Newspaper demands accuracy disclaimer be added to Richard Jewell over reporter's portrayal

Lawrence Kim
December 10, 2019

Richard Jewell is based on the case of former police officer and security Richard Jewell, who was initially treated by the media as a suspect behind the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing.

The controversy centers around the film's depiction of journalist Kathy Scruggs sleeping with an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to get information about Jewell.

Last week, we reported that Olivia Wilde had responded to some of Richard Jewell's criticisms of Clint Eastwood saying that much of the backlash against her character was based on a sexist refusal to accept female characters that are not necessarily meant to be nice.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has demanded that Warner Bros. and the producers of Clint Eastwood's "Richard Jewell" publicly admit that some events in the film "were imagined for artistic purposes and artistic license".

Scruggs broke the story the FBI was investigating Jewell, who initially sounded the alarm about the bomb.

Newspaper bosses at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are unhappy with the way their journalists, especially Kathy Scruggs, are portrayed in the film.

An attorney representing the paper asked in a letter to the team that a statement be issued "publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic goal and artistic license and dramatization [and] were used in the film's portrayal of events and characters", reports Variety.

"We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect", he adds.

Journal-Constitution editor Kevin G. Riley told Variety: "I think this letter makes it clear how seriously we take the misrepresentation of our reporters' actions and of the actions of the newspaper during that time".

It also claims the film suggests that the AJC relied on questionable sourcing for its stories on Jewell and that it did not fact-check.

While he was originally lauded as a hero, Scruggs co-wrote the original article that claimed Jewell was being considered as a suspect in the bombing, though he was ultimately exonerated. The letter also cites a 2011 decision in a defamation lawsuit Jewell later filed against the AJC, in which it was determined that the paper's articles "in their entirety were substantially true at the time they were published". The letter claims the film inaccurately portrays Scruggs - a real AJC reporter who died in 2001 - as a journalist who unethically uses sex to gain information.

"The film falsely portrays AJC's reporters, and Kathy Scruggs in particular, as unethical, unprofessional and reckless", the letter claims.

The AJC also suggests that the Richard Jewell filmmakers "completely disregarded" the information the paper and its representatives provided after viewing an early version of the film.

The letter goes on to demand that the studio and filmmakers acknowledge inaccuracies and add a disclaimer to the film or face a potential defamation lawsuit. "My clients will simply need to establish that statements in the film are false and that it is defamatory by harming my client's reputation, one of the finest newspapers in the world".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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