Remember a few months ago, it was reported that Katie Couric’s gun documentary Under the Gun was deceptively edited to make it appear as though gun owners were idiots? Well, now the news is that she just got sued for $12 million.
Second Amendment rights advocacy organization the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), along with two of its members, today filed a $12 million defamation lawsuit against Katie Couric, director Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films, and Studio 3 Partners LLC d/b/a Epix for false and defamatory footage featured in the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun. The film portrays a fictional exchange in which members of the VCDL appear silent, stumped, and avoiding eye contact for nearly nine seconds after Katie Couric asks a question about background checks. An unedited audio recording of the interview reveals that—contrary to the portrayal in the film—the VCDL members had immediately begun responding to Couric’s question.
In the filing, the VCDL, Daniel L. Hawes, Esq., and Patricia Webb allege that the filmmakers knowingly and maliciously manufactured the fictional exchange by splicing in footage that the filmmakers took surreptitiously after telling the interviewees to be silent for ten seconds so that recording equipment could be calibrated. The filing also contains side-by-side screenshots of the film’s footage of the VCDL members and anti-gun advocates, alleging that the filmmakers manipulated lighting to cast shadows on the VCDL members and to make them appear sinister and untrustworthy. “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,” said Mr. Philip Van Cleave, President of the VCDL. “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.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia– Richmond Division), seeks $12 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages. The VCDL, Mr. Hawes, and Ms. Webb are represented by Tom Clare, Libby Locke, and Megan Meier of Clare Locke LLP, a boutique law firm specializing in defamation litigation.
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In addition to the manipulative editing, it was also revealed that producer Stephanie Soechtig broke federal laws and [inadvertently] admitted to it in an interview:
Purchasing firearms across state lines without a federal firearms licensee (FFL) in the buyer’s home state and without obtaining a background check is illegal. If what Soechtig said was true, that she sent a producer, who lived in Colorado, to Arizona to purchase a Bushmaster – yes, the “assault rifle” allegedly used by Adam Lanza in Newtown (gasp!) – and three pistols without a background check, that is illegal. And on top of that, this employee was purchasing these four firearms on behalf of Stephanie Soechtig. They call that a straw purchase. That’s also illegal.
“…[A] producer who resides in Colorado cannot legally buy a gun in Arizona unless that gun is shipped to an FFL in Colorado, whereby that FFL confirms that the Colorado resident can legally own that firearm [i.e. background check]. The Colorado resident who bought the gun from someone in Arizona cannot take possession of that gun until the Colorado FFL receives the gun from Arizona and confirms that the Colorado buyer can legally own that weapon. Once that happens, the Colorado FFL would transfer possession of the gun to the Colorado buyer.”
Whether you like the gun laws or not is not the issue. They are laws currently, and it looks like Stephanie Soechtig admitted – albeit unknowingly perhaps – to violating federal gun laws by ordering one of her producers to cross state lines and purchase four separate firearms from a non-FFL, without a background check. All she proved was that she was as ignorant of the law as she attempted to make those gun owners look in her deceptively edited documentary.
In the documentary Under the Gun, in which Couric is executive producer and narrator, the journalist follows victims of “gun violence” in their quest for stricter gun control. Members of the gun rights organization Virginia Citizens Defense League are interviewed and asked a question about background checks.
The way the exchange is edited in the film makes it appear as though the gun rights activists had no answer to Couric’s question. In reality, however, people offered immediate and intelligent responses. Those responses were edited out – and replaced with b-roll footage of the audience waiting before the interview started – to make the gun owners look speechless and ignorant. The director Stephanie Soechtig as well as Couric herself initially denied any wrongdoing and said that their intention was to “provide a pause for the viewer.”
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