More than twenty years before the students of Covington Catholic high school were branded as racist by much of the mainstream media for the high "crime" of merely standing in place while a leftist activist beat a drum in their vicinity there was another prominent victim of fake news. His name was Richard Jewell. He was the security guard who saved many lives during the 1996 Summer Olympics when he discovered a backpack filled with three pipe bombs at Centennial Olympic Park.
Jewell was rightfully hailed as a hero until a few days later when it was reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the FBI was treating him as a suspect due to their suspicion that he fit a "lone bomber" criminal profile. Over the next few weeks, other news outlets continued painting Jewell as a probable criminal. Tom Brokaw, anchor of NBC Nightly News at the time, even stated that, "The speculation is that the FBI is close to making the case. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case."
And the biggest hole in the case was that it turned out that Eric Rudolph, not Richard Jewell, was the bomber although for weeks he was portrayed that way by much of the media. Fortunately, with the release of a new film in December directed by Clint Eastwood, the public can now be reminded of how the fake news media almost destroyed Jewell.
The trailer below provides a brief look at the hell Jewell had to endure at the hands of the FBI and much of the news media.
A December 1996 Atlanta magazine article by Scott Freeman recalled some of the media feeding frenzy based on the assumption of Jewell's guilt at the time:
“Richard Jewell, 33, a former law enforcement officer, fits the profile of the lone bomber,” wrote Kathy Scruggs and Ron Martz in the second paragraph of a story in an “Extra” edition of The Atlanta Journal on July 30, 1996. “This profile generally includes a frustrated white man who is a former police officer, member of the military or police ‘wanna-be’ who seeks to become a hero.
Weeks after the smears upon Jewell in the media, the possibility of his innocence began to dawn upon people.
“I think the media’s performance has been downright embarrassing,” says Howard Kurtz, a media critic for The Washington Post. “Every news organization in the country has contributed to ruining this guy’s life without the faintest idea of whether he’s guilty or innocent.”
It will be interesting to see how much the "Richard Jewell" film focuses on the fake news aspect of the story and how the mainstream media covers this. Perhaps they will treat the film in much the same way as CNN-- which was one of the news outlets sued by Jewell and which covered the trailer release briefly-- with no mention of their part in that fake news incident.