An Atlanta newspaper is furious over the depiction of its reporter in Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell

An Atlanta newspaper is furious over the depiction of its reporter in Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell
The film follows the real-life story of Richard Jewell, the man who was wrongly accused of orchestrating the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing. It also features actress Olivia Wilde as Kathy Scruggs, the reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) who wrote a story naming Jewell as a suspect. In Eastwood’s film, Scruggs sleeps with an FBI agent in order to get information on the story.

AJC editor Kevin Riley took issue with this last month, telling The Hollywood Reporter , “There is no evidence that this ever happened, and if the film portrays this, it’s offensive and deeply troubling in the #MeToo era.”

Scruggs died in 2001 and is unable to debunk the story and defend herself. And so, the AJC is sticking up for its reporter, demanding Warner Bros. release a disclaimer acknowledging it took “dramatic license” in its portrayal of Scruggs.

A letter addressed to the studio, Eastwood,and screenwriter Billy Ray, reads, “We hereby demand that you immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters. We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect.”

Speaking to Variety , Riley said, “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. We have been clear about how disturbed we are in the film’s use of a Hollywood trope about reporters…and how it misrepresents how seriously journalists concern themselves with reporting accurately and ethically.”

AJC reporter Ron Martz, who worked with Scruggs on the bombing coverage, added, “My concern is they’re going to turn her into some sort of femme fatale who would do anything to get a story. If they had actually contacted me it might have ruined their idea of what they wanted the story to be. It’s obvious to me they did not go to any great lengths to find out what the real characters were like.”

Wilde, meanwhile, has defended the portrayal of Scruggs, telling Variety recently, “I think it’s a shame that she 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. There’s a complexity to Kathy, as there is to all of us, and I really admired her.”

If the paper wins their case, the studio will have to act fast, as the film hits theatres this Friday.

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