Updated: Months after a Virginia gun rights group complained that reporter Katie Couric and her producers carefully edited an interview segment dealing with background checks in their documentary titled “Under the Gun,” that gun organization and two individuals have filed a defamation suit against Couric in federal district court, the Washington Times reported.
Named as defendants in addition to Couric are director Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films and Epix, which distributed the documentary. Joining the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) as plaintiffs are Daniel Hawes and Patricia Webb.
VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said via e-mail that, “Katie Couric has publicly admitted that the film, which was presented to VCDL as a ‘documentary,’ was misleading and misrepresented VCDL. However, Couric and the other filmmakers have refused to fix the film or to even stop promoting and distributing it. The only way to hold Couric accountable was to file a lawsuit.”
When the controversy erupted earlier in the summer, Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms asserted, “It is clear that the intent (of the film) was never to be unbiased.”
The lawsuit may be read here. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division. In addition to the $12 million, the lawsuit also seeks punitive damages of $350,000 for each of the plaintiffs, according to Deadline.
Van Cleave had taken care to record the entire interview, which showed that instead of remaining mum for several seconds, those gun owners participating had quick answers for Couric when she asked, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
Van Cleave released his unedited “raw” video showing that the others had responded to Couric’s question quickly rather than remain silent.
While Couric subsequently apologized for what the Washington Times referred to as “misleading editing,” Soechtig “stood by her artistic license.”
Deadline noted in its report about the lawsuit that a spokesperson for Epix released this statement: “The claims against EPIX in this lawsuit are completely without merit. Under The Gun premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it received critical acclaim. Epix saw the Sundance screening and acquired the documentary at that time. The network had no role in its creation or production and should therefore not be a party to this lawsuit.”
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants “manipulated the footage in service of an agenda: they wanted to establish that there is no basis for opposing universal background checks by fooling viewers into believing that even a panel of pro-Second Amendment advocates could not provide one. The Defendants intentionally disregarded the truth of the actual exchange that had taken place and took at least six intentional steps to manufacture a fictional exchange to support their agenda.”
The complaint further alleges that, “Before the film’s release, Couric reviewed the manipulated footage and then confronted Soechtig and an Atlas Films editor because the footage was misleading and misrepresented her exchange with the VCDL members. In response, Soechtig and the editor admitted that they had intentionally manipulated the footage. Although the Defendants knew that their intentional edits were misleading and misrepresented Couric’s exchange with the VCDL, they refused to remove the manipulated footage or to present the footage of what had actually taken place. Instead, they promoted and released the film including the fictional exchange.”