Some media outlets were outraged by Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film—”Richard Jewell”—which recounts how the media and the FBI negatively affected the life of this film’s main character in 1996. This premiere will be released on Friday, Dec. 13 in the United States.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, critics and reporters called the film “misogynistic” and “Trumpian,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a letter demanding the movie include a disclaimer stating that its portrayal of former reporter Kathy Scruggs—who traded sexual favors for Jewell—is false.
“Yet formal precision notwithstanding, “Richard Jewell” has been constructed from the ground-up as nothing more than a nuance-free rallying cry for Trumpian talking points about the corrupt villainy of the FBI and the media,” the Daily Beast wrote, adding that Scruggs’s portrait was “blatantly misogynistic.”
Slate also acknowledged that Jewell was partly the victim of a “merciless media spotlight,” but praised the film for making Scruggs a scapegoat for “everything that’s wrong with the press.”
Other journalists also showed their opposition to the film as Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who wrote from his Twitter account, “Please do not pay to see movies that feature fictional female journalists who sleep with with sources for a story. It’s an egregiously sexist, demeaning, insulting trope and at this stage I don’t see an appropriate response other than a flat-out boycott.”
Wow, "Richard Jewell" depicts Kathy Scruggs — a real Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter — sleeping with an FBI agent to land a scoop about the '96 Olympic bombing.
But there's no evidence it happened, and Scruggs died in 2001 and cannot defend herself. https://t.co/47KhEZoBsb
— Zack Stanton (@zackstanton) December 9, 2019
Journalist John Stanton was more direct and wrote: ” Wow, “Richard Jewell” depicts Kathy Scruggs a real Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter sleeping with an FBI agent to land a scoop about the ’96 Olympic bombing. But there’s no evidence it happened, and Scruggs died in 2001 and cannot defend herself.”
Eastwood’s film tells the true story of Richard Jewell, a security guard who saved many people from death and injury from a bombing in Atlanta, Georgia, during the 1996 Olympic Games. Later, however, the FBI and the media accused him of being suspected of that attack, thereby damaging Jewell’s personal and professional life. After the investigation began, the real culprit – Eric Rudolph—was found and Jewell was exonerated of the charges, 88 days later.
The story is based on Vanity Fair’s 1997 article “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” which recounted the intense police and media scrutiny he suffered after the bombing.
Scruggs, according to Jewell’s lawyer, at one point failed to record a conversation she had with the lawyer and falsely quoted him as saying his client had a “sample of the blown-up bomb” in his apartment. Rather, he told her Jewell had a souvenir of the “bombing,” specifically a piece of blown-up fencing. Scruggs’s story was picked up by other outlets, ultimately leading to a CNN analysis claiming that “the guy was seen with a homemade bomb at his home a few days before.” CNN apologized the next day, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
According to Vanity Fair, the AJC asserted Jewell fit the “lone bomber” profile, and it falsely reported Jewell personally approached the paper for an interview, which fit the narrative that he had planted the bomb so he could find it and be a “hero.”
In addition, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw told viewers on July 30, the day Jewell was interviewed at FBI headquarters, that “they probably have enough to arrest [Jewell] right now.” Comedian Jay Leno said Jewell bore a “scary resemblance to the guy who whacked Nancy Kerrigan,” and the New York Post labeled him “a fat, failed former sheriff’s deputy.”
Jewell told Vanity Fair at the time he would never fully recover from the time he was a suspect.
The then governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue (R), recognized Jewell’s heroic act on the 10th anniversary of the attack in 2006. Jewell died a year later at age 44.