Gest Blames Tabloid for Split from Liza

02/03/2004 at 07:39 PM EST

Liza Minnelli's split from fourth husband David Gest was caused by a tabloid article, not alleged physical abuse, Gest insists in an interview to be broadcast on "Dateline NBC" Friday.

Gest, 50, who has been living in Hawaii since his marriage fell apart, tells "Dateline" host Stone Phillips that Minnelli "beat me and hit me everywhere," but it was a National Enquirer article portraying his estranged wife as an alcoholic that was the final straw.

"She got the magazine on a Wednesday morning, and on Thursday announced our marriage was over," Gest says in the interview, according to a news release from NBC.

Gest also denies feeding the information to the tabloid, yet claims that were it not for that Enquirer story, he and Minnelli, 57, might still be a happily married couple.

Minnelli and Gest married March 16, 2002, at a bizarre, yet star-studded ceremony that featured best man Michael Jackson carrying the bride's train and a tardy Elizabeth Taylor serving as maid of honor. The Gests separated in July 2003.

Gest is suing Minnelli on two fronts, one for divorce and another for $10 million. The second suit alleges that the star beat him and that he suffered permanent injuries "so enormous that I get now 80 shots around the head to deaden the nerves," according to the NBC release. Minnelli denies the abuse.

Meanwhile, Minnelli has sued Gest, charging that he stole money from her. She's seeking at least $2 million in restitution, a financial accounting, legal fees and a court order for Gest to preserve all financial records related to her, the Associated Press reports.

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