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One of the lawyers who represented the man at the center of Clint Eastwood’s new movie “Richard Jewell” has blasted the film’s depiction of a female journalist.
Before the film’s Friday debut, it had already been criticized for its vampy portrayal of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs (portrayed by Olivia Wilde). Not only is her character in the film ambitious, but she’s possibly amoral as the film appears to show her offering sex in exchange for information about a case from an FBI agent.
In the film, Scruggs wanted intel into who the FBI were investigating after the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta. After offering sex, an FBI agent told her that they were looking at Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the pipe bomb device Centennial Olympic Park. Even though they were eyeing him, he was never officially a suspect and the real bomber was a domestic terrorist named Eric Rudolph. After getting a second source to confirm that Jewell was being looked at, Scruggs wrote up a story which broke national news. Jewell was then vilified in the media. Jewell was cleared as a suspect by the FBI 88 days after the bombing.
Lin Wood, a defamation lawyer who represented Jewell in lawsuits filed against The Journal-Constitution and other media outlets for defamation, spoke out against the movie’s portrayal of Scruggs.
"I handled Richard Jewell's case against AJC for 16 years,” he tweeted. "By the time the case ended, Richard & Ms. Scruggs had both passed away. There was NO evidence to support a storyline that Ms. Scruggs traded sex for tips about Richard. We never made such a false & damning claim."
“I can’t respect this movie, because of its portrayal against her,” Wood told Oxygen.com.
He said during the 16 years he spent fighting the AJC he tried to find dirt on Scruggs. However, he never did, noting “if I did I would have used it against her.”
“Richard Jewell’s legacy deserves better than that,” he told Oxygen.com, adding that he thinks Jewell would also be disgusted by the film's portrayal of Scruggs.
Jewell’s lawsuit against the AJC was dismissed in 2011 after the Georgia Court of Appeals concluded the articles they published were true at the time.
Scruggs died in 2001 at the age of 42 from an overdose of prescription pain pills, according to Poytner. In addition to suffering from depression, she had a chronic back problem. Jewell died in 2007 at the age of 44. He reportedly had been suffering from health complications stemming from diabetes, the New York Times reported.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously blasted the FBI sex-exchange plot line.
"The AJC’s reporter is reduced to a sex-trading object in the film,” the letter states, according to AJC. “Such a portrayal makes it appear that the AJC sexually exploited its staff and/or that it facilitated or condoned offering sexual gratification to sources in exchange for stories. That is entirely false and malicious, and it is extremely defamatory and damaging.”
Furthermore, a National Public Radio movie review points out that the FBI agent played by Jon Hamm was given a fake name while Scruggs’ real name was kept. Oxygen.com reached out to Warner Bros. for comment on the controversy but they did not immediately respond with a comment.
Wilde has offered an alternative explanation for the seeming sex-exchange scene between her character and the FBI agent. She has defended her character and claimed on Twitter that "the perspective of the fictional dramatization of the story, as I understood it, was that Kathy, and the FBI agent who leaked false information to her, were in a pre-existing romantic relationship, not a transactional exchange of sex for information.”
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