Katie Couric, the executive producer and narrator of the Epix-distributed documentary “Under the Gun,” has apologized for a deliberate and deceptive edit that makes a group of gun rights advocates look like dumbfounded dolts. In a statement posted over Memorial Day weekend, Couric acknowledged that the edit was “misleading” and that she had failed to forcefully press her initial concerns about it.
For the record, the edit in question misportrayed an exchange between Couric and members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. In response to a question about background checks, VCDL members are depicted in stunned silence for about eight seconds. An audiotape recorded by VCDL President Philip Van Cleave showed that Couric’s inquiry fetched an immediate and quite reasonable response.
The pause was the manufactured work of director Stephanie Soechtig, who hasn’t apologized for the deception. “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,” said Soechtig in a statement last week.
Though many commentators, including this one, have deplored this overt failure to take ownership of this awfulness, Soechtig isn’t budging. In an interview with NBC4’s Mark Segraves on DCW50, Soechtig said this: “At that particular time, Katie is asking this group of people . . . ‘If you don’t have background checks, how do you people on the terror watch list from getting guns?’ And this is a real pivotal moment in the film, it’s one of our main storylines. And I thought it was really important to stop down at this moment. And she’s asking the question of the group, but as a filmmaker, I wanted to ask the question of the audience. And, you know, I think the idea that the focus has been on this is very typical of gun lobby tactics. They’re trying to intimidate us; we won’t be intimidated.”
No way, said Segraves, in effect — noting that the backlash has come from outside the gun lobby. What about the false impression that these folks didn’t have an answer? he asked.
“I think it’s sad to say that these eight seconds didn’t give the VCDL a platform to speak. Their views are expressed repeatedly throughout the film; we know how they feel about background checks. They said it earlier in the film,” said Soechtig. “I also think Katie is held to a journalistic standard, but this is a film, and I’m a filmmaker and it was my decision to do so.” Again Segraves pressed, wondering about the apparent contradiction between what’s packaged as an unbiased film vs. filmmaker’s prerogative. “I think that we’re focusing on eight seconds that’s not in the film rather than the facts that are in the film. The film is bulletproof. I challenge anyone to watch the film and have any issue with the facts that are in there.”
Arrogance and disregard for people are horrible traits in someone who purports to explore one of the country’s most divisive issues.