NFL star Jameis Winston is threatening to sue CNN if the network goes ahead with its airing of "The Hunting Ground," a controversial documentary about campus sexual assault.
"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," a letter from Wintson's attorney John Boudet to Jeff Zucker and obtained by the Hollywood Reporter states. "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."
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 13: Quarterback Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws the ball in pregame warmups prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images)
In his letter, Boudet alleges that the film "manipulates, misstates or simply omits facts to present a false narrative."
Winston, currently the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was accused of rape by Erica Kinsman while he was a student at Florida State University. Both FSU and the Tallahassee Police Department received heavy criticism for the way officers handled their investigation into the alleged incident. Ultimately, neither department took action against Winston.
Kinsman and Winston are embattled in an ongoing legal battle. According to the Hollywood Reporter, while she is suing him for sexual battery, Winston is countering that she tarnished his image.
"The Hunting Ground" features Kinsman coming forward and speaking about her alleged rape and the following investigations.
TALLAHASSEE, FL - DECEMBER 2: Florida State Seminoles quaterback Jameis Winston leaves his student conduct code hearing on December 2, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images)
"The Hunting Ground," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, itself isn't without its own controversies. Writing for Slate, Emily Yoffe accused the the film of "putting advocacy before accuracy." And in truth, filmmaker Kirby Dick said in a an interview in March that he sees himself as "both an activist and filmmaker."
Boudet also accuses producer Amy Herdy as admitting in an email that "The Hunting Ground" is "in the corner of advocacy for victims" with "no need to get the perpetrator's side" in his email to CNN.
"It is inexcusable for a network as respected as CNN to pretend that the film is a documentary rather than an advocacy piece. Yet with its co-production and airing of it, CNN is putting its imprimatur on a film that falls far short of the basic reporting standards we expect from a cable TV news outlet that calls itself 'the most trusted name in news,'" FSU President John Thrasher said in a statement, citing the now-retracted article from Rolling Stones on campus rape
The news network has plans to host a roundtable discussion on campus sexual assault following the airing of the documentary on Sunday, something Thrasher said he declined to participate in.
"We are confident that both the film and our extensive associated coverage give this important issue the full and fair treatment it deserves," a spokeswoman for the network told the Hollywood Reporter.
Read Boudet's letter to CNN, obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, below.