Katie Couric Hit With $12 Million Defamation Lawsuit Over Deceptively Edited Gun Documentary
Katie Couric is under the gun, in a legal sense.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, and two of its members in their individual capacities, have filed a lawsuit against executive producer Katie Couric and director Stephanie Soechtig over the deceptively edited pro-gun control documentary Under the Gun.
The Epix TV network is also named as an additional defendant in the $12 million defamation lawsuit filed in Richmond, Virginia, federal court on Tuesday.
In the documentary as aired, there is an eight- or nine-second pause when Couric asks VCDL members “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
As the Inquisitr previously reported, raw audio, which was released to the Washington Free Beacon, reveals that in real time, there was no pause that made the group seem speechless or stumped. Instead, VCDL members immediately responded to Couric’s query.
Stephanie Soechtig said the pause was inserted so that viewers could reflect on the question, and she didn’t mean to make anyone “look bad.” Meanwhile, Couric stated that she backed Soechtig’s statement and is “very proud of the film.”
Backfire: Gun rights group made to look clueless in Katie Couric's anti-gun doc files defamation suit https://t.co/1Ojgn7m3eG
— Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) September 13, 2016
On May 31, 2016, however, Katie Couric released a statement, taking responsibility for how the exchange in question was misrepresented and that she called attention to it in the editing room.
“When VCDL members recently pointed out that they had in fact immediately answered this question, I went back and reviewed it and agree that those eight seconds do not accurately represent their response…I regret that those eight seconds were misleading and that I did not raise my initial concerns more vigorously.”
In addition to $12 million in compensatory damages, the lawsuit seeks $350,000 in punitive damages for each plaintiff along with court costs and attorney fees.
Upon filing the lawsuit, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave asserted that “We were horrified to see how Couric and her team manipulated us and the video footage to make us look like fools who didn’t stand up for the Second Amendment. We want to set the record straight and hold them accountable for what they’ve done. You shouldn’t intentionally misrepresent someone’s views just because you disagree with them,” CBS 6, WTVR in Richmond, reported.
“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 62-page lawsuit alleges in part.
“VCDL claimed Couric and Soechtig ‘acted with actual malice’ by telling members of the group to sit silently for 10 seconds while they allegedly calibrated recording equipment. It was this clip, the group believes, that was used in the film to make them appear unable to answer the question,” the Washington Examiner added. “That [Soechtig] and Couric behaved unethically seems very obvious, but that doesn’t mean a court will find them liable for defamation.”
Katie Couric is being sued over deceptive editing in gun control documentary: https://t.co/zlRelfrtRz
— Ashe Short (@AsheSchow) September 14, 2016
In general, a legal finding of actual malice is a required element of a defamation lawsuit against a public figure such as Katie Couric. Defamation is roughly equivalent to character assassination or libel and slander, depending upon whether the written or spoken word is in play.
About the demand for $12 million in the complaint, VCDL Attorney Libby Locke told the Washington Free Beacon that “When you harm someone’s reputation and their livelihood those are serious damages that have been caused. The number was selected to represent the seriousness of the damage that has been caused.”
According to Deadline Hollywood, Epix claims that it had nothing to do with the creation or production of the documentary and therefore should not have been named in the lawsuit in the first place.
People reports that Stephanie Soechtig still stands by the Under the Gun documentary and quotes someone supposedly part of Katie Couric’s inner circle that the lawsuit is a “desperate attempt for attention to divert attention from a film that was sadly too prescient.”
Under the Gun is apparently still being shown on Epix and is in distribution otherwise.
The Bearing Arms website claims that the production also violated federal gun laws in connection with allegedly making straw firearms purchases in the course of filming the documentary.
[Featured Image by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images]