NBC veteran anchor Tom Brokaw offered a Christmas mea culpa over his network's coverage from more than 20 years ago of the late heroic security guard Richard Jewell.
In recent weeks, the release of Clint Eastwood's film "Richard Jewell" has revived discussion of the events that surround the 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Ga., where Jewell -- who spotted the suspicious bag and was credited with saving countless lives -- was quickly named as a suspect of the attack by several media outlets at the time, one of them being NBC News. In fact, archival footage of Brokaw's reporting appears in the Eastwood drama.
Twenty-three years later, Brokaw expressed regret over his handling of the Jewell story.
"re Richard Jewell. 24 hours after the bombing I talked at length with a [senior] FBI official - who did not wave me off [Jewell] as a suspect," Brokaw tweeted Wednesday. "I reported that and speculated why. but my last line was for now he’s just a person of interest. When the truth emerged I apologized."
He continued: "NBC made a substantial $ payment to the family without going through contentious negotiation. Richard and his mother went through a painful time which I deeply regret. I hope we all learned a lesson, including the FBI which was my principal source."
The film has been at the center of controversy over its depiction of Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reporter Kathy Scruggs, since it is suggested in the dramatized retelling of events that she slept with an FBI agent in order to get the scoop on Jewell being a suspect.
AJC's legal team sent a six-page letter to Warner Bros. and Eastwood threatening a defamation lawsuit for its depiction of Scruggs, who died in 2001, and demanding the filmmakers acknowledge the "dramatization."
"We hereby demand that you immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters," the legal team said. "We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect."
Warner Bros. slammed AJC's "baseless" claims, accusing the paper of "trying to malign our filmmakers and cast."
"The film is based on a wide range of highly credible source material. There is no disputing that Richard Jewell was an innocent man whose reputation and life were shredded by a miscarriage of justice," Warner Bros. told Fox News. "It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast."
"'Richard Jewell' focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name," the company added. "The AJC's claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend against them."