Deny, deny, deny.
That’s what musician Pete Wentz did in April when reports surfaced that fiancee Ashlee Simpson was carrying his child. In an angry missive to MTV.com, Wentz fumed: “There is a witch hunt for people to be pregnant whenever they get engaged in Hollywood. This is all news to me.”
Last week, Wentz, who married the 23-year-old singer (now Simpson-Wentz) last month at her parents’ Los Angeles-area home, happily confirmed the news on his blog, explaining that the couple “wanted to wait until after the first trimester” to make it official.
Most expectant parents, concerned about the possibility of a miscarriage, wait until after the first three months of pregnancy to share the news with family and friends. But discretion is nearly impossible for those in the media spotlight.
“Every woman, no matter who they are or what they do for a living, has the right to wait until at least (three) months before sharing this very personal news,” Wentz, who turns 29 Thursday, told MTV.com last week. “We wanted to wait until after the first trimester and get a clean bill of health from our doctors before confirming anything, just like any other couple.”
‘Great breaking news’
Wentz isn’t the first celebrity to dispute pregnancy rumors. In late December, Nicole Kidman, who had a miscarriage during her marriage to Tom Cruise, denied that she is expecting a baby with husband Keith Urban — only to confirm it a week later. Jennifer Lopez, who welcomed twins with husband Marc Anthony in February, announced she was pregnant in November following denials by the couple.
Even so, attempts by celebrities to keep their pregnancies private doesn’t stop celebrity magazines and gossip Web sites from issuing reports to the contrary.
Jared Shapiro, executive editor of Life & Style Weekly, told The Associated Press the magazine began publishing stories that Simpson, the younger sister of Jessica Simpson, was pregnant after receiving information from various sources.
“The news of the pregnancy makes for great breaking news,” he said.
“Ninety-nine percent of these celebrities end up confirming, so they do talk about it — they just do it on their own terms,” said Shapiro. He said it’s the media’s job “to break news. Not wait for news.”
A big game
Pregnancy is a big game in the celeb news business, as indicated by the millions of dollars that People magazine has paid for exclusive photos of the children of Jennifer Lopez (reportedly $6 million), Angelina Jolie ($4 million for photos of baby Shiloh, now 2) and Christina Aguilera ($1.5 million).
Competition from Internet gossips raises the stakes even higher in getting the news first, Shapiro said.
“It’s hard for celebrities to keep a pregnancy secret but if you look at who they surround themselves with — they’ve got doctors, lawyers, agents, managers, publicists, assistants, friends, family,” he said. “Add that into the fact that you’ve got photographers following them, and just the entire American public on celebrity watch now — you can’t pull it off. Your every word is heard.”
Shapiro said stars are “getting creative in their choice of words, and that’s become a whole new game: dissecting what a (representative’s) comment actually means. Is it a denial? Is it a confirmation? Is a non-denial denial?”
Simpson-Wentz simply stayed mum while promoting her new album, “Bittersweet World.”
Mishandling private matters
But when a star finds out she’s pregnant, how much talking should their representatives do?
Public Relations representative Ken Sunshine says “way too many” in his profession mishandle private matters (such as pregnancy) by not acting in their clients’ interest.
“Where I think the outrage comes is when they sell out their client, and either the clients are not aware or too stupid to realize what’s happening, and that is outrageous,” particularly when there’s a child involved, said Sunshine, whose clients include John Mayer and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Sunshine said there are lines to be drawn — especially in today’s celeb-crazed climate.
If somebody “wants to maintain some anonymity or some privacy of extremely personal things like this, they should be able to do it,” he said.