Billionaire in Gossip Feud Gives Warning

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The publicity-shy billionaire at the center of a scandal involving the New York Post warns that gossip columns employing haphazard practices have the potential to undermine journalistic credibility.

“Newspapers that continue to go down the road of tabloidism, that adopt the shoddy standards of gossip reporting, and that arrogantly resist correcting their mistakes, risk losing their special role in our democracy,” Ron Burkle wrote in an op-ed piece published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

It was Burkle’s first comments about the case.

Burkle has accused Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern of trying to shake him down for a $220,000. Burkle says the money would have ensured that Stern portrayed the California businessman in a favorable light in the well-read Page Six column.

Burkle said Page Six ran repeated items about him that were erroneous and ultimately refused to take any steps to correct the problem.

Stern denies the wrongdoing and says that the meetings where the alleged extortion attempt occurred were a set-up by Burkle. Stern’s lawyer says a heavily edited tape of a meeting made by Burkle’s security team – where federal authorities were present – does not reveal anything.

Stern says Burkle’s piece in the Journal was laughable.

“I saw it,” Stern said. “It was very funny. I think he’s trying to take the high moral ground.”

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