Following the Daily Mail’s apology to George Clooney, it appears the newspaper is keen to lay the blame for the article, which suggested his fiancee’s mother objected to their marriage on religious grounds, at the feet of its digital arm the MailOnline.
Clooney blasted the publication for the story, writing a blistering op-ed in USA Today, in which he accused the Daily Mail of behaviour that “should be criminal”.
The Daily Mail released a statement on Wednesday in which it insisted the “MailOnline story was not a fabrication, but supplied in good faith by a reputable and trusted freelance journalist.”
It added: "We only became aware of Mr Clooney’s concerns this morning and have launched a full investigation. However, we accept Mr Clooney’s assurance that the story is inaccurate and we apologise to him, Miss Amal Alamuddin and her mother, Baria, for any distress caused."
But while the newspaper appeared eager to pass the article off as an online publication (which has since been taken down), an analysis of the print version bears virtually all of the same detail.
The following quote from a “Lebanese family friend” is used in both the print and online versions:
“You would think Amal has hit the jackpot with George Clooney, but Baria is not happy.
“She thinks Amal can do better. She has been telling half of Beirut in fact anyone that will listen, there are 500,000 Druze. Are none of them good enough for her?”
In Clooney’s op-ed he wrote: “First of all, none of the story is factually true. Amal’s mother is not Druze. She has not been to Beirut since Amal and I have been dating, and is in no way against the marriage – but none of that is the issue.
“I’m of course, used to the Daily Mail making up stories- they do it several times a week – and I don’t care. If they fabricate stories of Amal being pregnant, or that the marriage will take place on the set of Downton Abbey, or that I’m running for office, or any number of idiotic stories that they sit at their computers and invent, I don’t care.
“But this lie involves larger issues. The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous.
“We have family members all over the world, and the idea that someone would inflame any part of that world for the sole reason of selling papers should be criminal.”
The print version of the story states: “Those who marry outside the sect are excommunicated, while some members have been killed for choosing partners of other religions.”
While the online version expands: “There can be harsh penalties for those Druze who marry outsiders. Several women have been murdered for disobeying the rules. Last year a Sunni Muslim man had his penis severed by the male relatives of a Druze woman who defied her family by marrying him.
“The friend added: ‘There have been a few jokes in the family about the same thing happening to George'.”
In Clooney’s piece he claims the newspaper made reference to family "jokes" about tradition in the Druze religion “that end up with the death of the bride.”
It’s not known if the now deleted online piece was changed during its existence or if Clooney misread the comment, but to all intents and purposes the pieces are largely identical.
Which begs the question, why should this be a problem for just the digital arm of the publication?
The Huffington Post UK has asked the Daily Mail for clarification on the matter.
The Daily Mail is well-known for operating two separate editorial teams, with the print side run by editor and Associated Newspapers editor-in-chief Paul Dacre and joint deputy editors Jon Steafel and Tony Gallagher.
MailOnline publisher Martin Clarke is widely known to take a hands-on, tabloid approach to the digital side, often clashing with the print version on matters of taste and style.