Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’ smears a deceased female journalist

AFI FEST 2019 - Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Richard Jewell'

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, a security guard named Richard Jewell was the first one to see a suspicious-looking bag which held a pipe bomb. He called for backup and cleared the area before the bomb went off. While one person died from the bombing, Jewell’s actions saved more than a hundred lives. The FBI quickly suspected Jewell of being the pipe-bomber though, and they made his life hell for years as they kept him in some kind of investigative limbo, even after they knew that Eric Rudolph was the bomber.

Clint Eastwood has made a film about Richard Jewell, and the trailers look kind of awful. I fully believe that the FBI mishandled the case and mistreated Jewell and I’ve always felt bad for the guy, but Eastwood has made Jewell out to be the most bumbling guy, I guess to tug at our heartstrings even more or to make Jewell out to be even more “innocent”. And those aren’t the only liberties Clint Eastwood took. He also smeared a deceased female journalist named Kathy Scruggs. Scruggs worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and she broke the story that the FBI was investigating Jewell as the bomber. In Eastwood’s film, they have Scruggs sleeping with an FBI agent to get that information.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is asking Warner Bros. and the makers of “Richard Jewell” to release a statement acknowledging it took dramatic license when it portrayed journalist Kathy Scruggs as trading sex for tips.

The Clint Eastwood film looks at the media circus that broke out around Jewell, a security guard who came under suspicion for orchestrating the Centennial Olympic Park bombing before being exonerated. Scruggs, an employee at the paper, broke the story that Jewell was under investigation by the FBI. The film shows Scruggs, portrayed by Olivia Wilde, sleeping with an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) to get the story. Scruggs died in 2001 at the age of 42. The paper has maintained that there is no evidence that Scruggs slept with anyone involved in the Jewell investigation.

“We hereby demand that you immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters,” the letter, sent to Warner Bros., Eastwood, and screenwriter Billy Ray, reads. “We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect.”

The paper has tapped Martin Singer, a Hollywood attorney whose clients have included John Travolta and Brett Ratner, to plead its case. Singer is known for his pit bull tactics.

[From Variety]

The laziness and misogyny of this is profound. It’s also insulting to the FBI – yes, they bungled the investigation, but it’s ridiculous to believe that an FBI agent would have given up close-hold information just because he was sexually manipulated by a female journalist. It’s far more likely that an FBI agent would speak to a journalist whom they respect and trust and “leak” some information about an investigation as a way to move the investigation forward. And female journalists are always accused of “sleeping with sources” as a way to get information. As if people don’t understand how journalism actually works.

Also, Olivia Wilde is taking heat for playing Scruggs. It would have been easy enough for her to explain playing Kathy Scruggs that way by saying “well, I just did what was in the script” and pass the buck to Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray. But Olivia claims that she did her own extensive research… and now Kathy Scruggs’ family is speaking out, saying Olivia never contacted them or Kathy’s closest friends. Kathy’s friends and family are boycotting the movie.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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79 Responses to “Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’ smears a deceased female journalist”

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  1. Darla says:

    Can Eastwood be any more of a disgusting pig? Really? Wilde is an idiot for not doing exactly what you say here, passing the blame. Claiming she researched her! Oh okay, and now her family and friends say you never talked to them so what research did you do, idiot? She has always struck me an idiot. So you have an idiot and an old, conservative pig. This is the result.

    I am very curious about the journalist and why she died so young. 41 my god!

  2. Jess says:

    I saw this last night. It’s so awful what they’re doing to this woman and I don’t understand why Wilde is leading the charge like this. But I have canceled Clint. Everyone thinks Hollywood is so liberal but his movies show how much right wing propaganda it actually puts out. I think his early movies are classic examples of toxic masculinity and the myth of a “good guy with a gun.” And he’s done the racist with a heart of gold and now “fake news” movies as he gets older. And where there stories about what he did to Sandra Locke? Ugh. So over.

