Erik Wemple on the misleading edit of gun rights supporters in new Katie Couric documentary


Chiappa Firearms pistols are displayed at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on May 21 in Louisville. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Erik Wemple, here at The Post, comments on the misleading editing of gun rights supporters in "Under the Gun." Here's an excerpt, though you should read the whole thing:

It looks as though Katie Couric stunned her interviewees. Knocked them out with a bombshell inquiry: "Let me ask you another question: If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?" Now check out the blank stares:

Nearly 10 seconds of silence, as if no one has an answer to Couric's rather straightforward question. The scene comes from "Under the Gun," a film written, produced and directed by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Couric, the global anchor for Yahoo News; Couric also serves as executive producer. The session depicted in the video above features Couric and members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a group whose motto is "Defending Your Right to Defend Yourself."

And to hear the VCDL tell the story, those awkward seconds are a fabrication, a byproduct of deceptive editing. To prove the point, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave has released an audiotape of the session, which is available on the site of the Washington Free Beacon as part of a story by Stephen Gutowski. In that recording, the question from Couric is a bit different from the one in the video. She says, "If there are no background checks, how do you prevent—I know how you all are going to answer this, but I'm going to ask it anyway. If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from walking into, say, a licensed gun dealer and purchasing a gun?"

On the audiotape, a reply comes immediately from one of the VCDL members: "Well, one—if you're not in jail, you should still have your basic rights." More chatter follows….

Wemple quotes a statement from the film's writer/producer/director Stephanie Soechtig:

There are a wide range of views expressed in the film. 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.

Wemple's reaction (using the editorial "we"):

In the years we've covered and watched media organizations, we've scarcely seen a thinner, more weaselly excuse than the one in the block above. For starters, it appears to count as an admission that this segment of the documentary was edited. The artistic "pause" provides the viewer not a "moment to consider this important question"; it provides viewers a moment to lower their estimation of gun owners. That's it.

UPDATE: Funny video response from Reason: