Brown & Williamson's Response to 'The Insider'
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Nov. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation has released the following statement in response to the release of the film ``The Insider.''
Warning: Viewing This Movie
Will Be Hazard
``The Insider'' is another example of Hollywood's inability to separate fact from fiction. In what are referred to by the entertainment industry as ``docudramas'' - the dramatization of supposed real events -- the first casualties are always the truth and the reputations of individuals and corporations. Regrettably, ``The Insider'' is no exception.
The film clearly suggests that Brown & Williamson threatened former employee Jeffrey Wigand. We state here categorically that Brown & Williamson did not threaten Wigand or his family in any way. We did not send threatening messages, we did not have him tailed and we did not put a bullet in his mailbox as the film suggests.
Now a previously sealed FBI sworn affidavit uncovered late last month by the news media confirms this. The FBI and a federal judge concluded that there was probable cause to believe that Wigand himself placed the bullet in the mailbox along with a note threatening his children. The FBI sworn affidavit concludes that Wigand's official statement to the FBI detailing circumstances surrounding his supposed receipt of a death threat were ``untrue and misleading and in violation of federal law'' which makes it a crime to lie to federal investigators.
Brown & Williamson has sent copies of the FBI's sworn affidavit to Touchstone Films and its parent company, Disney. Several months ago, the company sent to the film's producers copies of Steven Brill's Content magazine which had reported that Wigand's wife said the threatening messages were ``total fiction.''
Neither the FBI's report, Mrs. Wigand's accounts, independent media reporting or our statements have seemed to make any difference in the portrayal in the film of alleged threats against Wigand. In fact, the Los Angeles Times has quoted the film's screenwriter, Eric Roth, as admitting that some scenes - including one where a man at a golf course at night appears to be tailing Wigand -- were invented. Roth said the scenes were invented to ``get into the psychology of terror.'' It's obvious that Wigand, CBS, and Disney all have invented the ``psychology of terror'' for their own purposes.
Disney and Touchstone try to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the many inaccuracies in the movie by using a disclaimer. Touchstone states, ``Although the film 'The Insider' is based on a true story, certain events depicted in the film have been fictionalized for dramatic effect.'' Disney also admits in a postscript at the end of the movie that there is some doubt about the accuracy of the death threats repeatedly used in the film for dramatic effect.
Such disclaimers are too little too late. No disclaimer can overcome the effect of such scenes on the audience, particularly where an actor of Al Pacino's stature asserts repeatedly ``he's telling the truth.'' The audience will ignore these disclaimers and be left with a false impression of what actually happened.
What Wigand Really Said Under Oath
The entire premise of the film - that former Brown & Williamson employee Jeffrey Wigand exposed unlawful conduct on the part of Brown & Williamson - is wrong. Wigand, under oath, told the U.S. Justice Department in 1994 that he was not aware of any criminal or fraudulent behavior by Brown & Williamson. He repeated this again under oath in 1996 and 1998.
In fact, the U.S. Justice Department dropped its criminal investigation against Brown & Williamson and the other tobacco companies -- and found no wrongdoing.
We provided Disney and its film production studio, Touchstone Films, with copies of these sworn depositions more than a year ago. They've ignored us ... and the facts.
We are accused in the film of smearing Wigand to undermine his credibility as a witness, but, the real question should be ``Who is smearing who?'' Wigand made serious allegations that most news media accepted at face value. We were trying to get the news media to look in to the credibility of the man and his allegations. He had been fired and was clearly disgruntled. In addition, he had a history of dishonesty. The FBI says he lied. When we finally got Wigand under oath, he retracted the allegations.
Brill's Content, which is one of the few media outlets that objectively dealt with Wigand's credibility, has this to say:
``In real life, Wigand is an elusive figure. His accounts of his own saga have twisted and turned over time. For example, Wigand has denied under oath virtually everything attributed to him in Vanity Fair ... Wigand's sworn testimony is also riddled with contradictions, and he has admitted that some of his most damaging allegations about B&W ... were wrong.''
The film touts Wigand as ``the key witness on the biggest public health reform issue in U.S. history.'' The fact is that Wigand has testified in only one tobacco trial and that was in Muncie, Indiana in February 1998. Wigand was finally subject to cross-examination in a courtroom in front of a jury. His accusations were not believed by the jury and the trial resulted in a unanimous verdict for the tobacco industry. Wigand has not testified in any trial since.
What Do Others Portrayed in the Film Say?
Many involved in this story -- including CBS's ``60 Minutes'' newsman Mike Wallace -- have said the film is distorted and inaccurate. ``Where does the truth end and entertainment begin? Wallace asks, adding, ''What are the ethics of docudrama?`` A ''60 Minutes`` producer puts it, ''This movie is purely about putting fannies in seats and has nothing to do with the truth.`` Even film director Michael Mann has admitted: ''In the realm of drama, you change everything ... ``
What Should We Expect?
Brown & Williamson is a cigarette manufacturer. We have been in the tobacco business for more than 100 years.
Brown & Williamson has led the industry in providing more information about our products, our positions on the important issues of smoking and health, addiction and youth smoking and in providing guidance to smokers on how to quit smoking. We will continue to address important issues such as these frankly and openly.
We regard ourselves as a professionally and ethically managed business seeking to be regarded by all our stakeholders as responsible. This movie has certainly set us back, but it has in no way diminished our desire and motivation to achieve that objective.
What should we expect? From Disney, probably very little; they after all are in the entertainment business. But in a country that prides itself on freedom and open mindedness, we believe the public deserves far more than this sensationalized and defamatory movie offers.
For additional information on ``The Insider'' and other issues, visit www.brownandwilliamson.com The ``Main Street'' homepage click on ``Hot Topics'' building and select ``The Insider.''