    • Ravensdaughter says:

      Whatever Western he did with Sandra Locke-I think it was “The Outlaw Josey Wales”-had a pretty graphic rape scene with her in it. I wasn’t even a teenager then, so I don’t remember why I saw it; what I do remember is the rape scene definitely disturbed me.
      What did he do to her? I know she passed away last year…

      • Redgrl says:

        @ravensdaighter -yes I agree. He treated Sondra Locke‘s characters terribly in his movies, and he treated her worse in real life. They were in a relationship and as I recall reading at the time he was abusive, forced her to have an abortion and then essentially blackballed her from Hollywood after they broke up. Women in his movies are generally sex objects – there to be beaten up slapped insulted and then saved by him or they are shrill hateful “ball busters” who Also get slapped around or raped under the guise of “deserving it”. He’s got some deep-seated issues with women, always has and I can’t stand his movies.

      • Jerusha says:

        I read those two links and found this part striking:
        “In early October 1975, the pair fell hard for each other on location in Page, Arizona. “We were almost living together from the very first days of the film,” Locke remembered. Besotted Clint confided he’d never been in love before and wrote a poem for his new girlfriend: “She made me monogamous.” This serially philandering megastar was 14 years her senior and a foot taller than she.”

        At that point he’d been married to his first wife since 1953 and they had two children. They didn’t divorce until 1984. What an ass.

    • Jamie says:

      Definitely. A movie that smears the FBI and journalists is straight up MAGA b*llsh*t.

      • Minnie says:

        Because the FBI and journalists have always been perfectly proper. They screwed up big time in this case and not calling them out for it just because you don’t want to seem like you love Trump is absurd. Also, it’s not smearing when it’s true (and I say this as a journalist who works in the media)

      • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

        Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum and of course messages are deliberately timed to reflect/impact the current environment. I would think a journalist would recognize and follow this closely, to better inform their reporting. Besides, it sounds like there are a number of problematic messages in this film besides criticizing the FBI and fourth estate. In fact, the other commenters have made a pretty good argument that many of his films have issues.

  3. Starkille says:

    Wilde has always struck me as a smug airhead who thinks she’s a lot smarter than she actually is, so this doesn’t surprise me. Eastwood is an elderly bellend way past his prime but because he’s a “legend” (legendary for what exactly, squinting his way through A series of films glorifying misogyny and toxic masculinity?), He could film himself farting for two hours and critics would praise it.

  4. Jerusha says:

    Last week I rewatched two of my favorite crusading journalist movies-All the President’s Men and Spotlight. The dogged, digging for evidence journos were the heroes. Their persistence and exposure of the truth helped bring down a crooked presidency and bring to light the Church’s protection of pedophile priests. This film wants to smear the “fake news” press, to further trump’s agenda. The MAGAt sheep should eat it up.

    • savu says:

      Yep, I’m a tv journalist and it’s so disturbing. The way people talk to us, the way people literally don’t think we’re human… it’s insane. I’ve reported in bad neighborhoods, at crime scenes, and a Trump rally was where I felt most unsafe doing my job. That has nothing to do with my personal beliefs or feelings about the guy – it’s just a fact.

    • Lightpurple says:

      All the President’s Men is a great film with the added joy of the in his prime beauty of Robert Redford

  5. kerwood says:

    Well, of course he smears a dead woman who DARED to be a journalist. This is the man who had an argument with an empty chair.

    Believe it or not, there was a time when Eastwood was considered ‘liberal’ for a conservative. He had fairly progressive views around the time he was married to a Black woman.

    As for screwing around, Eastwood is the LAST person to throw any shade. I’ve lost track of how many ‘baby mamas’ he has.

    I’m not going to hate on Olivia Wilde for taking the gig or playing the part the way the script and her director told her to because that’s her job as an actor. I will give her the side eye for NOT throwing Eastwood under the bus because we know he’d do it to her in a heartbeat.

    • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

      Thank you! I kept trying to figure out a way to work the chair in somewhere. 😀

      I don’t have any issue with Olivia except wondering why on earth she claimed to have researched Scruggs.

  6. otaku fairy.... says:

    So sexist and disrespectful. Clint Eastwood has been garbage, and Olivia Wilde’s attempt to use feminism to justify this was pathetic. Unfortunately others have tried using feminism and similar excuses to treat women the same way.😫

  7. JanetFerber says:

    Clintwood is looking beyond past his time to be making movies (and to be alive, frankly). Why in the world? Misogynist and anti-government (Trump hates the FBI because it’s impartial and won’t swear loyalty to him personally). Crap movie.

