The Atlanta-Journal Constitution and its parent corporation aren’t happy with how one of their late reporters is portrayed in the upcoming film “Richard Jewell,” which shows Kathy Scruggs using sex to get information from sources.
A Los Angeles-based law firm sent a letter Monday on behalf of the companies to film leadership, including director Clint Eastwood, screenwriter Bill Ray, Warner Bros. and others, the newspaper reported. It requests they issued a public statement acknowledging characters and events were dramatized. They also want the disclaimer prominently featured in the film, which hits theatres Friday. “The AJC’s reporter is reduced to a sex-trading object in the film,” the letter says. “Such a portrayal makes it appear that the AJC sexually exploited its staff and/or that it facilitated or condoned offering sexual gratification to sources in exchange for stories. That is entirely false and malicious, and it is extremely defamatory and damaging.”
The film tells the story of the late Richard Jewell, a security guard who saved countless people from the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympics. One person was killed, and another died while rushing to the scene, according to the newspaper. The newspaper and Scruggs were the first to report that the FBI considered Jewell a suspect, it says. The film implies Scruggs traded sexual favours with an FBI agent for that information.
Jewell was cleared months later, and the confessed bomber still is imprisoned on multiple life sentences. The newspaper and others were sued after Jewell was cleared, and was the only one to not settle the lawsuit, according to the newspaper. The case was dismissed in 2011.
The letter sent Monday also objects to how the film depicts the newspaper’s reporting practices.
“Far from acting recklessly, the AJC actually held that story for a day to develop additional independent corroboration of key facts prior to publication,” it says. “Law enforcement sources confirmed to the AJC their focus on Mr. Jewell, and FBI activity had been visible at the Jewells’ apartment. The accuracy of the story had also been confirmed with an FBI spokesperson to whom the entire story was read before publication.”
The letter continues on to say the film’s assertion that the newspaper relied “recklessly on questionable sourcing is itself reckless.” The newspaper’s report doesn’t include comment from the letter’s recipients.