Richard Jewell Controversy Now Involves Lawyers

'AJC' attorneys demand disclaimer for portrayal of late reporter Kathy Scruggs in 'Richard Jewell'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2019 6:03 AM CST
Richard Jewell Controversy Now Involves Lawyers
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sam Rockwell, from left, Kathy Bates, and Paul Walter Hauser in a scene from "Richard Jewell."   (Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Last month, the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution publicly took issue with Clint Eastwood's new movie, Richard Jewell, about the security guard who was investigated (and eventually cleared) after a bomb went off at the 1996 Olympics. Now lawyers for the newspaper are demanding that Warner Bros., Eastwood, and other parties involved in making the film speak out about how it portrayed the late Kathy Scruggs, an AJC reporter who broke the story that Jewell was under FBI investigation. In the movie, one scene strongly insinuates that Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde, has a sexual relationship with an FBI agent, played by Jon Hamm, to get a tip on the story—something that a letter from the AJC's attorneys calls "entirely false and malicious" and "extremely defamatory and damaging" to Scruggs, who died in 2001, CBS News reports.

The lawyers say there's no evidence Scruggs ever had sex with anyone involved in the Jewell probe, per Variety, and they want a "prominent disclaimer" in the movie, as well as a statement "publicly acknowledging that ... artistic license and dramatization were used in the film's portrayal of events and characters." Wilde, meanwhile, has stirred up her own controversy by defending the way Scruggs was portrayed, telling Deadline she thinks it's "unfair" for one scene to become the focus of a more complex character. As an "intrepid, dogged" police reporter, Scruggs "had relationships with different people in [law enforcement," Wilde says. "It's a misunderstanding of feminism to assume that all women have to be sexless." Warner Bros., meanwhile, issued a statement to the Daily Beast saying the film "is based on a wide range of highly credible source material" and the paper's claims are "baseless." (More Clint Eastwood stories.)

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