  8. Lala11_7 says:

    I got off the Clint Eastwood train…DECADES AGO…when I saw what went down between him and his ex Sandra Locke…and artistically, he has NEVA showcased a reason for me to get back on….

  9. Lightpurple says:

    Haven’t seen the film yet but does anyone know how it handles Eric Rudolph, the actual bomber whose murderous attack was part of his war on abortion?

    • Scal says:

      THIS. Does the movie talk about the alt-right anti abortion person that actually committed the crime? And who hid out in NC for years protected by his community?

      No? No it’s just about the evil media and FBI. Okay Clint. Have all the seats 🙄

  10. stormsmama says:

    I am not going to jump all over Olivia. She may have taken this job to help finance one of HER projects. Booksmart was awesome but didn’t make much money.
    She shouldn’t bare the brunt of his misogyny and lies. Of course it would be amazing if she came out and said I was wrong and Im humbled by my own ignorance…But once again we hold women to a higher standard on both fronts and I refuse to thro her under the bus. She is moving the needle for women director and female actors…

    • megs283 says:

      Same. The blame lies with Eastwood.

    • MC2 says:

      I agree that Olivia should not hold the brunt of this, but she should never have said that she researched the person, and thus insinuating that sleeping with someone for a scoop was in line with her personality, when she did not.

      • Mo says:

        I think some of the issue is different meanings of the word “research.” Normal world research is going out, on your own, and hunting down the truth of something. Hollywood (and to be honest, too much of creative/tech world) research actually reading the “research material” that has been gathered for you by the production office. So yes, she did do research, however it was undoubtedly entirely from a binder/books or electronic file(s) put together by someone at the film production company.

  11. Hhmph says:

    The thing that makes this even more of a bummer is Olivias own mother is a well respected reporter, she should know better.

  12. JRenee says:

    Kaiser stated, she could have laid the blame on Eastwood but she decided to claim she thoroughly researched the role, therefore she owns her statements and actions in part.
    He’s showing who he is as he has for years. I don’t need to see this film.

  13. SamC says:

    I lived in Atlanta during the ‘96 Olympics, was a volunteer and was at Centennial Park, like thousands of others, the night of the bombing. Up to that point it was such an amazing, joyous, uplifting once in a lifetime experience.

    Initially when law enforcement targeted Richard Jewell he seemed to fit a profile. From what I remember he was cleared fairly quickly but that was kept quiet for quite some time and any accolades he eventually received for being a hero never counterbalanced the suspect narrative. For years after he was ridiculed and the target of jokes, but from what I remember when they did the periodic “where is he now” interviews he never seemed to be bitter. His life wasn’t easy, even after he was cleared, but he came across as a kind, gentle man who was proud of who he was. Felt sad when he died, was fairly young.

  14. savu says:

    I’m a broadcast journalist and this is the trope we run into all. The. Time. It’s ridiculous. We already have issues with the way people speak to us from the public, and this idea has made it worse for the people we talk to for work (often alone). And this shouldn’t be hard or a lot to ask – just say you made it up for the movie!

    • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

      I’m so sorry for the absolute filth, abuse, mistreatment, and outright danger you’ve had to face in the last few years. Thank you for your courage and your sense of duty. What you do is vital to our republic.

  15. Earthbound says:

    Clint Eastwood personifies toxic masculinity at its finest so, color me unsurprised. Back in the day his “cool” antihero type character in “High Plains Drifter” literally rapes a woman to put her in her place. He directed it too so. Yah. That’s how he thinks. Or use to think. That cool dudes rape.

    I know he has a good enlightened side and everything but as far as women goes, he isn’t one of those guys who in his latter years starts realizing misogyny exists or that he was ever complicit in it.

  16. Jwriter says:

    She also didn’t do ‘a lot of research’ like she is claiming. The reporter who’s byline she shared on this story was never contacted. The reporter’s brother, colleagues, and friends were never contacted. Wilde is being deservedly criticized for engaging in a tired trope and then gaslighting the critics about it

  17. msd says:

    Marty Singer?! Bloody hell. The way they’ve portrayed a dead journalist who can’t defend herself is awful and sexist but throwing big money at a notoriously awful and sexist lawyer to fight it is not cool. Singer defended Bill Cosby by attacking victims, ditto Danny Masterson. He is a bullying, misogynistic, amoral scumbag of the highest order.

