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AJC Says Film “Richard Jewell” Falsely Depicts Their Reporter

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  • Clint Eastwood’s new film Richard Jewell follows the man falsely accused of planting the Centennial Park bomb in 1996, with an angle that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution vigorously led the charge against him in their reporting on the case. 
  • The film implies that reporter Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde, traded sex for a news tip.
  • The AJC and colleagues of Scruggs claim this is false, and the paper is asking the filmmakers to add a disclaimer noting that elements of the story have been fabricated.
  • Warner Brothers has defended the film and its depiction of both Jewell and the reporters who covered him. The movie will have a standard disclaimer at the end, as is typical with many films based on real-life events.

AJC Sends Letter to Warner Brothers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote a letter to Warner Brothers requesting that they add a disclaimer before their new film Richard Jewell, saying the movie inaccurately depicts their reporter trading sex for a news tip.

The letter was sent to the studio, as well as the film’s director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray. Based on a Vanity Fair article, the film follows Richard Jewell, who became the FBI’s suspect in the 1996 Centennial Bombing in Atlanta after he reported a suspicious package and helped clear the area. The AJC was the first outlet to report that he was being considered a suspect. Jewell ended up being innocent. 

The film implies that the journalist working on the story, Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde, traded sex for information on Jewell’s case. The paper claims that this did not happen and that there is no evidence to support it. 

“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,” the letter said. “That is entirely false and malicious, and it is extremely defamatory and damaging.”

Scruggs is no longer alive to defend her work. She died at the age of 43 in 2001, with many close to her believing the stress from the controversy of her reporting attributed to the poor health that caused her early death.

In addition to the disclaimer, The AJC is also requesting that Warner Brothers make a statement “publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters.”

Jewell, who died in 2007, filed and settled suits with numerous outlets following the accusations against him. Of all the organizations involved in legal battles over this, the AJC was the only one who did not settle. Their case was dismissed in 2011 with the court saying that at the time, what the outlet was printing was true. They defended their reporting, which many critics say the film attacks, in their letter. 

“The AJC actually held that story for a day to develop additional independent corroboration of key facts prior to publication. Law enforcement sources confirmed to the AJC their focus on Mr. Jewell,” the letter said. “The accuracy of the story had also been confirmed with an FBI spokesperson to whom the entire story was read before publication.”

AJC Journalists Criticize Film

Richard Jewell hits theatres everywhere on Dec. 13. The film has received positive reviews and awards buzz so far, though some critics have pointed out the heavy-handed way the film depicts news media. The Washington Post said Eastwood’s latest project paints the press as “the enemy of the people” and “caricatures of corruption.”

Slate said it depicted Scruggs as “vampiric.” The AJC published a piece called “The Ballad of Kathy Scruggs” citing people who knew Scruggs at the time, all who claimed this portrait of her was far from reality. 

One colleague called the film version of Scruggs “complete horse (expletive)” and “just not true.” Her reporting partner at the time also critiqued it. 

“It’s obvious to me they did not go to any great lengths to find out what the real characters were like,” he said.

The editor of the AJC, Kevin G. Riley, spoke to Variety about Richard Jewell. He believes that Scruggs is now being depicted in the same false light Jewell once was over 20 years ago.

“The film literally makes things up and adds to misunderstandings about how serious news organizations work,” he said. “It’s ironic that the film commits the same sins that it accuses the media of committing.”

Warner Brothers Defends Film

Warner Brothers, however, is standing by their movie. In a statement to Fox News, they said the film is based on credible material.

“It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast,” their statement said. “’Richard Jewell’ focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name. The (Journal-Constitution’s) claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend against them.” 

They also told Fox News that the film will have a disclaimer at the end of it, which is standard for most films based at least partially on true stories. This disclaimer will note that while the movie is based on historical events, elements have been added for the purposes of dramatization.

Wilde has previously defended the film and her character. She told the Hollywood Reporter that Scrugg’s legacy has been “unfairly boiled down to one element of her personality, one inferred moment in the film.”

“I think that people have a hard time accepting sexuality in female characters without allowing it to entirely define that character,” Wilde added. “We don’t do that to James Bond, We don’t say James Bond isn’t a real spy because he gets his information sometimes by sleeping with women as sources.”

See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (New York Times) (IndieWire)

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Anti-Vaxxers Spread Conspiracy Theory Claiming Bob Saget Died From COVID-19 Booster Shot

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This comes less than a month after anti-vaxxers spread a similar false rumor about comedian Betty White.


