By Brian Stelter
(CNN) -- George Clooney 1, Daily Mail newspaper 0.
The British newspaper's website deleted an article about Clooney, his fiancee, Amal Alamuddin, and her mother, Baria, on Wednesday, after Clooney said the article was "completely fabricated" and even "dangerous."
The website subsequently apologized and said it had "launched a full investigation."
The offending article came out on the Web on Monday and in print on Tuesday. While it is now missing from the Mail's site, rewritten versions of it still appear on hundreds of other sites -- a point that Clooney himself made in an unusual response to the Mail, published by USA Today on Wednesday morning.
In order to rebut the article, Clooney had to repeat some of what it said.
"The Daily Mail has printed a completely fabricated story about my fiancee's mother opposing our marriage for religious reasons," Clooney wrote in USA Today. "It says Amal's mother has been telling 'half of Beirut' that she's against the wedding. It says they joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride."
None of that is true, Clooney said.
Clooney, of course, is used to media misbehavior -- thinly sourced stories about celebrities of his stature are a daily occurrence, and "I seldom respond," he wrote.
"But this lie involves larger issues," he wrote. "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."
Later on, he suggested that the Mail had moved "into the arena of inciting violence."
So was the Mail story completely made up? MailOnline, the Web division of the newspaper, said Wednesday that it was "not a fabrication"; rather, it was "supplied in good faith by a reputable and trusted freelance journalist."
The Mail said the journalist "based her story on conversations with a long-standing contact who has strong connections with senior members of the Lebanese community in the UK and the Druze in Beirut."
In other words, the journalist played a particularly bad game of telephone, repeating what one person was saying about what other people were allegedly saying about Clooney's future mother-in-law.
"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," the Mail said in a statement.
"We have removed the article from our website and will be contacting Mr. Clooney's representatives to discuss giving him the opportunity to set the record straight."
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