    The Jewell movie is probably a dead duck awards-wise, btw. The Globes love sucking up to stars and it was basically shut out.

    Wilde just sounds stupid.

  18. Lindy says:

    Eastwood is the paradigm of toxic white masculinity. Why is he still allowed to make these revisionist history movies? He’s a jingoistic piece of garbage.

  19. Lala11_7 says:

    I prefer the other Olivia….

  20. Bookworm says:

    The movie is about Richard Jewell and how the press got his name, ran with it, and ruined his life. She had a large part in that, just to get the “story”.

    People are flawed.

  21. Erin says:

    She was a journalist. It is not necessary to describe Ms Scruggs as a “female journalist.” We not describe Mr. Jewell as the “male accused.”

    • ME says:

      It’s the same thing with any news story. If it’s a woman it’ll usually be “mom of 4 arrested”. If it’s a father of four it’s usually “man arrested”. It’s sexist and dumb. The news is notorious for doing this.

      • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

        Yes, but this one works in our favor, so I’m not going to complain about it. 😉 ‘Mother of four’ is sympathetic and should predispose the jury pool in her favor (as long as it’s not mitigated by other coded words, such as ‘single,’ ‘young, ‘(insert reference to a lower socioeconomic situation).’ But just ‘mother of four’ on it’s own- you feel concern and likely pity.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Typically, I agree, but in this case, I think the gender dynamics are significant to the story. Male reporters aren’t subject to this stereotype, after all.

  22. Lisabella says:

    Clint needs to go far, far away…

  23. ME says:

    That is so messed up.

  24. Minnie says:

    The AJC had a big hand in what happened to Jewell, they were super unethical and unprofessional in their reporting. I understand the outrage, but this story didn’t come out of nowhere and also it’s not even explicit in the movie. I wish Eastwood and Co had the good sense to change the name of the character, especially considering Kathy Scruggs died a long time ago, but the AJC is just trying to pump a scandal to distract from the fact they were trash and they deserve the heat they get.

  25. A Guest says:

    As someone who’s lived here a long time, no one, with the exception of the journalist’s family, needs to pick this hill to die on.

    This investigation and media reporting was a perfect storm of bullshit aided by city leaders and the Olympic committee desperate not to have the city shown in a bad light.

    ETA – and no Jewell was not cleared quickly and until Rudolph was caught and confessed, many including law enforcement, still thought he had something to do with it.

  26. Middle of the road says:

    I get the whole part about her sleeping with someone for info is wrong and it is. It’s a lawsuit honestly it makes her out to be a floozy, but we can’t hide behind the fact that she ruined a man’s life because she was so set on a story where the cost didn’t matter. From what I read from someone’s link earlier it seemed the guilt and stress from that case cost her her life. She also didn’t seem as innocent as you’re making her out to be. She would do anything to get a story and anything usually means just that, anything.

    • Marigold says:

      Thank you.

    • NOTus says:


      She was a bad journalist and a low human being. Maybe the sleeping part is made up, but quite frankly.. I don’t care. She put false details about someone without any care into the world, now apparently there are false information about her life out there. The irony is strong here. I simply can not bring myself feel sorry for her. Women or not. If anything I feel for her friends and family.

      I have not seen many of Clint’s movies and I disagree with his politics, but he is one fine filmmaker from the few movies (Sully !!) I have seen. I am looking forward to seeing this movie.

      • Jwriter says:

        What a disgusting comment.

        She didn’t ruin a man’s life by making up salacious details to get the story. She reported the FBI considered him a suspect, WHICH THEY DID. What she reported was FACTUALLY CORRECT.

        She was a respected, hard-nosed reporter, her job was her life. How pathetic that we ‘don’t care’ about this tired, misogynistic trope being used on her.

        How hard would it be for Olivia Wilde, WB, etc to say she didn’t sleep with her source for info? How hard??

        Because then one might ask, why imply it? And the only answer is it’s a tired trope our writer and director relied on. That’s it. No basis in the truth.

  27. Jaded says:

    He is a monster. Period. I left the room the other night when Mr. Jaded was watching one of his early spaghetti westerns, I can’t tolerate the man. I’m posting a link to an excellent article on him called “Clint: The Man With No Shame” and it’s shocking how horrible he is.

