The fallout continues on #GunGate — the exposure of a faked interview response in “Under the Gun,” first reported by our friend Stephen Gutkowski at the Free Beacon today. In a nutshell, the film substituted some B-roll of interview subjects waiting for the interview to start in place of a substantive response given to Katie Couric on background checks. The Free Beacon published the unedited audio that proved that the film faked the response, which should have prompted a retraction and apology — at the bare minimum.
As Allahpundit already noted in an update, however, the cable channel that aired the documentary (EPIX) doesn’t seem to care about accuracy or honesty. They call the substitution of the actual answer for an unrelated response shot “creative and editorial judgment.” Apparently, Couric also chalks this up to the “creative” urge. The Yahoo News anchor issued a statement in support of Stephanie Soechtig: “I support Stephanie’s statement and am very proud of the film.”
Soechtig eventually offered this non-apology of the “I’m sorry that my brilliance was misunderstood” variety:
“There are a wide range of views expressed in the film. 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. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple begs to differ. There is no other explanation of substituting B-roll for the actual response than to make the interview subjects look bad, Wemple points out:
In the years we’ve covered and watched media organizations, we’ve scarcely seen a thinner, more weaselly excuse than the one in the block above. For starters, it appears to count as an admission that this segment of the documentary was edited. The artistic “pause” provides the viewer not a “moment to consider this important question”; it provides viewers a moment to lower their estimation of gun owners. That’s it. As far as the rest of the statement, adults in 2016 may no longer write the phrase “apologize if anyone felt that way” and preserve their standing as professionals.
He’s not impressed with Couric either:
To compound matters, here’s the accompanying statement from Couric:
“I support Stephanie’s statement and am very proud of the film.”
That, from the Katie Couric of Yahoo News, of “CBS Evening News,” of “60 Minutes,” of the “Today” show and so on.
Wemple predicts that these arrogant responses will pour gasoline on the #GunGate flames — and approves of the backlash to come:
Many of those who sampled the discrepancy between the video and the audiotape were already enraged by the depiction of these gun owners. The statements from Soechtig and Couric will surely intensify the backlash, as well they should. An apology, retraction, re-editing, whatever it is that filmmakers do to make amends — all of it needs to happen here.
It’s almost too late for that now. The excuses may well be weaselly, but the practice is even more so — and the arrogance in defending it makes it very clear that this has happened in the past, and will be likely to continue in the future, too. Let’s not mince words here. Couric, Soechtig, and the rest of the people behind “Under the Gun” flat-out lied to their audience in cooking that moment, and everything they do and have done should be suspect as well. If EPIX and Yahoo want to associate themselves with that kind of dishonest reporting, then their credibility should suffer similarly.
For now, though, let this be an object lesson in mainstream media bias, as well as protecting oneself from it. If asked to be part of an interview that is not airing live, be sure to record it yourself as well. Some reporters and productions can’t be trusted to be honest, and a couple of them self-identified today.
Update: I used the wrong title for the documentary. It’s “Under the Gun,” but for some reason I wrote “Silent Majority.” My apologies for the error. (See how easy that is?) Later, I got a response from the producers, and to quote James Taranto, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA:
— Under The Gun (@UnderTheGunDoc) May 25, 2016
Hey, watch our dishonest documentary and see what you think! Uh, sure …
Why would I watch a "documentary" in which the director and star faked responses? How much else got faked? https://t.co/h1BEdSmhjO
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) May 25, 2016
This isn't a "watch it and decide for yourself" issue. It's objectively dishonest. https://t.co/h1BEdSmhjO
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) May 25, 2016
The folks at Under the Gun don’t seem to grasp the difference between fictional cinema and documentaries. Obviously. This is akin to Rolling Stone attempting to defend its reporting on “Jackie” by encouraging me to read the entire piece and base my evaluation on dishonest reporting. And at least in that case, one can make the argument that the reporter might have gotten suckered. This has no such excuse.
Also, please note the irony of the documentary’s tag line: In the gun debate, truth is the ultimate weapon. Good Lord.
This is my favorite response, though:
— Tracy Jeffords (@TracyJeffords) May 25, 2016