LOS ANGELES -- 'Tonight Show' host Johnny Carson sued the National Enquirer Wednesday for $51 million, claiming the tabloid weekly printed a bogus article about the settlement in his divorce from his third wife.
The cover story in the magazine's June 19 issue, headlined 'Johnny Settles -- Huge Payoff for Joanna as Bitter Divorce Battle Ends,' reported that Carson agreed to pay his ex-wife $2 million a month in a settlement that totaled between $32 million and $42 million.
Carson's attorneys would not discuss the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court, but said all the statements in the story were 'totally false.'
Attorney Alan Jay Weil said he could not comment further until the weekly had been served with the court documents.
Earlier reports on the out-of-court settlement, reached in February just one day before a scheduled hearing, indicated Carson agreed to pay Mrs. Carson about 10 percent of her original demands. She had asked for $220,000 a month from the comedian.
The Enquirer story went on to state Carson and his ex-wife agreed to at least a $32 million settlement, and perhaps more if Mrs. Carson could prove that the couple separated a week before divorce papers were filed in March 1983. Carson claimed they separated in November 1982.
'The divorce war is over. The terms are final. They might as well be written in stone,' the tabloid reported.
But Weil, in court papers, claimed the Enquirer's reporters never contacted the entertainer or anyone associated with him, and that the claim that information for the article was gathered from inside sources was untrue.
Carson and his ex-wife were married in September 1972. Both filed for divorce in March 1983, claiming irreconcilable differences. They asked that their property, including estates in Bel Air and Malibu, be divided equally between them.
Mrs. Carson claimed she needed at least $1,400 a month for groceries, $6,000 a month for gifts for family and friends, and $42,000 a month for clothing, jewelry and furs.