Jameis WInston's attorney is threatening to sue CNN for defamation if it airs The Hunting Ground, the documentary on campus rape that features Winston's accuser. The film is set to air on Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET.
In a letter to CNN, also apparently sent to several news outlets including the Hollywood Reporter which posted it in full, attorney John A. Boudet claims the film presents a one-sided narrative with no effort to investigate the truth fairly. He cites an e-mail by producer Amy Herdy to Winston's accuser's attorney, where Herdy notes that they "don't operate the same way as journalists -- the film project is very much in the corner of advocacy for victim's so there would be no need to get the perpetrator's side" as evidence of actual malice and the producers' "conscious disregard for the truth."
The film was initially greeted with a warm reception, with a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but questions regarding the film's factual accuracy and uncritical presentation of victims' stories have since come out. Others have noted that the criticism proves the film's point that whistleblowers and victims are "demonized and delegitimized."
Of course, proving libel of a public person like Winston requires a very, very high standard of proof. Suing not the creators but the network for airing it would likely make getting a positive judgment even more difficult. Given the fact that the letter was apparently leaked to several outlets, this looks more like a move to discredit the movie publicly -- like FSU president John Thrasher's statement, or the 19 Harvard Law professors denouncing the film.