By Jeanmarie Tan
HE proudly calls his website 'Hollywood's Most-Hated'.
True enough. Notorious US gossip columnist and celebrity blogger Perez Hilton is fast on his way to becoming Hollywood's most hated man.
It's been a bad couple of weeks for him, with faux pas upon faux pas - the latest being a catty tweet about the late Michael Jackson.
After initial reports about the King of Pop being rushed to hospital, Hilton had doubted the 50-year-old singer had gone into cardiac arrest.
In a post that has since been removed from PerezHilton.com, he callously dismissed the heart attack as a publicity stunt and that Jackson was looking for a way to wriggle out of his upcoming concert tour.
Hilton wrote: 'Either he's lying or making himself sick, but we're curious to see if he's able to go on!'
Jackson died less than an hour after Hilton published the cruel statement, but he quickly withdrew the story when Jackson's passing was confirmed.
Hundreds of enraged users on Twitter promptly started a campaign urging others to 'unfollow' the openly-gay Hilton, 31, on the microblogging service.
He also engaged in a lengthy war of words with Pete Wentz of rock band Fall Out Boy, who chastised his insensitivity.
Hilton - whose real name is Mario Lavandeira - doesn't seem to know when to stop when it comes to offending famous people.
After all, the Internet's self-proclaimed 'Queen of all Media' enjoys trash-talking celebrities and drawing crude genitalia on paparazzi photos on his blog.
Just days before the Jackson fiasco, he apologised - after being pressured by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - for using a gay slur during a nightclub altercation in Canada with Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am that allegedly left Hilton with a bleeding eye.
The hip-hop group's tour manager was charged with assault for allegedly punching Hilton, who has since filed a lawsuit.
Two months ago, Hilton incited a brouhaha as one of the judges for the Miss USA pageant for calling Miss California Carrie Prejean 'a dumb bitch' on his site after her conservative answer to his question about same-sex marriage irked him.
Prejean, who was later dethroned, said she lost her crown because of the comment.
But the backlash is just beginning.
Advertisers have reportedly dropped off Hilton's site and celebrities are hitting back.
American Idol singer Kelly Clarkson even suggested that many of his victims would be pleased to hear about the incident. She said: 'I've gotta be honest with you, he's going to get a lot of flowers. I'm not talking about Perez, I mean the manager.
'I'm not saying that violence is the answer, but what did you expect? You can't say that much crap about people and not be able to take something.'
Transformers star Josh Duhamel also bashed Hilton for attacking his pop star wife Fergie from Black Eyed Peas in nasty online stories, reported imdb.com.
He said: 'It makes me angry; she doesn't deserve that, she works very hard. He's become rich off of saying hateful things about people and sometimes people get what they deserve, I guess.'
Singaporeans who follow Hilton's blog and tweets also seem to have a love-hate relationship with him.
Student Melvin Tan, 22, feels he has gone too far this time and was basically 'calling to get hit'.
He told The New Paper: 'His head has got too big because he has celebs (like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan) backing him.
'He should know his limits and shouldn't be mean about every single thing. (Jackson's death) should never be a joke - I think Perez jinxed it by writing about it.
'When he changed his posts and took a nicer, kinder approach, it had no effect because everyone already saw what he wrote before that and the damage was already done.
'It wasn't sincere. He did it just to save face.'
'Mean, rude & idiotic'
But another Hilton reader, Ms Ee Swee Li, feels 'he's supposed to be controversial, irreverent and off-the-cuff'.
Said the 28-year-old public relations manager: 'He's mean, rude and idiotic at times - that's what people expect. But what he writes is not always pure journalistic truth.'
Ms Ee feels his popularity is unlikely to take a beating despite his recent attention-craving antics, and still considers his website 'fun to read' because it's 'the fastest with entertainment news and it's not censored'.
Ever the unapologetic lightning rod for controversy, the man himself issued a statement saying he will continue 'to say things that upset both gay people and straight people' and is 'proud of who I am and what I do'.
Hilton also shared that he leaves this 'traumatic experience' as 'a person with more compassion'.
He cited an instance last year when Desperate Housewives actor Jesse Metcalfe was attacked outside a Hollywood nightclub by a fellow entertainer.
Hilton said: 'I did not condone the violence, but I did make light of that situation. I regret that. Sincerely. ... No one 'deserves' to be the victim of violence. No one 'has it coming'. NO ONE.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.