my 75-year-old mother around looking for a tabloid story," the actress, recently in the news because she witnessed Kiefer Sutherland allegedly head-butt a fashion designer outside a New York City nightclub, added. "As anyone knows who has a parent who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's, it is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through as a son or daughter. The idea that the National Enquirer took advantage of her state is reprehensible and disgusting."
The National Enquirer defended itself via an article posted on its Web site.
"A freelance reporter who has known Teri Shields for more than 10 years visited her Thursday at the assisted living facility where Brooke says she moved her. Teri asked the reporter to take her out to lunch and to run some errands. The freelance reporter then got permission from the facility to do so," the Enquirer said. "At no point did the facility, which had given its permission for the outing, contend that there had been any wrongdoing in a situation where two people who had known each for more than a decade."
Stars Who Have Issues With The National Enquirer
Phone calls to Old Tappan police and The National Enquirer for further comment were not immediately returned.
Shields' hit isn't the only one The National Enquirer has taken recently. Friday night, Farrah Fawcett called the magazine as "invasive and malignant as cancer" during the premiere of "Farrah's Story," her self-shot documentary about her cancer battle. The documentary also featured video of Fawcett ripping up a National Enquirer story headlined "Ailing Farrah 'Wants to Die.'"
Of all the tabloid magazines and broadsheets on newsstands, The National Enquirer probably incites more anger among its celebrity subjects than any other. Often, their outrage turns to litigation.
Kirstie Alley threatened to sue The National Enquirer in 2008, when the magazine alleged that diet company Jenny Craig canned her as its spokesperson because she had gained weight. (The headline "Fired for Being for Being Too Fat!" left little to interpretation.) Alley told USA Today the magazine's report was "hurtful and harmful to me. I'm going to litigate. It's chronic and has been chronic for the last three years. This one is extremely damaging." In the end, however, Alley decided not to file a lawsuit.
Not so with Kate Hudson. In November 2005, the actress sued The National Enquirer after the tabloid published pictures of her under the headline "Goldie [Hawn, Hudson's mom] Tells Kate: Eat Something! And She Listens!," suggesting, according to Hudson, that she was anorexic. In July 2006, Hudson won her libel suit against the paper, which printed an apology and paid an undisclosed amount of damages for the distress it caused her.
Earlier that year, in February 2005, Ashley Olsen sprang to action after The National Enquirer published a report titled "Ashley Olsen Caught in Drug Scandal." The billionaire businesswoman and actress sued the tabloid for $40 million, accusing the magazine of libel and invasion of privacy.
According to the lawsuit, the photo accompanying the story was "clearly designed to create the misimpression that she was 'drugged.'" Olsen also took issue with the Enquirer linking her to her-then boyfriend Scott Sartiano, who at the time, was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly selling ecstasy and cocaine. (His case was dismissed by a federal court in Los Angeles in November 2005.)
Tabloid Keeps Chasing, but Do People Care?
The tabloid apologized to Olsen in October 2005, printing a clarification notice that read, "The National Enquirer wants to make clear to its readers that, by its cover and headlines, it did not intend to accuse Ms. Olsen of being involved in any drug scandal." Phone calls to Olsen's representative to determine if she also got a monetary settlement were not immediately returned.
In 2000, singer Celine Dion sued The National Enquirer for publishing a story falsely claiming she was pregnant was twins. Dion won $20 million from the magazine, in the form of a donation to the American Cancer Society, along with a printed apology and full retraction.
Actor Patrick Swayze, who is battling pancreatic cancer, blasted the Enquirer for its March 6 story about his health, headlined "The End." The piece said he had just five weeks to live.
The star of the movies "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost," and the TV series "The Beast" said in a statement: "It's amazing to me that the tabloids such as The National Enquirer print such negative stories about me and my health when there are so many positive things going on in my life right now. I've started a new chemotherapy and, once again, I am one of the lucky ones with pancreatic cancer that is responding well to the treatment. I hope in the future, the press will think twice about printing inaccuracies and painting an unpleasant picture when I have so much to be thankful for at this time."
While lawsuits and scorn likely won't stop The National Enquirer, or any other tabloid or blog, from targeting celebrities, their star subjects may find some comfort in the following facts. According to the Magazine Publishers of America, in 2000, the Enquirer boasted a circulation of approximately 2.1 million issues per week in the U.S.; as of 2007, that figure dropped to about 1 million.
The Inquirer is owned by privately-held American Media, Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., which also publishes health and fitness magazines.