Has a pattern of journalistic deceit involving Katie Couric begun to emerge? The Weinstein Company may not want you to find out. Last month, interview subjects in the EpixHD documentary Under the Gun supplied evidence that Katie Couric and director Stephanie Soechtig cooked an exchange. Their audio showed that they provided an immediate response to a question, while Soechtig’s editing made it look like Couric had stumped them. After initially backing Soechtig, Couric later conceded the point days later.
Yesterday, two other interview subjects emerged to make similar accusations about the 2014 documentary on the food industry, Fed Up, again fronted by Couric and directed by Soechtig. In both cases, sources tell the Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski, audio and video edits falsified the responses to questions posed by Couric:
Dr. David Allison, an interview subject in the film and the director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center, says he was a victim of shoddy journalism. “What she did to me is antithetical to not only just human decency and civility but it is antithetical to the spirit of science and democratic dialogue,” he told the Washington Free Beacon.
After a brief exchange in the film between Allison and Couric over whether or not sugary beverages contribute more to obesity than other foods, Couric asks Allison about the science behind his objections. Allison then begins to explain before stumbling and asking Couric if he could pause to “get his thoughts together.”
Allison said Couric had told him it would be all right to pause and gather his thoughts at any point during the interview if he felt he needed to. …
After the pause depicted in the film Allison said he did provide an answer to Couric’s question. “I had what I thought was a very cogent answer,” he said. “Of course I gave an answer. I gave an answer to every question she asked me in a 90-minute interview that was a barrage of questions. And out of a 90-minute interview she chose to show the approximately 10 seconds when I paused and said, ‘Let me collect my thoughts.’”
Couric had insisted that Allison respond in layman’s terms to her questions, which Allison insisted was the cause of his stumble. He then did respond to her question, but all viewers saw was this:
The second accusation follows a very familiar pattern:
A second accusation comes from a scene featuring an interview between Soechtig and Lisa Gable, a spokesperson for the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. Industry sources say audio of Soechtig’s voice was edited into an interview in an effort to embarrass the spokesperson.
The scene in question features Soechtig and Gable discussing whether the food industry would remove products from store shelves under a deal struck with the White House. At the end of the exchange the director can be heard off camera saying Gable was avoiding her question. The spokesperson is then shown sitting silently for about three seconds before the film cuts to another interview.
Here’s that scene from Fed Up:
Note that these two scenes have been uploaded to Vimeo. Originally they had been uploaded to YouTube, but the Weinstein Company issued a DMCA takedown request — even though the publication of these two clips fall clearly within the Fair Use doctrine:
The Weinstein Company, which owns the distribution rights for 2014’s Fed Up, requested that two interviews at the center of accusations that the Katie Couric-produced and narrated documentary used deceptive editing be removed from Youtube.
Youtube documentation lists the takedown request as “manually detected” and made by the Weinstein Company. The Washington Free Beacon has initiated a counter-notification requesting that the videos be reinstated on fair use grounds since the videos are the subject of a news report. The Free Beacon has moved the videos to another video platform and reinserted them into the original story while the dispute is settled by Youtube.
The videos feature two interviews from Fed Up where the producers of the film are accused of unethical editing techniques. In one of the videos Dr. David Allison is shown stumbling during an answer and then pausing for several seconds before the film cuts to another interview, an answer to the question he was asked is never shown. Dr. Allison said he did provide an answer to the question and that Couric assured him he could pause to rework answers if he needed.
“What she did to me is antithetical to not only just human decency and civility but it is antithetical to the spirit of science and democratic dialogue,” he told the Free Beacon.
A DMCA claim on these clips is simply ludicrous. They are tiny percentages of the copyrighted material, and most importantly have been used in an explicitly critical context. The Fair Use doctrine exists specifically for that purpose. Furthermore, copyright claims on YouTube are generally handled by allowing the copyright holder the right to receive any advertising dollars from the upload, not in a complete takedown. The Weinstein Company clearly does not want the public to see the alleged journalistic malpractice, which would tend to indicate that they know it exists and find it damaging.
For Couric and Soechtig, this raises the stakes considerably. Once might be a mistake in judgment. This looks like a pattern of deceit and bad faith. One has to wonder how many more victims of the Couric/Soechtig model of journalism will emerge to tell similar stories about too-good-to-be-true interview sequences in their films.