Atlanta Journal-Constitution Demands That “Richard Jewell” Add Disclaimer Over Depiction of Female Reporter

The paper takes issue with the insinuation that Scruggs slept with a source

A still from the Clint Eastwood film "Richard Jewell"
A still from the Clint Eastwood film "Richard Jewell"
By Bonnie Stiernberg / December 9, 2019 5:47 pm

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is demanding that Clint Eastwood add a disclaimer to his Richard Jewell movie about its depiction of their reporter Kathy Scruggs because the movie implies she slept with an FBI agent in exchange for information — a major violation of journalistic ethics that never happened in real life.

As Variety reports, the paper sent a letter to Eastwood as well as Warner Bros. and screenwriter Billy Ray which reads in part, “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.”

The newspaper has also hired Hollywood attorney Martin Singer. “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,” editor Kevin G. Riley told Variety. “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.”

Scruggs, who died in 2001 at age 42, is portrayed in the film by Olivia Wilde, and her depiction has sparked a debate about the stereotypical Hollywood trope of female journalists sleeping with their sources. Wilde, whose parents are journalists, defended her role, telling the publication,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.”

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