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How a scandal-sniffing site keeps reality TV smokin'

How a scandal-sniffing site keeps reality TV smokin' -- Networks now see The Smoking Gun, which has unearthed the unsavory pasts of several contestants, as additional publicity

Fox reality guru Mike Darnell feared his genre was dead after the scandal diggers at The Smoking Gun posted a report in 2000 exposing the unsavory past of ”Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”’s Rick Rockwell. But the website that should have extinguished the genre only fanned its fires. A record 1.5 million people visited thesmokinggun.com recently to read how ”Joe Millionaire’s” Sarah Kozer had appeared in fetish films; meanwhile, Fox enjoyed its best-ever ratings on the show.

”You cringe whenever the site calls,” says CBS rep Chris Ender – who had a lot of ‘splaining to do last year when The Smoking Gun revealed ”Survivor: Thailand”’s Brian Heidik was a porn star. However, ”they really serve as another PR vehicle…. It’s not always publicity you want, but you get attention.” As does the site, says editor William Bastone – so it’s only a matter of time before his staff takes on the ”Survivor: The Amazon” crew. ”It’s almost like we have to now,” says a resigned Bastone. ”Everybody has something dirty in their background.” (Additional reporting by Dan Snierson)

Originally posted February 26 2003 — 12:00 AM EST

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