Some parents reacted with outrage over the weekend when the television program “Entertainment Tonight” began showing commercials promoting a scoop: Ms. Cyrus, the star of the wholesome Disney Channel blockbuster “Hannah Montana,” had posed topless, albeit with her chest covered, for the Vanity Fair photographer, Annie Leibovitz.
Screen grabs of the photo quickly popped up online, sparking a blogosphere debate. “Bonfire anyone?” wrote Lin Burress on her marriage and parenting blog, Telling It Like It Is, referring to the mountain of Hannah Montana retail items — makeup, shoes, clothes — in the marketplace. “Parents should be extremely concerned,” Ms. Burress said in an interview. “Very young girls look up to Miley Cyrus as a role model.”
It is doubtful that one photograph — especially one that is tame in the context of an Internet awash in nude photographs of other starlets — could dent the Hannah Montana machine, said several Wall Street analysts. Retail sales for the franchise are expected to total about $1 billion in 2008. A motion picture is in the works for 2009 and Ms. Cyrus signed a seven-figure book deal with the Disney Book Group last week.
But keeping a teenage entertainment franchise on track in an age when stars are monitored around the clock by bloggers and paparazzi is extremely difficult, even for a company with the experience of Disney. Executives are constantly battling to keep minor slipups from growing into full-blown controversies.
Last week, the public relations problem du jour was a green bra; photos online showing Ms. Cyrus pulling away her tank top to flash her underwear.
Ms. Cyrus and the “Hannah Montana” series have been championed as one of the few entertainment sanctuaries for children, complicating matters. Last month, Ms. Cyrus was chosen favorite television actress at Nickelodeon’s “Kids’ Choice Awards.”
More than 3 million viewers regularly watch “Hannah Montana,” most of them age 6 to 14.
Media outlets, in particular the rabid celebrity-focused tabloids, have been pushing to capture new angles of the ubiquitous Ms. Cyrus. After popping up everywhere from the Academy Awards to “American Idol” in recent months, the only photos of her that are assured of selling are controversial ones.
A Disney spokeswoman, Patti McTeague, faulted Vanity Fair for the photo. “Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines,” she said.
The article, written by Bruce Handy, seems to support that claim, quoting Ms. Cyrus as saying, “Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought it was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie.” She also said of the photo, “I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way.”
Ms. Cyrus had a different view in a prepared statement released on Sunday:
“I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.”
Beth Kseniak, a spokeswoman for both Vanity Fair magazine and Ms. Leibovitz said, “Miley’s parents and/or minders were on the set all day. Since the photo was taken digitally, they saw it on the shoot and everyone thought it was a beautiful and natural portrait of Miley.”
At the very least, Ms. Cyrus and her advisers do not seem to be on the same page as Disney. The company learned of the photo only when “Entertainment Tonight” started showing its promos.
Last week, Gary Marsh, the president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide, was quoted in Portfolio magazine saying, “For Miley Cyrus to be a ‘good girl’ is now a business decision for her. Parents have invested in her a godliness. If she violates that trust, she won’t get it back.”
Wesley Snipes Gets 3 Years for Not Filing Tax Returns
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced the actor Wesley Snipes to three years in prison for willfully failing to file tax returns.
Mr. Snipes, who was convicted in February, received one year for each count, to be served consecutively, and an additional year of probation. The sentence was handed down by Judge William Terrell Hodges of Federal District Court.
Mr. Snipes, who apologized for his actions before the sentence was announced, showed no immediate reaction to the verdict.
Judge Hodges allowed Mr. Snipes and a co-defendant, Douglas Rosile, to remain free on bond until they were summoned by either the United States Marshals Service or the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The sentencing came at the end of a daylong hearing in which lawyers for Mr. Snipes argued for leniency while federal prosecutors sought the maximum penalty possible.
The case was the most prominent tax prosecution since the billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley was convicted of tax fraud in 1989. Mr. Snipes, who has built a worldwide following acting in films like the “Blade” vampire trilogy, must pay up to $17 million in back taxes plus penalties and interest.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Snipes said: “I’m very sorry for my mistakes. I acknowledge that I have failed myself and others.” But in the statement, which ran to nearly 10 minutes, Mr. Snipes never mentioned the words “tax” or “taxes.”
“He never stated he didn’t pay his taxes or show any remorse for it,” said Robert O’Neill, the acting United States attorney for the Middle District of Florida, the lead prosecutor on the case.
Mr. Snipes even tried to make a down payment on his taxes before sentencing; his legal team offered Judge Hodges three checks totaling $5 million.
Judge Hodges refused the checks, saying he did not have the authority to accept them. Prosecutors also declined to accept the checks. An Internal Revenue Service employee eventually accepted the checks on behalf of the Treasury Department.
Mr. Snipes’s legal team also questioned the validity of federal sentencing guidelines. At one point, one of his lawyers, Carmen Hernandez, described herself as “an expert on sentencing.”
Judge Hodges replied, “If I may be so bold, I’ve also had some experience with that.”
A jury found Mr. Snipes guilty on Feb. 1 of three misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to file tax returns, but acquitted him of felony conspiracy and tax fraud charges and three additional counts of failure to file.
The jury also convicted two co-defendants, Eddie Ray Kahn and Mr. Rosile, on felony charges.
Mr. Snipes was a member of American Rights Litigators, an organization founded by Mr. Kahn. Prosecutors have described that organization and its successor company, Guiding Light of God Ministries, as illegal tax-evasion schemes.
Mr. Rosile, a certified public accountant, prepared some tax returns, including Mr. Snipes’s, for the organization.
Judge Hodges sentenced Mr. Kahn to 10 years and Mr. Rosile to four and a half years.
Mr. Kahn, who represented himself throughout the trial and has consistently refused to recognize Judge Hodges’s authority, was defiant to the end.
“For the record, your honor, I don’t accept that,” Mr. Kahn said.
The judge responded, “You may not accept it, Mr. Kahn, but you will serve it.”
Mr. Rosile declined to comment after the sentencing. His lawyer, David Wilson, however, said the sentence was fair.
A member of Mr. Snipes’s legal team said they would appeal. “We were hoping for a complete acquittal,” the lawyer, Linda Moreno, said. “I have faith in the process, and I have faith in the jury system. We will appeal.”