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Clint Eastwood’s upcoming “Richard Jewell” has been severely criticized by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) for its depiction of reporter Kathy Scruggs, and the paper has now asked Warner Bros. to issue a disclaimer to play along with the film.
According to Variety, the AJC said that the film’s portrayal of Kathy Scruggs as a journalist willing to trade sex for news tips is completely false and without merit.
“The film shows Scruggs, portrayed by Olivia Wilde, sleeping with an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) to get the story,” reports Variety. “Scruggs died in 2001 at the age of 42. The paper has maintained that there is no evidence that Scruggs slept with anyone involved in the Jewell investigation.”
Richard Jewell became a national hero during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, when he discovered a bomb that was planted in Centennial Park. Risking his own life, Jewell successfully helped to evacuate the area, saving countless lives before the bomb detonated. As a result of his heroic feats, only one person died in the blast (a second person later died of a heart attack) while 111 people were injured. Though first hailed for his triumphant efforts, things quickly turned sour for Jewell the moment the media learned that the FBI was investigating him as a potential suspect, believing he may have planted the bomb himself in order to gain notoriety.
In a letter, the AJC demanded that Warner Bros. release a statement clarifying some of the events depicted in the film, such as Kathy Scruggs trading sex for secrets, were dramatized. Famed Hollywood attorney Martin Singer, whom Variety billed as being “known for his pitbull tactics,” has been hired to represent the paper.
“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,” the letter stated. “We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect.”
Kevin G. Riley, editor of the Journal-Constitution, said the film’s depiction of Kathy Scruggs plays into harmful stereotypes about female journalists.
“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,” he said. “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.”
“The film literally makes things up and adds to misunderstandings about how serious news organizations work,” continued Riley. “It’s ironic that the film commits the same sins that it accuses the media of committing.”
Actress Olivia Wilde, who portrayed Scruggs, has defended the film’s portrayal of her.
“I think it’s a shame that she has been reduced to one inferred moment in the film,” Wilde said at the 2019 Gotham Awards red carpet. “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.”
“Richard Jewell” goes nationwide on December 13 and currently holds an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.