Tom Brokaw Apologizes for Inaccurate Richard Jewell Reporting in 1996

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Following the release of Clint Eastwood-directed movie “Richard Jewell,” former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw apologized for inaccurate reporting about security guard Richard Jewell and the aftermath of the 1996 Atlanta bombing.

Brokaw was one of the journalists who reported that Jewell was a suspect in the case at the time.

He wrote on Twitter: “re richard jewell. 24 hours after the bombing i talked at length with a [senior FBI] official—who did not wave me off jewel as a suspect. 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 (sic).”

Jewell’s story was made into a movie by Eastwood in 2019. The former security guard began evacuating people from Centennial Olympic Park during the Atlanta Olympics after he saw the bomb. Media outlets later reported that he was a primary suspect in the incident, but he was declared innocent after months of speculation.

Eric Robert Rudolph pleaded guilty to the bombing in 2005. He’s serving life in prison for it and other bombing attacks.

Jewell later sued several news outlets for defamation and won settlements.

Brokaw added in another Twitter post, writing, “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 (sic).”

As reported by the Guardian in 2016, Brokaw had reported in 1996 that the FBI was close to coming up with a case against Jewell.

Watson Bryant Jr., Nadya Bryant, Barbara “Bobi” Jewell, Clint Eastwood, David Ralston, Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, Sam Rockwell and Jon Hamm onstage during “Richard Jewell” Atlanta screening at Rialto Center for the Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, on Dec. 10, 2019. (Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Warner Bros)

“The speculation is that the FBI is close to ‘making the case,’ in their language. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case,” Brokaw said at the time, according to the report.

The first media outlet to report on the claim was the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which said Jewell was considered a suspect. CNN followed minutes later, and Brokaw wasn’t far behind.

Reporter Bob Costas, who had defended Jewell’s right to due process, told The Associated Press in 1997 that NBC News paid Jewell $500,000 after he filed a lawsuit. The news outlet, however, didn’t issue a retraction as part of the settlement.

Costas said that Jewell had thanked him for publicly defending him.

“He said, ‘I’d like to tell you that I and especially my mother appreciate what you did,’″ Costas said more than 20 years ago.

Jewell died in 2007 after suffering from diabetes.


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