UPDATE, 3:15 PM: Hit with a more than $12 million defamation lawsuit today, the director of the Katie Couric-fronted and -produced anti-firearms documentary Under The Gun responded this afternoon. And even though she’s admitted in the past to selectively editing footage, Stephanie Soechtig is not backing down.
“It’s ironic that people who so passionately defend the Second Amendment want to trample the rights guaranteed to a filmmaker under the First,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesperson for Soechtig on Tuesday. “Stephanie stands by Under The Gun, and will not stop her work on behalf of victims of gun violence.”
Soechtig, Courtic and cabler Epix were all named as defendants in the jury-seeking complaint that calls out how members of Virginia Citizens Defense League were shown in the film being unable to offer an argument against background checks on gun purchases. An exchange with Couric that both the host and Soechtig have said didn’t go down as shown on screen.
Contacted by Deadline, Epix responded earlier Tuesday, saying it “had no role in its creation or production and should therefore not be a party to this lawsuit.” So far, Couric has not made public remarks about the lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia.
Citing the now-admitted editing techniques that “misrepresented” them, plaintiffs the VCDL, Patricia Webb and Daniel Hawes — who appeared in the docu which bowed at Sundance — want damages as well as an injunction essentially pulling the movie until the “false” depictions are fixed or removed.
PREVIOUS, 10:17 AM: First Katie Couric was called out for self-admitted editing in an exchange with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League in the documentary Under The Gun. Now the ex-CBS anchor, the film’s director and cabler Epix are being sued for more than $12 million over the sleight of hand.
“The Defendants manipulated the footage in service of an agenda: They wanted to establish that there is no basis for opposing universal background checks by fooling viewers into believing that even a panel of pro-Second Amendment advocates could not provide one,” says the jury-trial-seeking defamation suit (read it here) filed Tuesday in Virginia federal court against Couric, director Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films and Epix as Studio 3 Partners LLC.
Plaintiffs the VCDL, Patricia Webb and Daniel Hawes, who appear in the docu, want compensatory damages of $12 million and punitive damages of $350,000 for each individual plaintiff. They also want an injunction against further airing or viewing of Under the Gun until “false” depictions of them are removed.
Couric and Soechtig did not respond to request for comment from Deadline on the lawsuit. Of course, as the filing notes and a court will too, the host and director already have admitted that they tweaked the responses for dramatic effect. Epix, on the other hand, did have a clear response to the suit.
“The claims against Epix in this lawsuit are completely without merit,” said a spokesperson for the channel today. “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.”
After the Sundance debut in January, the documentary fronted and produced by Couric aired on Epix on May 16. After the VCDL raised concerns about the way their members were shown in the film and their seemingly dumbfounded silence lasting several seconds over why background checks could be a bad idea, Soechtig and Couric both admitted editing choices had been made on the interviews.
“My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks,” said the director on May 25 with support from Epix. “I never intended to make anyone look bad, and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”
Noting the film “misrepresented” the actual exchange, Couric on May 30 said she had pointed out the issue to Soechtig in the edit suite but accepted the director’s choices. “When VCDL members recently pointed out that they had in fact immediately answered this question, I went back and reviewed it and agree that those eight seconds do not accurately represent their response,” she threw in there too.
“The fictional exchange is defamatory because it holds the Plaintiffs up as objects of ridicule by falsely representing that, as experts in their respective pro-Second Amendment trades, they had no basis for their opposition to universal background checks,” the heavily visual 52-page filing claims. “The Defendants’ actions were malicious, willful, and wanton, and evidence a conscious disregard for the rights of the Plaintiffs,” it adds.
The VCDL, Webb and Hawes are represented by Thomas Clare, Elizabeth Locke and Megan Meier of Alexandra, VA’s Clare Locke LLP.