Anti-Vaxxers Spread Unfounded Theory About Bob Saget’s Death

Anti-vax and right-wing conspiracy theorists are spreading unfounded claims that comedian Bob Saget died as a result of receiving his COVID-19 booster shot.

Saget, best known for his role as Danny Tanner on “Full House,” died this week at the age of 65 in Orlando, Florida. The Orange County Sheriff’s office said they were responding to “a call about an unresponsive man in a hotel room” and pronounced Saget dead on the scene at the Ritz-Carlton. They found “no signs of foul play or drug use” and some reports have since claimed that it appears Saget may have died in his sleep. No further cause of death has been released. 

Not long after the news of his death, anti-vaxxers begin circulating baseless claims that a COVID-19 booster shot killed Saget. Saget said he received his booster shot on a Dec. 13 episode of his podcast. Many have shared a clip where he talks about the booster to suggest that was his cause of death.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have been proven to be both safe and effective. That, of course, has not stopped conspiracy theorists from endlessly touting false assertions about unproven side effects and responses.

Claims about Saget’s death being vaccine-related can be found on Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, Telegram, and other social media platforms. Many of the posts, despite containing clear misinformation, have remained on these sites for several days without being taken down. 

Candace Owens Promotes Booster Theory

The conspiracy found a large platform this week when conservative news personality Candace Owens discussed it on her Daily Wire talk show. Owens has repeatedly spoken against COVID-19 vaccines and uses her platform to regularly share all kinds of political and cultural misinformation. 

During the Jan. 11 episode of “Candace,” which was flagged by Media Matters, Owens said the public has a “right to demand answers” about the circumstances around Saget’s death and the booster. 

“I’m just not on Big Pharma’s payroll and I refuse to peddle in their lies. And so to that end, today, I’m going to point out another truth and it will likely be deemed a conspiracy theory until it’s not,” she said. “There are too many healthy individuals, like Bob Saget, who we know have received their vaccinations, who are dropping dead, suddenly and unexpectedly, with no further explanation. Healthy athletes, young students in their physical prime — the majority of them males — dropping dead suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of games from heart issues.”

Owens continued to peddle anti-vax rhetoric regarding the media and vaccine mandates. She also spewed unsubstantiated suggestions that “healthy men are dying” because of vaccines. 

“All of this to say I don’t know why a healthy man, who was in the middle of a comedy tour, suddenly and unexpectedly drops dead in his hotel room,” she continued. “But I do know that we have a right to ask the question. All of us do. In fact, when the entire world has suddenly and unexpectedly been prescribed an injection that we don’t need, it is not only our right to ask questions but also our right to demand answers.”

Anti-Vax Misinformation Has Found A Large Platform

Not even a month before Saget’s death, anti-vaxxers likewise falsely claimed that comedian and actress Betty White died from receiving her COVID-19 booster. White passed at the age of 99, just weeks before her 100th birthday. According to her death certificate, she died from a stroke she had six days before her death on Dec. 31. 

After people started falsely claiming the booster caused her death, White’s agent released a statement clarifying these rumors were not true. 

“Betty died peacefully in her sleep at her home,” Jeff Witjas told People Magazine. “People are saying her death was related to getting a booster shot three days earlier but that is not true. She died of natural causes. Her death should not be politicized — that is not the life she lived.”

Media platforms have struggled to control the swelling amount of misinformation users constantly spread, specifically regarding the pandemic and vaccinations. While many sites have promised to remove, flag, or fact-check incorrect posts, anyone who wants to find anti-vax information will have an easy time doing so. 

This week, a group of doctors and medical workers urged Spotify to lay out a misinformation policy, citing the false claims Joe Rogan has repeatedly made about vaccines on his podcast. Several international fact-checking organizations also recently demanded that YouTube do more to fight disinformation on its service. Over the last year, citizens and politicians have asked that Twitter, Facebook, and Google do more to slow the spread of pandemic-related misinformation.

“While we understand that your companies have implemented policies regarding the removal of vaccine-related misinformation and dedicated resources to stop the spread of misinformation, we believe more must be done,” a group of Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the three company’s CEOs. “It is imperative that you be transparent about the amount of harmful misinformation that appears on your platforms and the effectiveness of your efforts to remove this content, so that public health organizations and experts can respond appropriately.”

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Daily Beast) (The Daily Dot)

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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather, and Others Sued Over Alleged EthereumMax Crypto Scam

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EthereumMax executives and partners are being accused of sharing “misleading promotions and celebrity endorsements” in order to “artificially increase the interest in and price” of the coin.


