Katie Couric, Epix Sued for $12 Million-Plus Over Gun Documentary Edit

Second Amendment advocates claim they were defamed by misleading cut of film

Last Updated: September 13, 2016 @ 3:05 PM

The Virginia Citizens Defense League is taking aim at Katie Couric in a court of law.

The VCDL slapped Couric with a $12 million lawsuit on Tuesday, claiming that members of the group were defamed by editing in the documentary “Under the Gun” that made it apppear they were stumped on the issue of background checks for gun purchases.

The defamation suit, which also names Epix, filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and Atlas Films, seeks a bundle in damages — $12 million in compensatory damages, and $350,000 in punitive damages from each defendant.

“The film contains false footage purporting to show members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League sitting silently, stumped, and avoiding eye contact for nearly nine seconds after Couric asked, “if there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”‘ read the suit, filed in federal court in Virginia.

In actuality, the suit contends, the members of VCDL provided in-depth answers to Couric, who narrated and produced the film, spending “nearly six minutes responding to Couric’s question and another three minutes engaging in a related discussion.”

“The exchange portrayed in the film is a work of fiction. Unedited audio recording of the exchange reveals that, in reality, Couric had expressly acknowledged that the VCDL members had an answer, and the VCDL members had not been stumped but had immediately begun explaining the bases for their position on background checks,” the complaint adds.

After news broke in May that the pause had been inserted into “Under the Gun,” Soechtig told TheWrap that she didn’t believe she was misrepresenting anyone with the edit

“I would never misrepresent someone’s point of view and I don’t think I did by doing this,” she said. “I don’t think I misrepresented gun owners or the people featured in the film.”

However, an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap that Couric was upset with the inserted pause and believed it was an “unnecessary mistake.”

In that, anyway, it appears that Couric and the VCDL are in agreement.

“The Defendants manipulated the footage in service of an agenda: they wanted to establish that there is no basis for opposing universal background checks by fooling viewers into believing that even a panel of pro-Second Amendment advocates could not provide one,” the lawsuit reads. “The Defendants intentionally disregarded the truth of the actual exchange that had taken place and took at least six intentional steps to manufacture a fictional exchange to support their agenda.”

A spokesman for Couric had no comment for TheWrap on the lawsuit, and Soechtig has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment. However, in a statement, Epix said that the claims against it are “utterly without merit.”

“‘Under the Gun’ premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it received critical acclaim. Epix saw the Sundance screening and acquired the documentary at that time,” Epix said. “The network had no role in its creation or production and should therefore not be a party to this lawsuit.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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