‘Richard Jewell’ Scribe Billy Ray Accuses Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Of Using Disputed Scene To Cloak Its Role In Ruining Hero’s Life

EXCLUSIVE: In his first feedback addressing the controversy surrounding Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, which has culminated in a threatened defamation lawsuit by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the movie’s screenwriter Billy Ray assailed the newspaper for failing to come clean with its position in destroying the lifetime of the safety guard who noticed a suspicious backpack beneath a bench at an out of doors live performance in Centennial Olympic Park through the 1996 Olympics and helped transfer bystanders away earlier than an explosion left two useless and greater than 100 injured.

The newspaper, in flip, has criticized the movie’s depiction of Kathy Scruggs — who broke the story with Ron Martz that the FBI was eyeing Jewell as its prime suspect — as a promiscuous crime reporter who primarily traded a sexual encounter with an FBI agent for the tip. The movie asserts that tip, and strain from Scruggs, led the newspaper to tear up its entrance web page to run a narrative beneath the headline, “FBI Suspects ‘Hero’ Guard Might Have Planted Bomb.” That created the media maelstrom that upended Jewell’s life, as depicted within the Eastwood-directed drama that Warner Bros opens Friday.

“This film is a few hero whose life was fully destroyed by myths created by the FBI and the media, particularly the AJC,” Ray instructed Deadline. “The AJC hung Richard Jewell, in public.”

Billy Ray Richard Jewell writer
‘Richard Jewell’ author Billy Ray, left, with stars Kathy Bates and Paul Walter Hauser at Deadline’s The Contenders New York.

“They editorialized wildly and printed assumptions as details,” Ray stated. “They in contrast him to famous mass assassin Wayne Williams. And this was after he had saved a whole bunch of lives. Now a film comes alongside 23 years later, an ideal probability for the AJC to atone for what they did to Richard and to confess to their misdeeds. And what do they resolve to do? They launch a distraction marketing campaign. They deflect and warp. They focus solely on one single minute in a film that’s 129 minutes lengthy, opting to problem one assertion within the film reasonably than accepting their very own position in destroying the lifetime of a superb man. The film isn’t about Kathy Scruggs; it’s in regards to the heroism and hounding of Richard Jewell, and what rushed reporting can do to an harmless man. And by the way in which, I’ll stand by each phrase and assertion within the script,” he added.

A number of of the important thing characters within the movie have died. That features not solely Jewell however Scruggs, who possible would have sued had been she nonetheless alive. Olivia Wilde performs her as a steely and attractive reporter who wasn’t above flirting with sources to get suggestions. She’s seen in a bar with FBI agent Tom Shaw (performed by Jon Hamm in an amalgamation of a number of regulation enforcement officers concerned within the investigation). Because the hand she has positioned on his leg strikes upward, the agent whispers the tip about Jewell in her ear. They subsequent are seen leaving the bar collectively, presumably to finish what comes off as a quid professional quo transaction.

Olivia Wilde In ‘Richard Jewell’ Twitter Frenzy

Ray isn’t inexperienced or shortsighted in relation to the dance between reality and dramatic license that’s current in each retelling of narrative historic story on the large display screen; it’s an space into which he has submerged himself many instances earlier than. He acquired an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of Richard Phillip and Stephen Talty’s ebook A Captain’s Obligation, which grew to become one other untold-hero story in Captain Phillips. He wrote and directed Shattered Glass, a drama a few hotshot journalist caught fabricating journal articles, and Ray additionally tailored and proper now’s directing a star-studded miniseries adaptation of former FBI director James Comey’s bestselling memoir A Greater Loyalty: Fact, Lies and Management for CBS Tv Studios.

Clint Eastwood with Olivia Wilde on the set of ‘Richard Jewell
Warner Bros.

Ray primarily based Richard Jewell on Marie Brenner’s February 1997 Self-importance Honest article “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell.” Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen’s ebook Suspect: An Oympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught within the Center was additionally used as supply materials.

