Couric Files Motion to Dismiss Gun Rights Group’s Defamation Case

Lawyers argue dispute over deceptive edit should be sorted in the press, not court

Katie Couric
Katie Couric attends the LA premiere of 'Under The Gun' / AP

Katie Couric and her co-defendants on Tuesday requested that a judge dismiss a $12 million defamation suit stemming from a deceptive edit made in her documentary Under the Gun.

Couric's lawyers said the documentary's implication that members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) were unable to answer a question on background checks did not constitute defamation under Virginia law.

"At worst, the film might be construed as implying that the persons within the group being interviewed could not quickly respond to Couric's" question on terrorists and background checks, lawyers from Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP said in their filing. "Implying that any of the Plaintiffs—or anyone else, for that matter—had difficulty immediately answering that public policy question is simply not the kind of assertion that may be redressed by a defamation suit."

The lawyers argue in their filing that the dispute over the deceptive edit included in Couric's documentary is better settled in public debate than in a courtroom.

The suit was filed by members of the VCDL in September after news came out that the filmmakers behind Under the Gun had spliced silence into a scene of Couric questioning them. The film had depicted the gun rights activists sitting silently, with no response after Couric asked them, "If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?"

As the Washington Free Beacon reported in May, raw audio of the exchange shows the VCDL members immediately responding to Couric's question with a number of different answers.

In the wake of the Under the Gun controversy, some involved in Couric's previous documentary Fed Up told the Free Beacon in June that some of the interviews included in that film were also deceptively edited. The Weinstein Company, which distributes Fed Up, had YouTube remove clips of the interviews in question. After the Free Beacon fought the decision to remove the videos, they were eventually reinstated.

VCDL said the deceptive edit made the group look foolish and incompetent when the group first announced the lawsuit against Katie Couric, Atlas Films, and EPIX.

"We were horrified to see how Couric and her team manipulated us and the video footage to make us look like fools who didn't stand up for the Second Amendment," Philip Van Cleave, the group's president, told the Free Beacon in September. "We want to set the record straight and hold them accountable for what they've done. You shouldn't intentionally misrepresent someone's views just because you disagree with them."

Van Cleave also expressed outrage that Under the Gun continues to be available for purchase or rent with the deceptive edit included. "Katie Couric has publicly admitted that Under the Gun was misleading and misrepresented VCDL, but has done nothing to fix it or stop promoting and distributing it," he said in September.

EPIX, the movie's distributor, filed a brief with the court in support of the motion to dismiss. The company said the claims against them were meritless.

"EPIX has filed a motion to dismiss Virginia Citizens Defense League's lawsuit over Under the Gun," said Nora Ryan, an EPIX spokesman. "As we have stated previously, we believe the claims against EPIX are completely without merit. Our motion to dismiss makes this abundantly clear to the court and we look forward to the judge's thoughtful review."

VCDL did not provide comment on the motion and requests for comment to Couric sent through Under the Gun and Atlas Films' websites were not returned.