ABC denied on Friday that a prominent fan blogger for its hit show “Scandal” was an ABC sales director, saying that the blogger was instead the director’s former roommate.
In an exclusive statement to TheWrap, ABC said it had conducted an “exhaustive” investigation:
“After an exhaustive investigation, we have determined that Courtney Pajor is NOT the creator or driving force behind Scandal411, nor do we have reason to believe she had anything to do with the website or twitter account. The fact is, Scandal411 was the brainchild of an ex roommate of Courtney’s, who has no affiliation with ABC or the program.”
TheWrap reported this week that a blogger who writes about the show at Scandal411.com and tweeted under the handle “Scandal411” was ABC special sales director Courtney Pajor, based on individuals familiar with Pajor’s identity and a document in TheWrap’s possession.
ABC declined to identify the former roommate. Pajor has declined repeated attempts by TheWrap to contact her, and Scandal411.com was made private after that outreach.
The Twitter account @Scandal411 was switched over to @GrantforPrez earlier this week. It was then deleted entirely after TheWrap’s initial expose on Wednesday.
ABC’s findings raise even deeper questions about evidence obtained by TheWrap that links the ABC employee to the Scandal411 account; if Pajor’s ex-roommate is behind the account, it would mean she was masquerading as Pajor in potentially illegal ways.
ABC issued the statement on Friday after TheWrap asked for comment regarding the legal implications under Federal Trade Commission regulations of a person tweeting and blogging about her company’s products without revealing her affiliation.
Scandal411 had more than 26,000 followers and became a leading voice in the “Scandal” fandom. She was known to have watched episodes of the show before they aired, posted art and video before press and carry on online interactions with “Scandal” stars and crew.
While well respected for the access she provided her followers to the show, she has been known to become contentious with fans, bloggers and journalists who disagreed with her opinions.
The FTC has issued guidance that suggests bloggers and Tweeters who receive compensation in terms of money, substantial gifts or trips should reveal they are compensated in doing any product-related tweeting.
Furthermore, “a company cannot send its employees out in disguise to promote a company product,” said Jeffrey A. Greenbaum, an advertising attorney at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.
He added: “If a company is advertising to consumers, the law requires them to be transparent. It doesn’t matter how you are talking to consumers–online or off line. If you are talking to consumers, consumers have a right to know that you represent the company.”
He also said that the FTC could have reservations, even if a company claimed the tweeting was conducted by a “rogue” employee and occurred without company knowledge in violation of company policy.
Greenbaum said that while it would be a “stretch” for the FTC to hold ABC fully responsible for tweeting it neither encouraged, nor knew about, the FTC and state attorneys general could still have significant questions.
Ira Teinowitz contributed to this report from Washington.