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Down ‘n Dirty With ‘Access Hollywood’ Chief

The Grill takes on Rob Silverstein: “‘ET’ gets away with lying. And nobody calls them out for that.”

TheWrap grilled Rob Silverstein, the executive producer of ‘Access Hollywood,’ the syndicated entertainment news show, and chief rival of the leading show in the category, ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ The show’s website, AccessHollywood.com, hit its best numbers ever in February, with nearly 3 million unique visitors, according to comScore figures.


Editor’s note: TheWrap asked "Entertainment Tonight" to respond to Silverstein’s remarks, but as of press time they did not answer calls or an email.




In a world awash in celebrity news, what bugs you about being the executive producer of a show like "Access Hollywood"?
I don’t like the fact that people get away with lying. We get painted with the Octo-Mom brush, and "Entertainment Tonight" gets a pass. They get away with untruths on the air, and nobody calls them out for that. (See accompanying story: How "Access Hollywood" and "ET" Stack Up)

"Entertainment Tonight" is lying?
"ET" will do a story on their show and on their website — they’ll say an exclusive, when we reported it 20 minutes earlier.

It happened the weekend Charlie Sheen had twins. We had the story first, put it up first — and on Monday, "ET" had "exclusively learned." If anything, they read our website.

Charlie speaks to "ET" more than us because it’s a CBS show, so they always get on the set first. We have covered Denise more than Charlie, so we get better access to Denise. This time we happened to have the right contacts. It’s an example of how you think you can get away with anything.

Right, like when "ET" announced that Brad and Angelina had their twins when they hadn’t?
We all make mistakes. But to get the birth of the twins wrong — this was the Super Bowl of errors in our world.

To us, Brad and Angelina having twins is the scope of a presidential press conference. To get that wrong, to announce it, and never ever admit that you got this wrong? They never admitted it, never came back the next day. Mary Hart went on and said, "We’ve never made a mistake like this." This was before they were wrong. And when the babies were actually born a month later, they pretended it never happened, on their website and everything. There was never an after the fact, "We made a mistake." It’s just laughable.

When their one-year birthday arrives, we’re wondering if they’re going to do two birthdays.

Why do you care?
I’m competitive. What we do is a better show. We follow NBC News guidelines, the same as "The Today Show" and Brian Williams. We’re trying to say to people, ‘If it’s on ‘Access Hollywood,’ it’s right.’

And they’re bigger than you.
It drives me nuts when people make that comparison.

"ET" has been on the on air for 28 years. "Access Hollywood" has been on the air for 13 years. It’s not like a "Today Show" and "GMA" comparison. That’s easy. "Access Hollywood" is not on across the country against "ET." They have a distinct advantage in the Midwest.  We may be on at 1 a.m., and they’re on at 6 p.m. Where we go head to head against them, we either beat them, tie them or barely lose.

The web is another turn of screw. They’re not even near us on the web. ETonline is not near us. And Perez Hilton is barely in front of us.

But he’s one dude!
Yeah, he pulled something off. No question about it.

By being mean and nasty.
He’s not like he used to be. He started off by being a snarky jerk. If you watch him evolve, he’s not nearly as snarky anymore. And a lot of celebs like him, they think he’s funny and clever, and because he breaks artists.

How do you make "Access Hollywood" edgy enough in the age of TMZ?
We’re not trying to race to the bottom. We’re trying to be the one show on TV, and the web as well, where you know what we’re reporting is accurate. Star magazine says on the cover that Brad’s been kicked out of the bedroom, and Jennifer Aniston has sworn off marriage. Neither of those are true. So we put that on our show today. We’re the only people on TV that call this stuff out.

Here’s another example. When "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" was coming out, the studio and Brad’s PR wanted us to sign a document saying we wouldn’t ask any personal questions. We didn’t sign, and we didn’t get the interview. "ET" signed it, and they didn’t ask. How can you call yourself a self-respecting show and not ask one question about it?

We’re not lapdogs like the other shows. We’ll treat people fairly, and I have no problem with someone not wanting to talk about their personal life.

You ask tough questions?
"ET" will never ask Britney who’s a better kisser, Colin Farrell or Madonna? But they’ll make fun of it, just never to their face.

When no one would ask Jennifer Lopez about her butt, Billy Bush says, "I’m gonna ask her. No one ever asks her about her butt."

What did she say?

She said, "You did not just ask me that question!" Most of this stuff is just fun stuff.

How long do you think the public will have an appetite for what you do?

Forever. It’s never going to go away. (Former US Weekly and Star editor) Bonnie Fuller had a great line: People are born with a gossip gene.

Isn’t TMZ your main competition?
I think viewers want us, and them. I’m trying to get people to walk away from "ET." I’ve had enough of the lies, and antici-pointment. We all do it to a degree — but theirs is over the top. It shows contempt for their audience.

We banned the Octo-Mom.  To focus on this woman and those shenanigans, and to realize she’s getting rich — "ET" is paying her. How are they in the house, in the car? They’ll say they license photos. When they pitted the mom against the daughter – it becomes a reality show. And there’s never any disclosure of anything.

You don’t pay for interviews?

I think they get a pass. It’s time for a change.  When people are not being bought off, we won’t lose.