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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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Netflix Launches “Fast Laughs,” a TikTok-Like Feed of Funny Clips

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  • Netflix has created a TikTok-style feature it calls “Fast Laughs,” which is currently only available on its iOS mobile app in select countries.
  • Executives described it as a “new full-screen feed of funny clips from a wide variety of Netflix titles, ranging from films and series to our deep bench of stand-up specials.”
  • The clips can be shared on social media, and if users stumble across something they want to see more of, they can save that title to watch later or play it immediately. 

Netflix Announces “Fast Laughs”

Netflix is now the latest platform to introduce its own TikTok-like feature.

On Thursday, the company announced “Fast Laughs,” which is currently only available on its iOS mobile app in select countries.

It essentially looks like TikTok, but Patrick Flemming, director of product innovation at Netflix, told The Verge it is a “new full-screen feed of funny clips from a wide variety of Netflix titles, ranging from films and series to our deep bench of stand-up specials.”

In its announcement blog post, Netflix said, “You access the feed through your bottom navigation menu by clicking on the Fast Laughs tab. Clips will start playing – when one ends another begins, to keep the laughs coming.

If a user stumbles across a scene they want to see more of, they can save that title to watch later or play it immediately if they’d like. They can also share the clips individually on Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Could It Really Rival TikTok?

Adding this TikTok-style feature may seem surprising since Netflix is a streaming service rather than a social media platform.

However, Netflix’s last few earnings reports have actually referenced TikTok as a major competitor. It’s not because they make the same style of content but instead because people are spending more time on TikTok – which for some means less time on Netflix.

While “Fast Laughs” might not compete with TikTok the way some other copycats hope to, some believe it’s an interesting way to highlight the huge library of content the site offers.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Tech Crunch) (USA Today)

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Court Sides With Sofia Vergara, Says Ex Cannot Use Embryos Without Permission

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  • A Los Angeles court sided with actress Sofia Vergara on Tuesday, ruling that her ex-fiance Nick Loeb cannot use their embryos without her consent. 
  • The court cited a document the former couple had signed agreeing that both parties needed to approve the use of the embryos, arguing that the document could not be void. 
  • In a response, Loeb appeared to plug his new movie, saying the judge was “clearly influenced by Hollywood, which is a pattern I expose in my upcoming film Roe v. Wade.”
  • Loeb had been trying to obtain custody of the embryos for many years and even argued in a Louisiana court that they should be treated as humans with rights, though the case was dismissed. 

Court Sides With Sofia Vergara 

Los Angeles County Superior Court sided with actress Sofia Vergara Tuesday, ruling that her ex-fiance could not use their embryos without her permission. 

Vergara has been involved in a court battle with her ex, Nick Loeb, for several years. The two split in 2014 and had reportedly undergone in vitro fertilization within a year before their break up. 

Loeb had been fighting to use those embryos on his own via a surrogate. According to TMZ, he at one point tried to take custody of them through a trust and named the embryos in a lawsuit. He also argued in a Louisiana court that the embryos should be recognized as humans with rights. The court dismissed that case in January and said Loeb was “forum shopping” for a court that might agree with his argument. At the time, his team said he would appeal their decision.

People Magazine obtained court documents from the Los Angeles court’s ruling, which granted Vergara’s request for a permanent injunction preventing Loeb from using the embryos “to create a child without the explicit written permission of the other person.”

Loeb Responds to Ruling

The court cited a document the former couple both signed at a fertility clinic, agreeing that both parties had to approve of any use of the embryos. Loeb tried to argue that he signed it under “duress” but the court still said that their agreement was not voidable based on that defense. 

Loeb also tried to argue that he and the Modern Family actress had an “oral agreement” that would allow him to use the embryos on his own terms, but court said there was no “material fact” to support this.

According to People, Loeb issued a statement that plugged his new movie after the ruling. He said the judge “was clearly influenced by Hollywood, which is a pattern I expose in my upcoming film Roe v. Wade.”

“It’s sad that Sofia, a devout Catholic, would intentionally create babies just to kill them,” he continued. 

Vergara’s team has not yet issued a statement on the case.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (People) (Entertainment Tonight)

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Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography in New Lawsuit

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  • Comedian Chris D’Elia was sued in California on Tuesday for sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.
  • The lawsuit alleges that D’Elia “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to get dozens of nude photos from a girl he knew was 17 at the time.
  • It also says he invited the minor to his hotel room before one of his shows, where she performed sexual acts at his request.
  • D’Elia’s spokesperson denied the accusations, which come just two weeks after D’Elia addressed months-old claims that he had sexually harassed underage women. He claimed sex “controlled” his life and admitted to having “a problem” but maintained all his relationships had been consensual and legal.

Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography

A federal lawsuit filed in the Central District of California on Tuesday accuses comedian Chris D’Elia of sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.

The allegations stem from 2014 when Jane Doe, now 24, was just 17-years-old. The lawsuit says D’Elia, who would have been 34 at the time, “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to solicit the photos and pressure Doe into sexual encounters. 

According to Doe, their interactions began in September of that year when she contacted him on Instagram, thinking he would never reply. D’Elia, however, allegedly responded to her message right away and asked her to come to one of his shows. When she agreed to see him perform at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, she says they exchanged information on Snapchat. 

Once the two started communicating on Snapchat, the lawsuit claims that the messages D’Elia sent “became sexual very quickly.” He allegedly started to ask for nude photos of her, and if she did not reply, he would persist. While she tried to avoid sending the photos, the lawsuit claims he was “aggressive.” She eventually sent him 5-10 explicit photos before she met him. 

According to the lawsuit, when D’Elia came to perform in Connecticut in November, he invited Doe to his room before the show. Because she was nervous about the situation, Doe brought a friend with her, but D’Elia allegedly demanded that the friend leave or else he would not let Doe inside. 

Doe’s friend left and the lawsuit claims that D’Elia then began to request sexual favors from Doe within minutes of her arrival. It alleges that the two had sex while D’Elia knew her age. It even adds that during the acts, he repeatedly asked her to tell him she was 17 and still in high school, with him allegedly saying that this was “hot.”

Doe says that he invited her back to his hotel after the show and they had sex again. After this, she says she left feeling “disgusting and defeated.” The lawsuit says this was her first sexual encounter of any kind and she had not even kissed anyone prior to meeting him, leaving her unsure what to think or do in the situation. 

Over the following months, the lawsuit claims that D’Elia would limit his communication with Doe as a tactic to pry more photos out of her. It says he would demand she send explicit photos or he would unfollow her on social media until she compiled. The lawsuit says that over the course of six to seven months, she sent him over 100 explicit photos and videos, roughly half of which were taken while she was a minor. 

The lawsuit says Doe “suffered significant emotional, physical, and psychological harm as a direct result of Defendant D’Elia’s predatory conduct.”

D’Elia Says He “Has A Problem”

These allegations come nearly nine months after several women accused him of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. Many said they were underage at the time he harassed them. 

After months of silence, D’Elia recently addressed those allegations in a 10-minute video on February 19. He apologized and said he had been seeking help. 

“I mean sex, it controlled my life,” he said. “It was the focus, my focus, all the time. And I had a problem. I do have a problem.” 

However, he denied ever breaking the law in his sexual encounters. 

“I stand by the fact that all my relationships have been consensual and legal,” he said. 

A spokesperson for the comedian told the Los Angeles Times that the accusations in the lawsuit are false. 

“Chris denies these allegations and will vigorously defend against them in court,” they said. 

Jane Doe is seeking unspecified damages. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Hollywood Reporter) (USA Today)

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