Montel Williams and Tareq and Michaele Salahi (Getty Images/AP)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Montel Williams is the latest person to battle with Tareq and Michaele Salahi. According to a member of Williams' public relations team, event promoters lied about Williams' scheduled appearance for "the apparent re-opening of their failed vineyard", never asked for permission to use his name and falsely claimed he is a supporter.
On multiple websites, a group claiming association with the Salahis posted that "A Hollywood Oasis" would celebrate DC's MOST FABULOUS Magazine and the reopening of Oasis Winery with food, drinks, a fashion show, and celebrities including Montel Williams. The event was even posted to the WUSA 9 Events Calendar, a community board for people to post local events. In the listing, the posters had written: "A portion of the profits will be donated to Montel Williams Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (http://www.montelms.org/)."
READ: Letter to Salahi Publicist Howard Cromwell (PDF)
READ: Legal Counsel Correspondence With Thomas Greenberg (PDF)
Williams' PR staff wrote a letter to WUSA 9 saying, "Please know that we understand completely that WUSA has no control over what users post with respect to events, however, in this case, the event promoters are fraudulently using Mr. Williams' name and record of MS Advocacy to advance the apparent re-opening of their failed vineyard, and all without so much as a phone call to us - our official statement can be found here."
WUSA 9 is in the process of removing the page from our website.
In the official statement, Jonathan Franks wrote: "We are extremely concerned that donations were being solicited using Montel's good name and record of advocacy on behalf of MS sufferers worldwide without our knowledge or permission, and are currently investigating the circumstances that led up to this."
Williams' attorneys sent the Salahis and their publicist cease and desist letters to stop using his name. According to Williams' PR team, the Salahis have agreed to stop using his name in association with the event. Williams' PR team says several goverment agencies and law enforcement are "investigating the group responsible for this event."
Statement of Jonathan Franks, LUCID Public Relations, on behalf of Montel Williams to WUSA TV:
"It has come to our attention that a group apparently associated with Tareq and Michaele Salahi, and their publicist Howard Cromwell have announced that Mr. Williams will be attending an event at their Oasis Winery in Virginia and that Montel Williams' MS Foundation is also a supporter - neither is true. The use of Mr. Williams' name without his permission is unacceptable, and Mr. Williams' attorneys intend to pursue all available legal remedies in this matter."
"Even worse, it appears that the Salahi's, whose bizzare behavior has been widely reported, are attempting to piggy-back off of Montel's record of advocacy on behalf of MS sufferers worldwide to advance the apparent re-opening of their failed winery. That is inexcusable exploitation of those afflicted with a terrible disease."
"We were disappointed to learn from Montel's fans, and from regulators in Virginia that Mr. Cromwell and the Salahis have continued an underground social media campaign, in seeming defiance of our cease and desist letter, to include a posting on WUSA's site that continues to make statements about my client's participation in this event that are at best misleading, and at worst, outright fraud at the expense of people afflicted with a devastating disease."
"Throughout the past several weeks, our office has been contacted by multiple governmental agencies, including law enforcement investigating the group responsible for this event. Aside from pursuing all civil legal remedies available, Montel continues to cooperate with regulators and law enforcement investigating this matter, and we are very grateful for their vigilance, and professionalism as they attempt to get to the bottom of this."
"We continue to reassure Montel's fans that he has not, nor will he ever have any association with Mr. Cromwell or the Salahis, and that we are well aware of the considerable volume of news reports in recent years that allege charitable misdeeds on their part. We also want to let Montel's fans know that we are only doing as much press as is needed to correct the record on this matter, as Mr. Williams does not wish to contribute to the Salahi's apparent need to seek notoriety at all costs."