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Aretha Franklin plans to sue website over story claiming fight with Patti LaBelle

Aretha Franklin at Jones Beach Theater on July

Aretha Franklin at Jones Beach Theater on July 27, 2011. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Music legend Aretha Franklin plans to sue a humor website over a satirical story claiming she and renowned singer Patti LaBelle engaged in a fistfight leading to LaBelle's arrest.

"The stories were not presented as satire or humor," Franklin said in a statement. "It was presented as a serious news story intended to depict me in a slanderous and derogatory way -- defamation of character."

The Detroit News, from the city in which Franklin, 72, grew up and still lives, said the Queen of Soul would file a $10 million lawsuit at some unspecified time.

In a story posted last Friday, the website TheNewsNerd.com described a backstage altercation in which "Franklin was quickly struck with a [boxer Floyd] Mayweather-style right and left and stumbled backward, landing awkwardly. . . . Labelle was quickly apprehended by the Atlanta Police Department and charged with assault and battery. She was released on a $10,000 bail and will appear in court on April 16th."

The site has a disclaimer on each page saying its stories "are purely satirical." The Franklin and LaBelle item opens with the disclaimer "the stories posted on TheNewsNerd are for entertainment purposes only," but this may have been added later. The Detroit News said the piece originally was bylined "Kato Leonard" and now is credited to "The News Nerd Staff," and that the story appeared to have been edited.

Franklin had issued a statement to Billboard Tuesday, saying, "I've never heard anything crazier -- regarding myself and Patti allegedly fighting on March 20, in Atlanta. On March 20, I was in New York City readying for my birthday patty (Sorry. LOL. Laughing at my typo error). I meant PARTY, which we all had one fabulous time. Patti and I are cool and we always have been. I enjoyed her at the White House. Classic Patti."

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