The story was too juicy to resist: Late last week, it came out that Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) had callously turned down the Make-A-Wish Foundation request of a seriously ill little boy named Enzo, who only wanted to cook a meal with his on-screen idol.

Spurred by one-sided reports on sites including TMZ, a veritable online lynch mob sprang into action, viciously attacking Garten for (in no particular order) her weight, her cold-heartedness, and her haughty affect. Thousands of comments on the matter were posted; check ’em out if you’re into that sort of thing. It makes for profoundly depressing reading.

After a good four solid days of online drubbing, the Los Angeles Times finally adds the perspective that should have been included in the first report: Garten’s.

The Times writes: “Garten gets about 100 requests per month, and wasn’t aware that the request had been made or rejected. Touched by the young fan’s desire to meet her, Garten is calling Enzo today to speak with him and invite him to join her at the Food Network studios, according to a statement released on Garten’s behalf.”

Additionally (and also relevantly): “A source close to Garten said that the Barefoot Contessa believes charity and public works are part of duty as a public figure and that she works extensively for a variety of causes, including battered women, cancer patients, AIDS awareness, and animal rights. ‘She was personally devastated’ by all the criticism, the source said.”

And while the viciousness was no doubt fun while it lasted, it’s unlikely that Garten’s sympathetic response (and generous offer to meet the boy) will completely fix the problem—when the Internet opens fire on your reputation, the wounds tend to take a long time to heal.

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