Gun rights advocates have slapped Katie Couric and producers of the documentary Under the Gun with a $12-million defamation lawsuit.
On Tuesday (September 13), the Virginia Citizens Defense League filed a lawsuit in Virginia federal court alleging that the filmmakers manipulated footage to make it appear as though the members could not respond to a question about universal background checks for firearms owners.
In the film, the former CBS news anchor asks the members, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
Silence follows as the VCDL members appear unable to answer.
“After nearly nine seconds of silent footage – instead of the responses that the VCDL members had actually provided – the Defendants inserted footage of someone closing the cylinder of a fully-loaded revolver, driving home the point that the exchange was over,” the court filing reads. “The manipulated footage falsely informed viewers that the VCDL members had been stumped and had no basis for their position on background checks.”
Two of the members, Patricia Webb and Daniel L. Hawes, are plaintiffs in the case.
Couric narrated and exec produced Under the Gun, and is named as a defendant in the suit alongside director Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films, Studio 3 Partners and cable net Epix.
The suit states that unedited audio of the exchange shows the members spending six minutes responding to the question with a rebutal and engaging in a related discussion for three minutes.
A controversy over the film’s editing erupted following the world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. In response, Couric posted a message on the film’s website apologizing and posting a transcript of the exchange.
However, the suit alleges that the transcript was also edited.
“Defendants’ deliberate and continued misrepresentation of Couric’s exchange with the VCDL shows that they did not really regret their actions or want to set the record straight, but that they were attempting to claim the moral high ground while doubling down on their misrepresentation of the VCDL,” the filing reads.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for Soechtig, Stefan Friedman, said in a statement: “It’s ironic that people who so passionately defend the Second Amendment want to trample the rights guaranteed to a filmmaker under the First. Stephanie stands by Under the Gun, and will not stop her work on behalf of victims of gun violence.”
“The claims against Epix in this lawsuit are completely without merit,” the network said in its own statement. “Under the Gun premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it received critical acclaim. Epix saw the Sundance screening and acquired the documentary at that time. The network had no role in its creation or production and should therefore not be a party to this lawsuit.”