Updated with comment added: Daily Beast contributor Gerald Posner reported today that yesterday (12.28) “a Los Angeles entertainment honcho shared a text message with [him] that Mickey Rourke had sent him about Sean Penn: ‘Look seans an old friend of mine [but] i didnt buy his performance at all — thought he did an average pretend acting like he was gay besides hes one of the most homophobic people i kno'” [sic]

Needless to say, it’s extremely scummy of Posner’s anonymous “Los Angeles entertainment honcho” to pass along a privately-sent text message with the idea that it might possibly turn up in a Daily Beast story. It’s craven and low. I posted the item because Posner is a highly respected investigative reporter and author, and because the Daily Beast is a top-of-the-pile, high-profile site. But two key factors were at work here. One, the story wouldn’t have been considered persuasive or titillating enough to run without the text message quote. And two, Posner and the DB obviously know that running the text message quote essentially amounts to a double-edged smear, plain and simple. I think it’s going to backfire against Rourke and in Penn’s favor.

Posner writes that “several entertainment industry sources” have said that Rourke is “trash talking” Penn, but he only mentions two — the text message plus an alleged comment Rourke made backstage after a “Late Night with David Letterman” taping on 12.23. Rourke allegedly said “he was surprised that so many people seemed to think that Penn was his Oscar competition since ‘I’m not even sure he’ll get a nomination.'” Doesn’t the word “several” mean at least…what, four or five? (If I had three sources on a story, I wouldn’t say I had “several” sources — I would say I had three.)

A friend has written HE with the following comment: “Gerald Posner’s use of an unattributed source for his Daily Beast story about the Mickey Rourke/Sean Penn texting reminds me of the sermon in Doubt in which Philip Seymour Hoffman speaks about gossip and compares its irreparable damage to the feathers from a pillow dispersing in the air.”