04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
Wallace Langham, who plays the sexually ambiguous Josh on the NBC comedy "Veronica's Closet," has been charged in Los Angeles with a hate crime for allegedly attacking a gay reporter for the Star tabloid newspaper. But a spokesman for Langham said the reporter provoked the Sept. 7 attack and filed charges two months later only as a means to extort money from the actor. Langham was charged with one count each of misdemeanor battery and committing a hate crime. Los Angeles City Attorney's spokesman Mike Qualls said Langham was in a market with his girlfriend, who has tattoos on her arms and midriff, when he came across the alleged victim, whose identity is not being released by police. Hayley Sumner, the actor's publicist, said the altercation began when the reporter began making insulting remarks about the tattoos on Langham's girlfriend.