  28. TJ says:

    Don’t want to play devil’s advocate but Scruggs & AJC DID ruined Jewell’s life with a completely fabricated story. Everybody really want to champion those folks? The AJC doesn’t do itself much of a favor threating WB for incorrect portray of some of theri ex workers either because of that.

    Also Wilde said that in her interpretation it was the charcter’s choice to sleep with the FBI agent, played by an ugly (sad no one ever) Jon Hamm. Her body, her choice. I taught that is a feministic thing, non? (Also it could totally happened…)

    One more thing. I rarely see a man taking heat playing a charcter with a quastionable moral choice. So why everybody is after Wilde on twitter? And not after the screenwriter, Bilyl Ray or Eastwood? Nobody is after them but Olivia (who is otherwise a great filmmake, who did a lot for feminism in the past – starting with Booksmart.). Seems strange…

    • D says:

      No, it wasn’t the “character’s choice”. Movie characters can’t make choices. It was the choice of the creators of the movie to portray a character in this way. They wanted this character to do this, so she was written that way.

      When we see a movie where the female character is running around half-naked, it’s not because “the character chose to run around a post-apocalyptic wasteland in 4-inch heels and with her boobs hanging out! Her body, her choice!” It’s because the creative team behind the movie made the deliberate decision to depict the character that way. They chose it.

      And the rest of us can criticize the creative decisions/choices made by the director, writer, etc. & be suspicious of their motives, especially when they’re known to be misogynists.

  29. Carina says:

    The MAGA crowd will love this movie. Eastwood is all about making this story about vilifying the press and journalists as liars and FAKE NEWS!!! and the FBI, the govt, the DEEP STATE!!! It’s a collage of dog whistles. It’s everything they want.

    • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

      Yes, there’s been a rash of low budget movies like this- now they finally have a big name one.

  30. Minnie says:

    I’m surprised by some of the comments, and it makes me think of When They See Us came out. Everyone (rightly) criticized then the investigation, the press and the prosecutors (including a woman who was portrayed with a very unethical behavior without any concrete evidence that it happened that way) for destroying the lives of people that hadn’t committed the crime they were accused of. Richard Jewell was also a victim of smearing by the press and unfair targeting by police, and instead of being outraged at what he had to go through, we are discussing whether a reporter got a scoop by sleeping with a source or not. I get that her family and friends are upset by it, I get that the AJC is trying to divert the attention on their own horrible acts at the time, but why are we as an audience more focused on this than the man who got actually smeared? Is it just because it’s Clint Eastwood? Would we be equally upset if it had been a male reporter portrayed as doing unethical things to get information? Or is it just that we are throwing around opinions without even watching the movie (or reading about the case) first?

    • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

      Because over the years we’ve come to know Clint Eastwood and his predilections. He is not so much making a movie to rehabilitate Jewell but rather using his story as a shell for a very MAGA dog-whistle message. Given the political scene, you should be able to see the general trend of what he’s hoping to accomplish.

  31. M.A.F. says:

    This film just reeks of propaganda but what the aim is for I don’t know. I guess the MAGA crowd?

    • Jane'sWastedTalent says:

      The oblivious crowd. To familiarize them with this line of propaganda, so upon repetition it becomes more convincing.

  32. sammiches says:

    I’m surprised at and disappointed with Olivia Wilde. She’s always seemed way more socially conscious and smarter than this. Sigh.

  33. TheOriginalMia says:

    Native Atlantan. Scruggs, the FBI and the AJC ruined this man’s life. Who knows if he wouldn’t be alive today if not for the years of unrelenting scrutiny and false allegations.

    Saw a segment last week on Kathy. In it her friends admitted she was relentless, a hard drinker and partier. She became friends with law enforcement and they provided her with scoops. She & the AJC were let off the hook in the lawsuit by a technicality but in the court of public opinion they were as guilty as Jewell was innocent. To this day, that’s the prevailing opinion of most natives.

  34. Dorothy says:

    Derp, Olivia. Obvs didn’t talk to fam of journalist nor her journalist fam. So I’d like to see references from her “research”, if she did its easy enough to prove and share with others. We have to in the professional world as a requirement so why shouldn’t she, if she’s referencing it-reference it. Ok my horse is dead