Since Richard Jewell‘s world premiere, present AJC editor-in-chief Kevin Riley – who wasn’t on the paper again then – has proactively challenged the depiction of Scruggs’ promiscuity and the AJC‘s hasty determination to blast a front-page headline that Jewell was being checked out as a suspect by the FBI, simply days after he was hailed for heroism for reporting the suspicious backpack he discovered beneath a bench, and for serving to to divert the gang away from the blast vary. Out of the blue, he was thought-about the prime suspect primarily based on a idea the FBI investigated that Jewell was a pissed off wannabe lawman who planted the bomb to make himself a hero and achieve favorable consideration. It was extra a hunch than something floor in idea, and there wasn’t a shred of actual proof to pin Jewell to the crime. Nonetheless, the newspaper technically was correct in its reporting that the FBI was investigating Jewell.

Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

Riley stated he objects primarily to what he referred to as falsehoods about Scruggs, who isn’t round to defend her honor. “You’ll be able to’t take somebody who died and painting them as an immoral character,” Riley instructed Deadline. “Nobody ever stated this occurred (with Kathy); it’s a horrible trope that Hollywood appears to fall into about feminine journalists.”

Deadline was hard-pressed to search out specifics to confirm that Scruggs traded a sexual favor for what initially appeared like the most important story of her profession, till it blew up on the newspaper when the FBI cleared Jewell and another person, Eric Rudolph, confessed to the bombing. Deadline secured a deposition that Scruggs gave from Might 23, 1997, when she was questioned by L. Lin Wooden, Jewell’s libel and defamation legal professional, who would later signify JonBenet Ramsay’s dad and mom John and Patsy Ramsey and their son Burke of their battle towards defamation claims towards St. Martin’s Press, Time Inc., The Fox Information Channel, American Media, Inc., StarThe Globe, Courtroom TV and The New York Publish.

The ebook Suspect particulars Scruggs’ questioning by Wooden:

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The reporter had by no means been sued and even deposed. Beforehand, she spent a full day and a half with Canfield and his staff gearing up for the questioning; the attorneys girded her for Wooden’s ultra-aggressive techniques. As one colleague on the paper put it: “Strap it on and tie it on tight, as a result of he’s coming after you.”

The deposition started at 9:55 A.M., and Wooden delivered as marketed. Inside minutes, in a zigzag sample to maintain her off steadiness, he grilled Scruggs on matters starting from profiling to libel to her private life.

In the deposition examined by Deadline, Wooden requested the next:

Wooden: You’ve got shut ties to the Atlanta Police Division, don’t you?

Scruggs: I assume so, sure.

Wooden: Have you ever ever had a social relationship or dated or had a boyfriend that works for the Atlanta Police Division?

Scruggs: Sure, I’ve.

Scruggs named the officer and stated the connection had run its course. Maybe that was the kernel that empowered the dramatic license that grew to become a part of the scripted narrative? Nobody was saying, particularly.

Whereas Scruggs’ counsel objects to the road of questioning, the reporter solutions that the connection “led to ’93 or ’94” properly earlier than the Olympic bombing. Afterward within the deposition (on pages 370-371), Wooden questions Scruggs how her repute would stack up if she was the main focus of an investigation like Jewell had been. “I think there are fairly a variety of folks that would name in and say fairly a couple of seamy issues about you,” Wooden says within the deposition. Scruggs solutions, “I’m certain there are.”

Olivia Wilde in Richard Jewell
Warner Bros.

Deadline reached Wooden, who stated he was by no means approached by anybody related to the Eastwood movie of their preparation. Whereas he has not seen the film, Wooden stated: “I don’t recall any testimony or proof that helps the particular storyline as you described it…I’ve no proof to counsel that these rumors had been true or that she ever engaged in any sexual act in alternate for data or suggestions, and I by no means made or asserted such a damning and unprovable declare,” stated the legal professional. “That’s the full extent of my data and it’s primarily based solely on sworn testimony — not rumor and never rank sensationalized hypothesis. I deal in details. Hollywood isn’t so restricted,” Wooden added.

