Column: Katie Couric deservedly ‘Under the Gun’

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In this May 12, 2016, file photo, Katie Couric attends the premiere of her documentary, "Under The Gun", hosted by The Cinema Society in New York. Couric has taken responsibility for what she calls a decision that misrepresents the response of gun rights activists to a question she posed in the documentary. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)

In this May 12, 2016, file photo, Katie Couric attends the premiere of her documentary, “Under The Gun”, hosted by The Cinema Society in New York. Couric has taken responsibility for what she calls a decision that misrepresents the response of gun rights activists to a question she posed in the documentary. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)

by Lee Williams

When I heard that Katie Couric was producing a documentary that she claimed would explore “the epidemic of gun violence,” I knew it would be an epic fail. But I had no idea how loudly the onetime “Today”  show co-host’s failure would resound.

The 59-year-old Couric has slipped a bit in recent years. Once the first woman to anchor a major television network’s evening news program, Couric is now the “global” news anchor at Yahoo.

Professionally, she needed the boost this documentary could have provided.

Instead, Couric’s “Under the Gun” documentary will become a millstone she will likely never shake, and for good reason.

Couric and director Stephanie Soechtig used deceptive editing that misrepresented an interview with members of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League.

When she asks the VCDL members their opinion on background checks and how felons and persons on the terror-watch list could allegedly still buy firearms, the edited video shows that Couric’s question was followed by an eight second pause, which Couric recently admitted, made “the participants appear to be speechless.” She’s being kind. The editing made the VCDL members look like rubes.

Rubes, however, they are not. The VCDL recorded their entire interview with Couric — thank God — and published their audio tape after the film’s release.

The unedited audio recording clearly shows that the eight seconds of navel-gazing were edited in — after the fact. The audio recording reveals that a sharp exchange followed the question, during which one VCDL member fired back: “The fact is we do have statutes, both at the federal and state level that prohibit classes of people from being in possession of firearms. If you’re under 18 in Virginia you can’t walk around with a gun.”

While the traditional media was slow to say anything untoward about the onetime “60 Minutes” correspondent, the gun community pounced.

The National Rifle Association called Couric a “fraud and a hypocrite” which, in my humble opinion, may be a tad kind. This type of creative editing would get a reporter fired from any ethical news outlet.

In a statement released after hours on Memorial Day — two weeks after her film’s release — Couric finally issued a mea culpa for her massive ethical breach, saying in a statement on the film’s website: “I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).”

The statement does not say whether Couric and Soechtig now intend to withdraw their flawed documentary from consideration at the various film festivals where it’s been entered.

Couric says in her statement she hopes “we can continue to have an important conversation about reducing gun deaths in America, a goal I believe we can all agree on.”

I, too, hope we can have that conversation, Ms. Couric, but it definitely won’t be with you.

— If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 284-8553, by email at lee.williams@heraldtribune.com or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You also can follow me on social media at facebook.com/TheGunWriter or Twitter.com/ht_gunwriter or watch us on our new YouTube Channel.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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