Jameis Winston threatens to sue CNN if it airs 'The Hunting Ground' documentary

BY foxsports • November 20, 2015

CNN is scheduled to air the documentary "The Hunting Ground" on Sunday (Nov. 22) at 8 p.m. ET. But a lawyer for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is threatening to file legal action if the film runs on the network.

The Hollywood Reporter obtained a copy of a letter from attorney John Boudet sent to CNN president Jeff Zucker and the network’s general counsel. The first paragraph reads as follows:

“We are writing to formally caution CNN that the portions of the film ‘The Hunting Ground’ pertaining to Mr. Winston are false and defamatory to Mr. Winston. We urge CNN to reconsider the reckless decision to proceed with the broadcast of this deeply-flawed documentary in the face of the overwhelming evidence the film’s producers consciously and intentionally failed to adhere to any accepted journalistic standards. The filmmakers’ complete disregard for journalistic standards of fairness, objectivity and accuracy has, predictably, resulted in a film that, at least with respect to Mr. Winston is inaccurate, false, misleading and defamatory.”

You can read the complete letter at THR, along with an email from a producer on the film that states the project “is very much in the corner of advocacy for victims.”

While most of the film centers on a pair of University of North Carolina students, a section does focus on Winston and the accusation of sexual assault against him in 2013. Neither the Tallahassee Police Department nor Florida State University took any action toward Winston, and several reports said both institutions attempted to hinder the investigation. The alleged victim, Erica Kinsman, speaks publicly about the case for the first time in the documentary. Both Winston and Kinsman are currently suing each other in court.

Kinsman's attorney, John Clune, released a statement on Saturday.

"Mr. Winston is apparently in the midst of another PR battle this week due to the release of `The Hunting Ground' on Sunday," Clune said. "When your lawyers' letters written on Friday are somehow getting printed in the media on Saturday, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on. His latest attack is an attempt to revive his lawyers' media themes and, as expected, shows no understanding of rape trauma and misrepresents the actual evidence. More importantly, Mr. Winston should get used to the rape allegations against him because film or no film, they aren't going away."

As you might expect, FSU has also criticized the film, comparing it to the Rolling Stone story on a University of Virginia fraternity rape case that had to be retracted, and asked CNN not to follow through with its broadcast.

"The Hunting Ground" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, subsequently receiving a limited theatrical release on Feb. 27, and has already generated controversy for charges of inaccuracy. Slate’s Emily Yoffe questioned the testimony of the victim in one of the cases featured, saying it doesn’t prove what’s alleged in the film. Additionally, The Harvard Crimson said that the documentary misrepresents campus sexual assault statistics, while a clip taken from a prank YouTube video is presented as factual.

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