CNN media show Reliable Sources covered Katie Couric's deceptively edited gun documentary Sunday, with Washington Free Beacon reporter Elizabeth Harrington and the rest of the panel unanimously condemning Couric and the movie's director for their conduct.
Couric has come under fire after the Washington Free Beacon revealed the documentary she narrated and produced, Under The Gun, contains a falsely edited scene where Couric appears to stump gun rights activists with a question about background checks.
Reporter Stephen Gutowski broke the story last month, showing with audio that the gun rights activists actually immediately responded to Couric's question, rather than staring in silence as the movie falsely shows.
"Eight seconds of silence, making the activists look ignorant, like they didn't have an answer, but the truth is they responded to her question right away," Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter said.
While director Stephanie Soechtig said she added the pause in to give viewers a chance to reflect on the question, Stelter said "that seemed like B.S. to me." He asked Harrington if she was satisfied by her and Couric's half-apologetic responses, but she noted that Couric initially raised objections to the editing before letting it go.
"It's totally misleading, and this gun rights group defended themselves very well against the question, and it's really so misleading and a blatant lie to show that eight-second pause," Harrington said. "It's a documentary. She shouldn't be saying, ‘Oh, well this makes it more dramatic, then this is the way we should go.' No, she should stick with the facts and what actually happened."
The movie has a clear pro-gun control slant, but fellow panelist and Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik said there was "absolutely" no defense for that editing decision.
"If I vented the contempt I have for that kind of dishonesty in the documentary format, I think I'd drop over right now from a stroke," he said. "It's outrageous, and what you called a B.S. explanation, absolutely. That was so bad. I couldn't believe it … And the lie upon the lie! Dishonest documentary makers are one of the lowest forms of life in media. No defense."
Couric initially said she stood by the movie, but she later took responsibility for the "misleading" edit. Soechtig, who strongly advocates for gun control, claimed she never intended to make anyone look bad with the edit and apologized "if anyone felt that way."
The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple wrote that he'd scarcely seen a "thinner, more weaselly excuse" than Soechtig's.
Soechtig added in an interview with Variety that she regretted doing the edit only because the National Rifle Association had focused so much on it.