Lawsuit Alleging Crypto Scam Filed in California

Reality star Kim Kardashian, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and former NBA star Paul Pierce are among several celebrities and executives being sued for allegedly misleading investors into a pump-and-dump crypto scam.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by New York resident Ryan Huegerich. Huegerich brought the complaint on behalf of himself and others who claim to have lost money after investing in the coin EthereumMax between May 14, 2021 and June 27, 2021.

Kardashian, Mayweather, and Pierce are among a slew of people with substantial followings who promoted EthereumMax in the spring and summer of 2021. Pierce tweeted about the coin, saying he “made more money with this crypto in the past month” than he did with ESPN in a year. Kardashian touted the cryptocurrency in an Instagram story post that included a link for her followers to “swipe up to join the E-Max community.”

Mayweather drew attention to EthereumMax during his highly-anticipated fight against YouTuber Logan Paul, which accepted the coin as payment for tickets to the event. During the match, he wore shorts with the coin’s name and logo. Mayweather also endorsed the coin during a Bitcoin conference in Miami, Florida. 

Plaintiffs Allege Stars Participated in Pump-And-Dump Scheme

The plaintiffs argued that the three stars, along with several others, promoted the coin with false information. According to the lawsuit, the defendants touted “the ability for investors to make significant returns due to the favorable ‘tokenomics’ of the EMAX Tokens” in order to sell their portions for a pump-and-dump profit.

The Company’s executives, collaborating with several celebrity promotors, (a) made false or misleading statements to investors about EthereumMax through social media advertisements and other promotional activities and (b) disguised their control over EthereumMax and a significant percent of the EMAX Tokens that were available for public trading during the Relevant Period,” the lawsuit said.

“The misleading promotions and celebrity endorsements were able to artificially increase the interest in and price of the EMAX Tokens during the Relevant Period, causing investors to purchase these losing investments at inflated prices,” the suit continued.

The plaintiffs slammed the EthereumMax coin as a “speculative digital token created by a mysterious group of cryptocurrency developers.” According to the lawsuit, the coin “has no connection” to the popular cryptocurrency Ethereum, but uses the name in an effort to “mislead investors into believing that the EMAX Tokens were a part of the Ethereum network (when they are not).”

A spokesperson for EthereumMax condemned the allegations in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

“The deceptive narrative associated with the recent allegations is riddled with misinformation,” the spokesperson said.

Kardashian, Mayweather, and Pierce have not responded publicly to the lawsuit. 

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (BBC News)

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Cardi B’s Defamation Suit Against YouTuber Goes to Trial

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Cardi B claims the YouTuber “became obsessed with slandering and harassing” her.


Cardi B Alleges YouTuber Harmed Her Reputation

The trial for a defamation case rapper Cardi B brought against an entertainment YouTuber began Monday in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the lawsuit, Cardi claims that Latasha Kebe, who is known online as UnwineWithTashaK, repeatedly made false statements in an effort to destroy the “Up” singer’s reputation. The suit alleges that Kebe told her YouTube following that Cardi had worked as a prostitute, used cocaine, cheated on her husband, and had contracted STDs like herpes and HPV.

Kebe reached one million subscribers last week. Her videos get anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 views. 

Cardi has called the purportedly unfounded statements “degrading and harassing.” She says that Kebe began spreading the misinformation in 2018 and has since made dozens of videos furthering those claims. 

Kebe became obsessed with slandering and harassing [Cardi],” the lawsuit says per Rolling Stone, which obtained a copy of the document. “In the 16 months preceding the filing of this lawsuit, Kebe put out at least 38 videos regarding [the rapper].”

What Will Be Argued in Court?

Kebe has denied the accusations and previously countersued, alleging that Cardi encouraged her fans to harass her online. A judge dismissed the suit over a lack of evidence. 

According to Billboard, the trial is expected to last two weeks. It is unknown if Cardi will have to take the witness stand herself. 

Michael S. Overing, a lawyer and defamation expert not involved in the case, told Rolling Stone that Cardi has good odds of winning her case.

Cardi probably has a pretty good shot at this one,” he said, noting she had provided “very specific factual statements” that could potentially be “readily proven false.”

“But the problem with these lawsuits, traditionally, is that it’s very hard to prove that you suffered actual damages,” he continued. “This is where the question of actual malice comes in.” 

Overing, among other experts, believes that much of this case will come down to whether or not the jury believes that Kebe acted with ill-intent. This means that in order to win the case, the musician’s team will likely have to prove that Kebe knew the claims were false when she spread them.

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Rolling Stone)

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