A pro-gun group in Virginia is weighing its options after a federal judge in Richmond dismissed its defamation lawsuit against Katie Couric.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League sued Couric in 2016, claiming her documentary “Under the Gun” defamed the group by making VCDL leaders appear “speechless” during an interview. Please see our previous coverage of the matter here.
The leaders argued that they did give a direct response to Couric’s question about background checks, but that an added eight-second pause made them look stumped.
Couric, the film’s executive producer, and narrator conducted the interview. The lawsuit also named the film’s director, its production company, and the parent company of Epix, the cable channel that aired it. The lawsuit sought compensatory and punitive damages totaling $12,350,000.
But on May 31, U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. ruled that “the film is not false or defamatory,” and granted Couric’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
“A lot of people have been shocked by the ruling, including the VCDL Board of Directors,” the officials said on the VCDL Facebook page. “The outrage, as seen in reader comments in the various news stories below, is quite palpable.”
The officials said the group could drop the case and let the ruling stand, or appeal it to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Couric has said the “pause” was intended to show “dramatic effect,” but agreed that it ultimately misrepresented the group.
“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,” Couric wrote in a statement.
She also wrote, “I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).”
In the lawsuit, the VCDL claims the consequences of making them appear stumped by questioning hurt their credibility to represent pro-gun platforms.
Board members also claimed they were harmed individually as professionals in gun-related businesses or services. But the judge disagreed.
Gibney wrote in his opinion that while the VCDL members did respond to Couric, they only “offered views on gun control” and did not directly answer the question about background checks.
He added that, “not having an answer to a question on a difficult and complex issue is not defamatory.”
The VCDL urged its social media followers to “stay tuned!”
“IT’S NOT OVER,” they said. “As soon as the VCDL Board gets some additional information from our attorneys, the Board will meet and make a final decision,” the officials said. “You will be notified as to that decision immediately thereafter.” —By Bill Miller, U.S. Law Shield contributor