Update: Friday, February 25, at 12:11 p.m.: Hollywood Unlocked published a listicle on Friday “fact-checking” the reasons it thought the Queen died before apologizing for getting the story wrong. It cited “reports that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Her Majesty on Wednesday” as the reason for its disavowal. Hollywood Unlocked asserted that a source at British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful’s wedding overheard a call where “the Queen’s death had been confirmed to a high-profile attendee.” Lee also claimed to have spoken to “another source familiar with the British military” who told him top generals had been summoned to the palace four hours before HU published its original piece. It wrote that its reporting aligned with Operation London Bridge — the plan of action for the Queen’s death — which, if true, insinuates a world where Jason Lee breaking the news aligns with a ten-step D-Day plan announcing the death of a monarch that has been in place for decades.
“We’d never intentionally cause pain or grief to the monarchy simply for ‘clickbait,’” HU wrote, before quoting Lee: “‘Although I’ve never been wrong when breaking a story because this involves The Queen this is one time I would want to be. And based on Wednesday’s report from the Palace, I can say my sources got this wrong and I sincerely apologize to The Queen and the Royal Family.’” Is nothing right anymore in this world? After posting that he’s never lied, Jason Lee, the de facto pinnacle of truth and accuracy, at least to himself, has admitted his first wrong.
Update: Wednesday, February 23, at 6:20 p.m.: Jason Lee has deleted the Instagram post asserting that the Queen is dead and his plans to attend the DONDA concert are alive. Also, a source told BuzzFeed that they believe someone confused late Queens of the Stone Age singer Mark Lanegan with the monarch Elizabeth.
Original story follows.
Socialites, it is with our deepest regret to inform you that Hollywood Unlocked, a Shade Room–adjacent gossip blog, and its founder, Jason Lee, are doubling down on reports that Queen Elizabeth is dead. No, not the Jason Lee from Alvin and the Chipmunks or My Name Is Earl. In an article posted Tuesday, esteemed journalist “DefaultUser” wrote that Hollywood Unlocked had the “exclusive” on the queen’s death after “sources close to the Royal Kingdom” notified them of her passing. The piece comes after Sunday’s announcement that the 95-year-old queen had tested positive for COVID-19; per the BBC, the monarch experienced “mild cold-like symptoms” but will be continuing “light duties” at the palace while she recovers.
After being accused of disseminating misinformation, Lee laid down his five commandments in an Instagram post. “1. I’ve never lied. 2. I’ve never been wrong,” he wrote in a Notes app screenshot. He also asserted that the palace has yet to debunk his claims before topping it off with his most important tenet: “5. I’ll be at the Donda concert tonight with Ye.”
By Wednesday morning, a now-deleted tweet from an unverified Twitter account, @HollywoodUL — which has posted as the Hollywood Unlocked account for at least two years — apologized to the royal family and blamed the mistake on an “intern journalist” who published a draft post by mistake. Blaming the intern is a classic move employed by everyone from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, but Lee refused to take the easy way out. “We do not know that account and we have not retracted our story,” Lee wrote on Twitter. The original story is still up on the website.
The gossip site’s assertions that the queen was “found dead” ahead of British Vogue editor Edward Enninful’s wedding spread across the Twitter-sphere with many joking about Hollywood Unlocked and Jason Lee’s shoddy credibility.
Lee got at least one thing right: Buckingham Palace has yet to issue a statement on rumors of the queen’s death at the time of publication. The palace typically refrains from commenting on online gossip, but in the event of the queen’s actual death, an elaborate plan would be set into motion with the BBC releasing the news first. I balk at the idea of a future in which Hollywood Unlocked makes it into our history textbooks for being first to break the news of the queen’s passing, but at least it makes more sense than if it were Queen Nicki Minaj.