Overall, The Telegraph did a decent job presenting both sides of the acrimonious divorce between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp last year. But one article, in which the conservative British newspaper delved into the actress' financials, was an exception: it downplayed her claims of domestic violence and stopped just short of calling her a gold digger.
The article began by highlighting Heard's "financial woes" - she had been "losing significant sums" and was now "demanding $50,000 a month from the actor". It takes time to inform readers that Depp is busy promoting a new children's movie and touring with his band. Meanwhile, Heard's claims of spousal abuse are relegated to a single clause, immediately followed by a denial and a counter-punch. “She has accused him of domestic violence – something his friends and representatives have strongly denied, hitting back by claiming she has made the accusations to gain a greater share of his fortune.”
The rest of the article is taken up with an analysis of her financials. Heard earns roughly $120,000 a year from her business interests, before receiving payment for films she appears in, and netted a total of $250,000 in the previous year. Her basic monthly income is around $10,000, but she spends nearly $44,000 every month on rent, entertainment, gifts, vacations, clothes, eating out, paying her publicist and other expenses. The obvious implication is that she's haemorrhaging cash and hopes to secure a chunk of Depp's fortune.
It's understandable that the author, looking at the gaping hole in Heard's finances, presumed her primary motivation for marrying then divorcing Depp, a man more than 20 years her senior, was money. The final line reads: "It has been suggested that Miss Heard would be in line for a minimum payout of $15 million – the equivalent of $1 million for every month they were married."
That line of thinking looks dead wrong in hindsight. After the couple reached an out-of-court settlement in August, Heard pledged to donate the full $7m payout to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in order to combat domestic violence, and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. TMZ reported in November that she gave $350,000 to the ACLU within days of the deal. But Depp, who reportedly decided to donate the money himself, had apparently only paid $100,000 to each organisation.
Apart from seemingly misjudging the situation, the article also fails to entertain the idea that Heard might be a genuine victim of domestic violence. Heard filed for divorce and took out a restraining order against Depp in May: she claimed he threw his iPhone into her face, and provided pictures of the injuries. "During the entirety of our relationship Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me," she said. "I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him." The bruises and her statement should have been ample reason for the media to give her the benefit of the doubt.
The evidence mounted in August, after the Telegraph article was published. Pictures emerged showing Depp - drunk and high on ecstasy, according to Heard's lawyers - writing in blood on the wall, after allegedly smashing glasses and windows. A video was also leaked showing Depp swearing, kicking furniture and saying "I'll show you crazy". Depp's lawyers claimed the video was heavily edited, and that Heard smiled and egged her husband on.
“I underestimated the toll that this difficult few months have taken on me, emotionally and physically, and the efforts made by the media to intimidate and discredit me,” Heard said after the settlement. “As described in the restraining order and divorce settlement, money played no role for me personally and never has, except to the extent that I could donate it to charity and, in doing so, hopefully help those less able to defend themselves."
Heard's lawyers made sure the pair's joint statement following the settlement included this line: "Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains." The takeaway for media outlets? Don't assume every young, cash-strapped starlet who marries and divorces a rich, older and more famous man is a lying gold digger.