On Sunday night, CNN will be airing the small screen premiere of the controversial 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, which centers on college campus rapes and their ensuing investigations. But it may not be solely in the network’s best interest to air it, as it will likely draw the legal ire of current NFL quarterback Jameis Winston, who is threatening to go to court over the issue. It’s a touchy situation to say the least.
Why would Winston be so adamant against having this documentary shown on TV? Well, you might recall back in 2013, a month before he won the Heisman Trophy as quarter back of the Florida State Seminoles, Winston was being investigated over rape allegations given by Erica Kinsman. He was never charged with the case, but there was still something of a public backlash concerning how much of the investigation was swayed by the university trying to save their star player. Winston is namechecked and his case is part of the focus of The Hunting Ground, and the doc isn’t exactly a pillar of objectivity on the matter.
According to THR, Winston’s attorney sent a letter to CNN’s Jeff Zucker that said the following:
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…If CNN decides to proceed with this broadcast, we will perhaps have the opportunity to test that legal proposition in a court of law.
The letter further states that the film ignores a lot of the evidence that went in Winston’s favor, including results of toxicology tests, witness testimonies and medical exams.
Considering the documentary wasn’t actually made by CNN – it was produced by Chain Camera Pictures and directed by This Film is Not Yet Rated helmer Kirby Dick – it’s not entirely clear what the news network’s move should be. It’s not like this is a Loose Change-type conspiracy-driven flick; it premiered at Sundance earlier this year to positive reviews, although it has amassed a sizeable number of naysayers who have called into question the film’s ethics.
I can’t imagine CNN, a network that has been around for 14 years longer than Winston has been alive, will balk too heavily at the threat of legal action for airing The Hunting Ground. Its legal team is presumably large and powerful. But maybe avoiding more controversy would be in its best interests. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
The Hunting Ground is scheduled to air on CNN on Sunday, November 22, at 8:00 p.m. ET.