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Bauer Publishing, under fire over an In Touch cover story that presented Blake Shelton as having hit “rock bottom” after a booze-filled bender in Cancun, says it has photographic evidence that the country music superstar’s recent sworn declaration was false.
Shelton is suing Bauer for defamation for the story that suggested he had enough of a drinking problem to send him to rehab. In response to the lawsuit, Bauer points to tweets and media interviews that allegedly show the Voice star cultivating a reputation for hard drinking. The publisher claims he’s “libel proof,” that there’s nothing in the story that is capable of defamatory meaning and, finally, that Shelton can’t show actual malice on the part of the reporters. Shelton opposes dismissal, and as part of the many documents lodged to save the lawsuit, the musician gave his own declaration to note what was false in the story at issue.
Regarding the Cancun trip, Shelton stated, “Contrary to the Rehab Story, I was not in Cancun for a bachelor party. Instead, I was with my tour manager Kevin Canady and a married couple who are friends of ours. We stayed at the Fiesta Americana. My hotel was not an ‘all inclusive’ resort.
“During this trip, I did not stay at the hotel ME Melia, Cancun or visit it,” he continues. “Contrary to what is reported in the Rehab Story, I did not attend a bachelor party, party with strippers, or go to a strip club during my time in Cancun. There were no strippers at Coco Bongo and I did not go to a club named Dassan. Unlike what is set forth in the Rehab Story, I did not do tequila shots ‘non-stop’ or walk through my hotel lobby carrying two bottles of tequila. I did not kiss any women while I was in Cancun. There was no ‘alcohol-fueled rendezvous,’ nor did I hook up with any women, let alone multiple women, in my hotel room or anywhere else.”
Basically, Shelton’s attorney presents the depiction of the Mexico trip as fabricated.
On Monday, the publisher filed a brief in reply.
“Shelton resorts to apparent false testimony,” states the memorandum. “He declares that the Article’s depiction of his Mexico trip was ‘fabricated,’ because the ‘partying’ described at the Hotel ME Melia in Cancun could not have occurred as during his trip he ‘did not stay at the hotel ME Melia Cancun or visit it.’ Yet, indisputable photographic evidence places Shelton at that very hotel and with the blonde guest described in the Article.”
According to a declaration from In Touch reporter Adriane Schwartz, she got information from a “longtime confidential source who stayed at the hotel ME Melia,” including an “Instagram photograph clearly depicting Blake Shelton standing with his arm around a woman in a room with a distinctive tile pattern, lights, drapes and round rug.”
The photograph is included as an exhibit:
So did Shelton actually “visit” the hotel that was a focal scene of the story?
Hardly, says Shelton’s camp. According to one of his reps, just because he’s in the “driveway of the hotel” doesn’t mean he actually visited. What’s more, the photograph doesn’t show him drinking nor kissing this woman. It’s a fan photo, they say.
Nevertheless, the question becomes not whether the photo corroborates everything in the story, but rather whether it supports in some fashion the credibility of Schwartz’s anonymous source. And that maybe goes to the question of actual malice, which is necessary to demonstrate in a defamation lawsuit brought by a celebrity. Did the reporter recklessly disregard the truth? “At the time we published the Article, I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the photograph or of the conclusions we drew from it,” says Schwartz in her declaration.
Shelton’s camp doesn’t believe this is enough. They ask: Where are the declarations from sources? Why hasn’t the hotel clerk come forward to support anything in the challenged article?
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