Director Stephanie Soechtig is fighting back against allegations of deceptive editing in her two most recent documentaries, both of which were executive produced by Katie Couric.
Soechtig challenged an accusation made this week that her 2014 documentary “Fed Up” omitted relevant interview footage in its portrayal of obesity researcher and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor David Allison. Allison told the Washington Free Beacon that the documentary showed him stumbling over his words and saying he wanted to re-phrase an answer to a question, only to cut away from the interview and not include his response.
In an interview with IndieWire, Soechtig asserted that Allison had already dodged the question Couric had put to him about whether calories from sugary drinks contribute to U.S. obesity more than other calories multiple times, and that the response he gave that was left out of the film was another non-answer from their exchange.
“We did nothing wrong,” Soechtig said.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s media relations department told IndieWire in a statement that it did not have a transcript of the interview and couldn’t give the verbatim response Allison provided, but could offer a response to a question which is similar to what Allison said in the interview. “The question is, what would be the ideal science behind showing that calories taken in in the form of sugary beverages contribute more to obesity than do equivalent calories taken in in other forms?” Allison said in the statement. “One way to address this would be to randomly assign some people to consume calories in the form of sugary beverages and other people to consume them in solid form and see if one group gained more weight over time than another. This has been done in one study of 15 subjects followed for 8 weeks. The authors found that ‘there was no difference between the change in body weight in the two conditions.'”
Allison has previously self-disclosed financial ties to the American Beverage Association and Coca-Cola, and in 2011 declined to be interviewed for an ABC News investigative piece entitled “Is Big Food’s Big Money Influencing the Science of Nutrition?” The piece accused Allison of being part of an effort by corporations to influence scientists by funding their research and paying them handsome fees for speaking engagements and consulting services.
Allison’s complaint about the editing of “Fed Up” came roughly two weeks after Couric came under attack for editing decisions in the 2016 gun law documentary she executive produced, “Under the Gun,” also directed by Soechtig. In the film, Couric asks members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League about whether any gun purchases should require background checks. After a long pause, the film cuts away to another scene in the documentary.
Again, Soechtig said that the answer to Couric’s question that was immediately given–with no pause–but omitted in the film was “redundant” with responses that had already been included. “Their views were expressed repeatedly throughout the film, so we’d already established how they feel about background checks, and for that reason I didn’t feel like we were misrepresenting them,” Soechtig said.
Couric issued a statement on May 30 saying, “I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.” Soechtig said people were using Couric as a scapegoat. “I’m the director of both of these films and I make the final decision about what is and what is not in the final cut,” Soechtig said. “It was my decision and I stand by it.”
What’s Soechtig’s response to claims “Under the Gun” intentionally tried to make members of the VCDL look bad?
“The VCDL is a group of extremists who think that domestic abusers should have guns and that guns should be allowed in schools and bars,” she said. “If I wanted to make them look bad I would have only focused on this radical ideology, but I wanted to advance the conversation and give them an opportunity to explain their beliefs.”
Soechtig added that the outcry over editing in “Under the Gun” reflects the concern on the part of the NRA and related special interest groups that the success of “Fed Up” in altering Americans’ views on obesity might lead to a similar consensus about the need to enforce and extend background checks for guns.
“There are forces in this country that are going to attack any woman who stands up to them and says ‘Unfettered access to guns is dangerous’ or ‘Corporate interests controlling our food supply is dangerous,’” she said. “There are special interest groups that have launched a campaign trying to smear my reputation but I really trust that people will see this for what it is.”