Atlanta Journal-Constitution Questions Accuracy of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’

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Claire Folger/75 Year Plan Productions

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is questioning the accuracy of Clint Eastwood’s forthcoming film, Richard jewell, based on the mainstream media’s inaccurate reporting of Richard Jewell, a man who was defamed after risking his own life to save innocent people before a bomb went off at the 1996 Olympics.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) questioned the accuracy of four key moments in Clint Eastwood’s new film, according to a report by The Wrap, which added that the paper’s editor-in-chief Kevin G. Riley believes that the film portrays AJC reporters and editors as “unthoughtful” with regards to their reporting on Jewell.

“This is essential because the underlying theme of the movie is that the FBI and press are not to be trusted,” said Riley to The Wrap. “Yet the way the press is portrayed often differs from reality — it’s also ironic that a film purporting to hold the media to account disregards such crucial facts.”

According to the report, Riley said that Eastwood depicts AJC’s Kathy Scruggs as a reporter who is trading sex with an FBI agent in exchange for a tip on a story. The editor-in-chief maintains that there is no such evidence that this occurred.

Riley’s three other points of contention with the film is its notion that AJC “ran its story based on questionable sourcing, that the paper’s decision making was unsound, and that the paper failed to challenge law enforcement’s investigation,” according to The Wrap.

Eastwood’s Richard Jewell tells the story about a 34-year-old security guard at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, who discovered a suspicious package and risked his own life to evacuate the area before the bomb went off — only to be defamed and wrongfully accused of by the establishment press as a result.

“Working hand in hand with the FBI, the media smeared Jewell as a pathetic, mama’s boy who planted his own bomb so he could be a national hero, and the late-night comics eviscerated him as a fat, dumb, southern-fried mama’s boy,” said Breitbart News’ John Nolte.

Nolte added that without a hint of evidence against him, the defamation went on for three months, profiling Jewell as a “lone bomber” and a “frustrated white man who is a police wannabe who seeks to become a hero,” until eventually, the media admitted they were wrong. Indeed, Jewell successfully sued CNN and NBC News.

“The decision to publish was influenced by several factors, including the AJC’s confirmation from law-enforcement sources that they were focusing on Jewell, and highly visible FBI activity at Jewell’s apartment,” explains Riley of AJC’s past reporting on Jewell.

“By publishing the story, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to make the public, including Jewell’s own lawyer, aware of the government’s pursuit of Jewell as a suspect,” Riley added. “The AJC’s leaders also recognized that law enforcement’s suspicions of Jewell were about to be made public whether or not the AJC published its story.”

“The story placed law enforcement’s investigation in the public’s view and within its scrutiny,” said Riley.

Perhaps a similar case could be made for AJC’s past reporting on the students from Covington Catholic High School, as much of the initial reporting on the incident propelled the mainstream media’s coverage in the public’s view and within its scrutiny.

In AJC’s January 19 piece, entitled, “Teen wearing red MAGA hat taunts drum-beating Native American during Indigenous Peoples March” the paper suggests that “a grinning teen wearing a red Make America Great Again hat” and his classmates had “ridiculed” a Native American man who stood before them, banging on his drum.

With regards to Richard Jewell, the report noted that Riley has not personally seen Eastwood’s film — but that his colleague has, which is the basis of AJC’s reporting on the movie. The editor-in-chief also acknowledges that the film is not a documentary, but rather, a movie meant for entertainment — based on real events.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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