The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is protesting the depiction of one of its late journalists, Kathy Scruggs, in the new movie “Richard Jewell,” which is based on a true story.
The movie, which comes out Dec. 13, tells the story of the 1996 Atlanta bombing during the Summer Olympics and Jewell, a security guard who saved lives but then was wrongly accused of placing the explosive.
Lawyers for the Atlanta newspaper wrote a letter Monday to director Clint Eastwood and studio Warner Bros. saying the film’s depiction of their former reporter Kathy Scruggs, who died in 2001, is defamatory, as it shows her as willing to trade sex for information from law enforcement agents. The newspaper is asking the studio to release a statement and add a disclaimer to the film.
In one scene in the film, Scruggs gets information on the bombing investigation from an FBI source and then asks him where they’re going to have sex, according to Deadline.
Warner Bros., which is distributing the film, said in a statement to reporters that the film was based on “a wide range of highly credible source material.” It added that the film has a disclaimer at the end, saying it’s based on “historical events” and that “certain events and characters… were created for the purposes of dramatization.”
“It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast,” the studio said, adding that the newspaper’s claims are “baseless and we will vigorously defend against them.”
HuffPost reached out to Eastwood’s representatives for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
After the bombing, the AJC was the first to report that the FBI considered Jewell a suspect. Jewell became the focus of significant media attention but was cleared months later. The newspaper was sued but the case was dismissed in 2011, according to the AJC.
In an article last month, the AJC spoke with people who knew Scruggs throughout her career.
“If she’s being portrayed as some floozy, it’s just not true,” said Edward Tolley, an attorney and family friend who knew Scruggs professionally and personally. He called any depiction of her getting information by offering to sleep with sources “horseshit.”
Olivia Wilde, who plays Scruggs in the movie, responded to the uproar around the portrayal by saying it’s a “shame” that Scruggs has been “reduced to one inferred moment in the film.”
“It’s a basic misunderstanding of feminism as pious, sexlessness. It happens a lot to women; we’re expected to be one-dimensional if we are to be considered feminists,” she said.
“I have nothing but respect for Kathy Scruggs, she’s no longer with us, so I feel a certain amount of responsibility to protect her legacy and tell people: ‘Back off. Don’t reduce her to this one thing,’” she added.
Meanwhile, some reporters have pointed out online how pervasive and damaging the trope is of female journalists sleeping with sources:
Hollywood has, for a long time, portrayed female journalists as sleeping with sources to do their job. It’s so deeply wrong, yet they continue to do it.Disappointing that they would apply this tired and sexist trope about Kathy Scruggs, a real reporter.https://t.co/tqDolL7Wtb
— Melissa Gomez (@MelissaGomez004) December 9, 2019
I knew and worked with Kathy Scruggs. She doesn’t deserve this. This is not who she was and it’s harmful to women journalists. —> Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’: Atlanta Newspaper Demands Disclaimer on Depiction of Female Reporter https://t.co/t1MDGq0Jvw via @variety
— G O L D I E. (@goldietaylor) December 9, 2019
If you’re thinking, “It’s just a movie!” I’m here to tell you that this specific stereotype, which exists entirely in the minds of fiction writers, makes my female colleagues’ jobs more difficult on a regular basis. Many men who make news believe it and try to sleep with them.
— Jeffrey Young (@JeffYoung) December 9, 2019
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