In a November 26 AJC piece, Scruggs household pal and legal professional Edward Tolley exclaims “That’s full horse (expletive)” in regards to the quid professional quo scene within the movie. “If she’s being portrayed as some floozy, it’s simply not true.”

In different testimony within the deposition, Scruggs mentioned how the newspaper excised an allegation that Jewell allegedly stated that if something occurs on the Olympics, he needs to be proper in the course of it, and that some FBI sources believed Jewell was a voice match to the nameless name to police {that a} bomb was positioned within the park and would explode in half an hour. Scruggs stated the paper didn’t publish these assertions as a result of they couldn’t get sufficient corroboration.

Wilde vouched for Ray’s analysis within the script and stated she devoured every thing she may get her arms on to tell her portrayal of Scruggs.

“She was extremely profitable as a cop reporter,” Wilde instructed Deadline final week. “She had a really shut relationship with the cops and the FBI serving to to inform their story, and sure, by all accounts she had relationships with completely different folks in that subject. However what I resented was this character being boiled down to 1 inferred scene and I don’t hear anybody complaining about Jon Hamm’s character as being inferred that he additionally had a relationship with a reporter. It feels unfair that Kathy has been minimized on this method.”

Ray stated he believes within the movie’s premise, and argues that the newspaper didn’t think about sufficient what would possibly occur to Jewell when its front-page story established him because the FBI’s prime suspect, at a time when the investigation was nascent and the bureau was nonetheless gathering leads. In her deposition, Scruggs stated she did think about that because the paper was deciding whether or not to publish that first story she co-wrote Ron Martz.

To Ray, the newspaper selected to grab on the chance for a giant scoop, for which Jewell paid a excessive value. Jewell died of great issues referring to diabetes at age 44, and is depicted as having coronary heart bother because the stress of the FBI and media maelstrom mounted.

Richard Jewell
Cameras encompass Richard Jewell previous to his testifying earlier than a Home Judiciary Crime subcommittee listening to in 1997

“They profiled Richard Jewell as a wannabe cop and lone bomber, however they did so within the “voice of God,” with out quoting anybody — thereby stating their assumptions as details,” Ray stated.

“In subsequent headlines they stated his doable motivation was that he may very well be a sociopath. Then in fact, they in contrast him to Wayne Williams. How was Richard going to get a good trial within the court docket of public opinion if the one paper that mattered was destroying him?” he added.

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Whereas Scruggs didn’t reveal her supply, Brenner in her Self-importance Honest profile reported that the journalist “had allegedly gotten a tip from an in depth pal within the F.B.I., acquired a affirmation from somebody within the Atlanta police.” In Brenner’s dialog with then-managing editor John Walter, he defended the paper’s voice-of-God, declarative-sentence type that included the assertion that “Richard Jewell . . . suits the profile of the lone bomber.” One other editor instructed Brenner, “The entire story is voice-of-God. . . . As a result of we see this occasion going down, the necessity to attribute it to sources — F.B.I. or regulation enforcement — is lower than if there isn’t a public acknowledgment.” Walter admitted to Brenner he had not seen any documentation that validated the existence of an precise lone-bomber profile idea utilized by the FBI.

“I imagine the AJC’s present motivation is to guard itself from the cruel gentle that that is film is shedding on their habits. I believe the paper is attempting to sully our film in an effort to spare itself a justified embarrassment. That’s journalistic cowardice,” Ray stated. “What’s so appalling is that that is company ass-covering disguised as an effort to guard Kathy Scruggs.”

Some detractors speculated that Eastwood’s conservative political beliefs may need knowledgeable a unfavourable depiction of media right here. Ray is having none of that, and onstage final week at Deadline’s The Contenders New York occasion instructed the gang how sacrosanct the director was in regards to the phrases in his screenplay.

