Two months after we interviewed actor Brian Presley about his new film, his family, and his sobriety, he became a social media phenomenon.
Model Melissa Stetten published several items to Twitter during a late-night flight about her ongoing conversation with Presley, suggesting that he was drunk and hitting on her. Several popular aggregation sites picked up the tweets and added suggestions that he had propositioned her. As often happens with celebrity gossip (even if few people had heard of Presley or Stetten before the incident), bloggers and commenters began choosing sides. The Frisky's Alexandra Gekas called Stetten a jerk who owed Presley an apology, even if the tweets were true. Jezebel's Hugo Schwyzer called Presley a creep who deserved ridicule. And on it went, eventually drawing mainstream media attention in the U.S. and Britain. (Meanwhile, CT's interview with Presley became the most-read article on our site for nearly a week.)
Apart from a brief denial last week on Facebook, Presley had not publicly addressed the controversy. In a Christianity Today exclusive interview, he spoke about it for the first time.
So what did happen?
First, it's really important for me to say that in doing this interview, my intention is not to sling mud. I just want to stand up for me and my family.
I was on my way to New York for business, and we were having the screening of Touchback and some other business—two days and [then] back home. I sat next to this person and had a friendly conversation. She seemed like a nice person. She asked why I was going to New York. I said work and shared part of the industry I'm in. She shared what part of the industry she's in. And I brought up Touchback.
I'm a passionate guy in general and I feel passionate about what I do, but in no way was I rambling on about myself. It was just a small-talk conversation with somebody who I thought shared a similar industry. Probably 10 or 15 minutes max. I put my headphones on, watched a little bit of the movie, and went to sleep. And the next thing, I was in New York and I had meetings the next morning.
I wasn't sneaking off to the bathroom drinking beers. The [topic] of my family never came up. And I never denied being married. I never took my wedding ring off. When it comes to making advances or having a conversation with somebody, never did I say What's your phone number? Should we get together? or imply that I was insinuating that.
She specifically said that you were drinking a Heineken.
No. I had a Diet Coke. To be honest with you, I honestly didn't go through every tweet. I think she said I was drinking a Heineken in the bathroom. I'm a real germ freak. If I was really going to come out of sobriety and make that decision, I'm not going to be doing it in an airplane bathroom, which I can't stand to walk into anyway.
The accusations of me saying I wasn't married, that didn't happen. The accusations of me taking my ring off in the bathroom and coming back without my ring on never happened. Me drinking didn't happen. I want to [state] that it didn't happen, but I don't want to sling it back.
Did you tell Melissa Steffen that you were a recovering alcoholic?
No, I didn't. I didn't get into any personal aspects of my life other than from a work standpoint.
What did your conversation entail?
She seemed very friendly and in no way was I coming on to her. I think we've probably all been on an airplane [and had] small talk with the person sitting next to you [about where] you're from, wherever you're headed. To be honest with you, I didn't think twice about it.