Culture

Why Katie Couric's 'Under the Gun' Apology Means Nothing

Katie Couric is truly sorry for the deceptive editing in her new gun control documentary “Under the Gun.”

How sorry? So sorry she released her official apology on … Memorial Day. Politicians typically release damning information near the end of the business day on Friday, a time when most news consumers are thinking about the weekend. Doing the same on a major holiday is another way to bury bad news.

Couric isn’t stupid. She knows her mea culpa timing could result in far less media (and public) attention. Which is one of several reasons why that apology means nothing.

Couric is the star and executive producer of “Under the Gun,” a film which by most media assessments takes a pro-gun control stance on gun violence in our culture.

One sequence on the film, which recently debuted on the EPIX network, has Couric interviewing several members of the pro-Second Amendment Virginia Citizens Defense League. She asks them about how guns can be kept out of the hands of felons and terrorists without background checks.

The question appears to stump the group’s members. They sit in silence for about eight seconds before the film’s narrative moves on to another scene.

Only that’s not what actually happened.

The members immediately answered Couric’s question and a vigorous back-and-forth conversation ensued. Only the filmmakers snipped out those responses and inserted the silence in order to make it appear like the group had no answer.

When The Washington Free Beacon first broke the story, aided by audio taken by the Va. group at the time of the interview, Couric initially said she stood by the film and its director, Stephanie Soechtig. The director also stood by the documentary, as did EPIX.

Days later, after outlets like The Washington Post blasted Couric for the edit, the Yahoo News anchor released this apology:

As executive producer of ‘Under the Gun,’ a documentary film that explores the epidemic of gun violence, I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) … When I screened an early version of the film with the director, Stephanie Soechtig, I questioned her and the editor about the pause and was told that a ‘beat’ was added for, as she described it, ‘dramatic effect,’ to give the audience a moment to consider the question. When VCDL members recently pointed out that they had in fact immediately answered this question, I went back and reviewed it and agree that those eight seconds do not accurately represent their response….I regret that those eight seconds were misleading and that I did not raise my initial concerns more vigorously.

As part of the Couric Apology Tour, the full transcript of the sequence in question is on the documentary film’s web site.

What about repairing the actual film itself? That apparently isn’t happening, and that’s why Couric’s apology rings so hollow. So does her promise to take “responsibility” for the edit. What does that mean? How does that manifest itself if the documentary isn’t altered to represent what truly happened?

At least EPIX, which robotically supported the film at first, appears to have blinked. Visit the company’s web page for the film and it now says, “This movie is not currently playing on EPIX.”

Of course, not every outlet pounced on the Couric story. CNN ignored it. And it wasn’t alone. Even documentary filmmakers were mostly silent on the editing Team Couric trotted out.

Couric’s best bet is to ride out the media storm. To be fair, it’s only an intermittent drizzle at this point despite the high-profile name at its center. Media bias comes in many forms.

There’s a good chance the veteran newswoman will survive this mess. The public’s trust in the media and the documentary format, though, will take another hit.