Michael and Lindsay Lohan lies go viral, and the truth is hard to corral

False: Michael Lohan was surprised by tweets attacking Lindsay.
False: Michael Lohan was surprised by tweets attacking Lindsay. (Richard Drew/associated Press)
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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 7, 2010

Lindsay Lohan's father says he was "bewildered" to find his name splattered across the Web last week, ostensibly declaring that his famous daughter is afflicted with HIV.

"I was hurt tremendously," Michael Lohan says in an interview. "I couldn't believe it. On my worst day, I wouldn't say something like that. I'm getting blasted all over the place for something I didn't say."

That the elder Lohan was falsely described as tweeting the allegations -- including that Lindsay had an affair at 17 with a studio executive -- is a case study in how quickly a lie can go viral. And the episode provides a glimpse of how difficult it can be to set the record straight.

"People in the media have a hard time admitting the truth, especially when they're wrong," Lohan says. "These people have no conscience. The moral fiber of the press and media has been so destroyed."

Lohan, who has long been estranged from the 23-year-old actress who calls him her "ex-father," might seem an unlikely crusader for media ethics. He has periodically popped off about his erratic daughter -- who is on probation for two driving-under-the-influence offenses -- in what his detractors see as an effort to whip up publicity for himself.

In March, Lohan held a news conference to declare that his daughter needs to seek treatment. Last month, he went to Lindsay's Los Angeles home with sheriff's deputies, saying he wanted to see if her 16-year-old sister Ali was okay.

But the facts in the latest controversy are on his side. On April 26, a user-driven LiveJournal site called OhNoTheyDidnt posted what purported to be screen shots of Michael Lohan's Twitter account, including the HIV charge about Lindsay. Lohan assumed that his account had been hacked, and several Web sites -- from Us Weekly to TMZ to WNBC-TV -- quoted him as saying so while recycling the allegations.

Hollywood gossip Perez Hilton posted the Twitter screen shots on his popular site, saying that Lohan "promptly deleted the Tweets, but there are screen grabs of his accusations! We know he's crazy, but could it be true?!"

Among the skeptics was his eldest daughter. "Lindsay Lohan believes it was her father, Michael Lohan, who tweeted lies yesterday that she's HIV-positive," the New York Post reported, based on her tweets.

But OhNoTheyDidnt found that it wasn't a case of hacking after all, as explained in this in-your-face editor's note:

"A post made it through that had a photoshopped screen cap of Michael's Twitter. Once it was discovered to be fake, the post was deleted -- but not before other gossip blogs picked up on the 'story.' The tweets never showed up on his Twitter, he was never hacked. Therefore, Michael is a retard."

Perez Hilton's response, under a photo of Michael Lohan with horns drawn on: "Who would even WANT to hack into that monster's account??"

Gawker reporter Maureen O'Connor disclosed the sequence of events in what she called "a conspiracy of self-destructing rumor-mongers." And Lohan's lawyer, Lisa Bloom, threatened this week to take unspecified legal action on his behalf against the sites and publications that carried the original charge unless they run prominent retractions and apologies. "The gossip media has a vested interest in fanning the flames of this family feud," she says.

Harvey Levin, TMZ's editor, says that "we did some checking. We were just saying this is going around. We said it was untrue in the story." While accepting the theory that Lohan's account had been hacked, TMZ reported that "somebody went on Michael's Twitter page and posted several untrue statements," including the HIV claim.

Several of the other Web sites and publications did not respond to requests for comment. Lindsay Lohan's manager also did not respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

Michael Lohan, a Long Island investment banker, says he worries whether the "disgusting" fake tweets have soiled his reputation, but has also "thought about how it would affect Lindsay, my [other] children and my ex-wife." He says that, contrary to press reports, he is not completely out of contact with Lindsay, adding that she called him recently after being ejected from a nightclub for throwing a drink at her ex-girlfriend, Samantha Ronson.

Despite all the tabloid attention, some of which he brings on himself, Lohan still wants to come to his daughter's rescue. "I fear for her life," he says.

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