Lea Michele addresses online rumors that she can’t read

Lea Michele attends as alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet celebrates 20 years at the Close East Lawn on June 15, 2022 in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Lea Michele is set to make her debut as Fanny Brice in the Broadway production of Funny Girl on Sept. 4, replacing Beanie Feldstein who left the role earlier this summer. The casting of Michele was a controversial choice, as several of the 36-year-old’s Glee costars came forward and accused her of bullying and microaggressions in 2020.

So perhaps to get ahead of any further bad press, Michele opened up about her reputation in a New York Times profile published on Thursday — and also addressed another online rumor that just won’t seem to go away.

For the past several years, the internet have been inundated with jokes that Lea Michelle can’t read, which is as petty and it is absurdly hilarious. It all started in 2017 when Jaye Hunt and Robert Ackerman, hosts of the One More Thing pop culture podcast, were discussing an eye-popping anecdote in the late Glee star Naya Rivera’s memoir, Sorry Not Sorry, in which Michele allegedly refused to improvise lines with legendary actor Tim Conway.

The pair jokingly speculated that maybe Michele wasn’t able to improvise because series creator Ryan Murphy has to read her lines to her, which quickly turned into a whole thing. Later, Ackerman said while appearing on the Jezebel DirtCast podcast that perhaps Rivera’s book wasn’t even on her radar because she couldn’t read it.

Mean spirited? Perhaps. But also, given the depth and breadth of all the behind-the-scenes stories of nastiness from Michele’s colleagues, there are certainly worse things that could be said about her. Still, the actress made it clear that she does not appreciate the jokes.

“Still, Michele admits that she is only just learning how to be publicly vulnerable. Online hatred of her can verge on gleeful, and she fears that if she responds to criticism — or a bizarre rumor that she is illiterate — it will fuel the fire.

‘I went to Glee every single day; I knew my lines every single day,’ she said. ‘And then there’s a rumor online that I can’t read or write? It’s sad. It really is. I think often if I were a man, a lot of this wouldn’t be the case.’”

Leave it to Michele to pull the old “because I’m a woman” card. Of course, women in the entertainment industry face much greater pressure than men do in almost every way imaginable. But given the source of this particular rumor — Rivera claimed that Michele’s behavior actually brought Conway’s granddaughter to tears — we’re going to leave this one with a suspicious “hmm, OK sis.”