BROKEN BOND Opri, Birkhead
Former Larry Birkhead lawyer Debra Opri has done a pretty good job of keeping her mouth shut about her former client. But Birkhead just won't shut up, and Opri tells Radar she's sick of having her reputation dragged through the mud.
It's a Frankenstein-like turn, with the media monster she helped create turning on her publicly. "His continued statements to the press are malicious and they are desperate and possibly out of control," Opri tells Radar. "I continue to believe that a dispute between an attorney and a former client does not belong in the media, and I continue to question the motives of Mr. Birkhead in insisting that it remains in the media."
Her defamation suit centers on what she says are false claims Birkhead made on Larry King Live that Opri was a source for Rita Cosby's book Blonde Ambition (which claims Birkhead and Howard K. Stern were lovers who conspired to make money off of their custody battle). She also accuses Birkhead of leaking information to TMZ to smear her. The site has, for example, posted an itemized rundown of Opri's $620,492.84 bill. It has also quoted extensively from Opri's lawsuit. Although Birkhead-friendly posts have outnumbered Opri-backing ones, TMZ's Harvey Levin tells Radar the site has balanced its coverage as much as possible.
"You don't do stories based on a count, you basically follow the news," Levin says. "I think he's been more aggressive than she has in the last month and a half." Asked about whether he's skeptical of Birkhead's claims, considering the allegations that he's already manipulated media coverage, Levin says, "We're skeptical about everything. There are plenty of things that we don't post—not just with this story but with a lot of stories. You don't want to end up being a tool."