“Some will attempt to paint this film as being anti-FBI or anti-media,” Ray instructed Deadline. “It’s neither. It’s about talking reality to energy. It’s important to cease interested by the FBI and the media as establishments. The FBI and the media are teams of people who find themselves stewards of establishments. And people folks can have good or unhealthy judgement, good or unhealthy intentions. In this specific case, the FBI and the AJC, of their pursuit of reality, rushed to judgment and destroyed an harmless man who had saved lives. Richard then needed to develop an entire new type of braveness so he may defend himself from them,” stated Ray.

Whereas Jewell settled libel lawsuits towards main media shops together with CNN, NBC and the New York Publish, the AJC continued to struggle for itself and finally received a abstract judgment that was upheld on enchantment. The newspaper maintained it was regulation enforcement that rushed to judgment about Jewell, and the paper served its obligation to report what regulation enforcement was doing. AJC’s Reilly maintains the newspaper did its job in reporting that Jewell was the lead suspect at that second in 1996.

Bert Roughton was the editor on obligation whom Scruggs phoned after a supply knowledgeable her that investigators had been trying into Jewell as a possible suspect. In September, after studying Ray’s script, he wrote in AJC the column “Drama shouldn’t recast this reality,” detailing that he’d “been within the newsroom for a couple of years by the point Kathy Scruggs arrived. Till then — 1986 — it had been a stodgy and drab, shirt-and-tie type of place”; and that she was “an explosion of colour, power and expletives.” Roughton was upset by the depiction of his former colleague.

“Kathy was fairly, and he or she knew it,” Roughton wrote. “She had a raspy voice and wore brief skirts and revealing tops. She used bawdy banter as a weapon. Even so, it will be flawed to cut back Kathy to a intercourse kitten with a pocket book. She was a lot extra.”

The AJC arrange a particular newsroom through the 1996 Olympics. Whereas Roughton as a reporter had lined Atlanta’s Olympics bid, he was appointed as editor through the Summer season Video games to supervise all non-sports tales. The staff included police beat reporter Scruggs, who was overlaying safety on the Olympics with Martz, reporting into Roughton.

“(In the deposition) they don’t make the leap from her social relationships to she had intercourse (with a supply or sources). There’s no foundation within the testimony that means that,” Roughton instructed Deadline.

What’s whispered into Wilde’s ear by Hamm within the film “was truly a protracted sophisticated dialog” from a number of sources that Scruggs pieced collectively from numerous items of intel,” Roughton stated.

“We held the story for a day or so to do a reasonably robust verification; there’s no method within the course of that she managed to have intercourse with a supply,” stated Roughton, who labored intently with Scruggs for greater than a yr.

“She heard Richard was a suspect earlier than she talked to a main supply. She alerted me that she was listening to one thing. She referred to as me on the cellphone in an especially profane method, a lot in the way in which she does within the film. We knew that the FBI was trying into Richard Jewell due to the historical past he had at Piedmont School and his unusual police profession.” Roughton was referring to an early chapter depicted within the movie, when Jewell is let go for pulling over college students suspected of consuming and driving earlier than they entered the faculty campus.

“When a reporter trades sexual favors for a narrative, their profession is over. If I ever thought for one second that Kathy did something inappropriate, I might have seen to it that she was fired in 24 hours,” Roughton stated.

“To defame a useless lady and to accuse her of doing the worst factor in her career is simply merciless,”  the previous editor added. “To convict her of the mortal sin of buying and selling intercourse for a narrative, it’s the worst factor conceivable you are able to do to a journalist. It’s one factor to debate the journalist, however to destroy somebody’s repute eternally — as a result of for the remainder of time, this film will probably be out.”

Countered Ray: “The one artistic license taken within the film is definitely within the redeeming of Kathy Scruggs. In the top she realizes the error of her methods. She by no means publicly atoned for her reporting.”