Journalist Katie Couric is being criticized after it came to light that a gun documentary she participated in allegedly edited footage to make its participants look bad. The film in question is Under the Gun, a movie by Stephanie Soechtig that examines the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre and questions why this event did not lead to any major changes in federal gun laws. It is available to watch through Epix.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on the documentary’s potential dishonesty, and since then, The New York Post has called for Yahoo to fire Couric as their Global Anchor. The Post wrote, “She has lost her credibility. Any news organization that continues to employ her loses its credibility as well.”
What exactly happened here, and does Couric deserved to be fired? Here are five fast facts you need to know about Couric and her relationship with this controversial documentary.
1. The Filmmakers Have Been Accused of Deceptively Editing an Interview
In Under the Gun, there’s a scene in which Couric speaks to members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League about gun violence. She asks them a simple question: “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
In the film, it appears as if the interview subjects are so flabbergasted by her inquiry that they don’t know what to say, and what follows is nine seconds of silence. The documentary then moves on to the next scene, implying nobody at the Virginia Citizens Defense League had an answer to Couric’s question.’
But raw audio of the interview obtained by the Washington Free Beacon shows that this silence was manufactured in editing. The tape shows that there was no silence at all and that members of the organization immediately responded to Couric.
“Katie Couric asked a key question during an interview of some members of our organization,” Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told the Washington Free Beacon. “She then intentionally removed their answers and spliced in nine seconds of some prior video of our members sitting quietly and not responding. Viewers are left with the misunderstanding that the members had no answer to her question.”
2. The Director Defended the Editing Decision
In response to this story coming to light, Under the Gun director Stephanie Soechtig issued an apology but defended the decision to edit this silence into the film.
“I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way,” she said. “…My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks.”
Elaborating in an interview with The Wrap, Soechtig said that she would never misrepresent someone’s point of view and she does not believe her film did so. “I don’t think I misrepresented gun owners or the people featured in the film,” she explained.
Epix, the television network that aired the documentary, also came out and said that they stood by the movie. “We encourage people to watch the film and decide for themselves,” they said in a statement.
3. Couric Said She Is ‘Very Proud’ of the Film
Katie Couric herself got behind Stephanie Soechtig’s statement and did not apologize for the movie. “I support Stephanie’s statement and am very proud of the film,” she said.
A source familiar with Couric, however, told The Wrap that Couric has admitted this editing was a poor choice.
“This was an unnecessary mistake,” the source said. “It did not represent editing someone’s sentences, there was no factual error, this is not a mistake that is a substantive mistake. It could have been avoided…This was a poor decision that was made and it involves silence.”
According to NPR, Couric was unsure if this pause was a good idea prior to the documentary’s release. A spokesperson for the project told NPR, “Katie questioned the pause, but the director made the decision to use it to lead into the discussion of the hole in background checks.”
4. Sarah Palin Has Joined the Anti-Couric Crusade
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has joined in on the Couric backlash on her Facebook page. She sarcastically wrote that Couric would never edit an interview to make a conservative look bad.
She’s referring to her own infamous and disastrous interview with Couric in 2008 which Palin has said was edited in order to make her appear stupid.
“When I saw the final cut, it was clear that CBS sought out the bad moments, and systematically sliced out material that would accurately convey my message,” she said, according to The Huffington Post. She also has accused Couric of hammering her with “repetitive, biased questions,” while not claiming that her statements themselves were twisted as has been alleged with Under the Gun.
5. The Huffington Post and NPR Have Come Out Against Couric
Though the story was initially picked up primarily by conservative websites such as The Blaze and Breitbart, it has expanded far beyond the conservative blogosphere. The Huffington Post, a traditionally more liberal news outlet, has also attacked Couric for her film.
“The end result here is a documentary that does a great disservice to its audience, arming viewers with the false assurance that a tough question didn’t receive an answer, when in fact it did,” wrote Jason Linkins.
An article on NPR also argues that Couric made the wrong call. “This manipulation — and that’s what it was — would not pass muster at NPR under its principles for fairness in handling interviews,” the piece reads.