Earlier this week, George Clooney wrote an angry rebuttal to a Daily Mail piece concerning his fiancée's family. Now, writer and actor John Cleese — best known as a member of the comedy troupe, Monty Python — has come forward with his own criticism of The Daily Mail.
"It's not just a precious selection of actors. All over Britain, people are appalled by this paper," he told PRI. "And yet, for some reason, they continue to read it, and I think it's because they simply do not realize that it lies."
He says he was "elated" by Clooney's candid op-ed in USA Today. "It's finally beginning to get this out of this murk — where there is no light and no knowledge — into the public domain."
Cleese is no stranger to the tabloid's scathing headlines. One from last month reads, "End of the road for those silly walks: John Cleese can’t perform Monty Python stunt anymore because he has a dodgy knee." Also, according to Cleese, the paper had previously falsified information about his relationship with his ex-wife.
Cleese sees no point in directly responding to the paper’s personal attacks against him. Rather, he argues that its journalism is reflective of a "conspiracy of silence which enables The Mail to get away with the most dishonest, amateur and untrustworthy kind of news reporting.”
The Daily Mail is just one component of Britain’s nefarious tabloid culture. In 2012, the News International phone-hacking scandal and subsequent Leveson Inquiry exposed just how far British tabloid journalists would go for a story.
In response to the scandal, Hacked Off was founded, a campaign that advocates for “a free and accountable press.” The cause is supported by a number of British celebrities who claim to have been victimized by tabloids, including Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson — and Cleese.
"I don't see how a democracy can function if there isn't reasonably clear, honest and accurate information out there,” Cleese said.
For some, this bitter judgment may seem out of character for a man better known as a civil servant in the Ministry of Silly Walks.
“I’m not silly all the time. I’m mainly silly for money,” he explained. “Otherwise, I’m just an ordinary, lower middle class, fairly well-educated guy who’s fairly appalled by the standards of what used to be called Fleet Street.”