LOS ANGELES – George Clooney is known as a prankster, but his plan to undermine a Web site that posts celebrity sightings is no joke, his publicist said Friday.
Clooney has suggested swamping Gawker.com's "Gawker Stalker" feature with false notes about stars' whereabouts, spokesman Stan Rosenfield said.
In an e-mail Rosenfield recently distributed on Clooney's behalf to other high-powered publicists, the actor calls for publicity firms and their clients to join the effort against the site that some have called a threat to celebrities.
"There is a simple way to render these guys useless," Clooney said in the message. "Flood their Web site with bogus sightings. Get your clients to get 10 friends to text in fake sightings of any number of stars.
"A couple hundred conflicting sightings and this Web site is worthless. No need to try to create new laws to restrict free speech. Just make them useless. That's the fun of it. And then sit back and enjoy the ride," Clooney writes, signing the note, "Thanks, George."
Rosenfield said he did not know how the e-mail, which was intended as private, was publicly released and reported on Friday by the New York Post.
Gawker fired back online. It chastised Clooney for climbing "on his hotmail soapbox to so publicly break our hearts" and then issued a challenge to the public: be the first person to send a new camera-phone photo of Clooney to Gawker and win DVDs of his films "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve."
"It's childish what they're doing," Rosenfield said. "It shows the level of their maturity."
Clooney's campaign may be bearing fruit. Rosenfield said he heard from two publicists whose clients were said by Gawker Stalker to have been spotted in New York when the stars were actually abroad.
Clooney, who received a best-supporting actor Oscar for "Syriana," has weighed in before on celebrity privacy. Although an outspoken defender of the First Amendment, he's criticized tabloids and the paparazzi who shoot for them as sometimes going over the line.
Gawker, a popular site, had been posting map-free "Stalker" sightings for two years. Now it pinpoints the locations of readers' random celebrity sightings on the Internet, using a Google map of Manhattan.
Publicists say the new feature puts their clients in harm's way by revealing their specific whereabouts.
"Not at all," the site's editor, Jessica Coen, told The Associated Press last week. "Our spies are just regular people ... people that are excited to see someone they like. Our readers are, for the most part, a very educated, well-meaning bunch."
Rosenfield rebuts the idea of the site as a harmless diversion.
For those who would argue that, he said Friday, "I have two words: Rebecca Schaeffer."
He was referring to the 21-year-old star of TV's "My Sister Sam" who was shot to death in 1989 at her Los Angeles home by an obsessed fan, who was sentenced to life in prison.