Director Stephanie Soechtig and Producer Katie Couric were caught red-handed fabricating gun owner responses in their anti-gun propaganda film, Under the Gun, leading member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VDCL) to file a $12 million dollar defamation lawsuit.
Couric’s lawyers are now desperately attempting to have the case thrown out.
Lawyers for journalist Katie Couric have asked a federal judge to throw out a defamation suit filed by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, arguing that a brief span of misleading footage in a gun-control documentary didn’t damage the gun-rights group’s reputation.
The group filed a $12 million suit in September against Couric and an affiliated film production company, Atlas Films, claiming their reputations as gun advocates had been damaged by eight seconds of footage that falsely implied they had no answer to one of Couric’s questions on background checks. Participants in the group interview answered the question immediately, but the film, “Under the Gun,” was edited to insert the appearance of a long pause after Couric asked how guns could be kept away from terrorists and felons without universal background checks.
In a 34-page response filed Wednesday, Couric’s legal team said that even though the gun-rights advocates may be offended by their portrayal, the implication that they hesitated to answer a question does not qualify as an “odious” or “contemptible” allegation under Virginia law.
“Defendants have never disputed that editorial choice may fairly be subject to criticism and debate, and indeed it has been. But whatever one thinks about the propriety of the edit, it simply does not rise to the level of defamation,” the defense wrote.
The suit was filed in federal court in Richmond.
Epix, the premium movie channel that distributed the film, filed a separate motion to dismiss, saying the channel had no knowledge of the edit before the documentary’s release.
“The 8-second moment in the film flashes by extremely quickly,” attorneys for Epix wrote. “Moreover, there is nothing about plaintiffs’ ruminative silence in response to an extremely difficult public policy question — how the country will be able to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and felons without universal background checks — that would set off the alarm bells for substantial reputational damage.”
Will the judge save Couric’s bacon and toss the case?
I suspect he will not.
VCDL is represented in the case by Tom Clare, Libby Locke, and Megan Meier of Clare Locke LLP. Clare Locke LLP specializes in defamation law, and I don’t think they would have filed a case without thinking they have a excellent chance of winning.
If the judge refuses to dismiss the case—her attorney’s seem to have very thin arguments for dropping it—I suspect that Couric’s next maneuver will be to try to settle with the plaintiffs out of court.
It’s going to be interesting to watch this case develop.