Richard Jewell’s widow spoke out as his name is back in the national headlines after legendary Hollywood actor and director Clint Eastwood’s new movie, “Richard Jewell” opened nationwide last Friday under a cloud of controversy.
“My family and friends and I — we laughed and we cried, we cried a lot,” said Dana Jewell on “Fox and Friends.” “I wish Richard was here to see this… My mom, I think, described it best, ‘It was almost like going to his funeral and feeling those same emotions… me and my family are grieving again. But we’re happy for him but its very, very difficult.”
Richard Jewell died in 2007 from heart failure, more than a decade after he was portrayed in the media as the main suspect in the investigation into a domestic terrorist attack on 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He went from being hailed as a hero to being smeared as a terrorist as the result of a flawed FBI investigation and a careless media.
Jewell’s story is also re-visited in Fox Nation’s new documentary, “Hero for a Moment: The Richard Jewell Story,” which re-examined the bombing and its aftermath using rare footage of police interrogations and interviews with the authors of “The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle.”
In the Fox Nation documentary, Tom Davis, who was special agent-in-charge at Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a security supervisor at Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic games, said that Jewell’s diligent work as a security guard led to the discovery of a backpack containing three pipe bombs.
“His reaction and response probably saved,” Davis told Fox Nation. “Had he not pointed it out, I probably wouldn’t have processed it the way that it needed to be processed because, you know, we were just dealing with so much stuff in the park.”
Two people were killed and more than 100 were injured, when the bag containing pipe bombs filled with nails and hidden under a bench exploded, but hundreds more were evacuated from the area just moments before the blast.
The media’s coverage of the bombing and it’s aftermath, as well as the FBI’s investigation, are central to the Eastwood’s movie and the Fox Nation documentary.
“Everyone wants to know who the security guard is,” Kent Alexander, co-author of “The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle,” told Fox Nation, recalling the media climate in hours and days after the attack. Alexander was the U.S. attorney in Atlanta in 1996.”
“You got interviews on CNN, interviews with newspapers all around, interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tuesday morning, he’s on with Katie Couric on ‘The Today Show,'” Alexander continued.
The FBI’s assessment was driven by the analysis of their behavioral science unit,which did a profile of Jewell and concluded that he fit the mold of a domestic terrorist.
“They characterized him as a loner, as a wannabe cop, as obsessed with law enforcement, ” said Alexander. “Most of the time this group gets it right this time. They didn’t get it right. And this was an era where there was a lot of confidence placed in behavioral science. And as a result, that really contributed to Richard Jewell being the suspect.”
Then the media machine kicked into high-gear after Kathy Scruggs, a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reported an FBI leak identifying Jewell.
“The Atlanta Journal-Constitution named him as a suspect and you mention for 88 days he thought everyone was looking at him as a bomber, a killer… how did he describe that?” “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Dana Jewell.
“Eighty-eight days of hell is how he would describe it,” she said. “He wouldn’t talk a lot about it because it was just too emotional. But when we did talk about it, he would say words that I can’t repeat. He was very upset, he was very heartbroken… It was hard because he was in law enforcement and to think that fellow law enforcement officers could think that he could do this was really hurtful for him.”
“It did scar him. He was very paranoid,” Jewell conceded, acknowledging that they met and married in 1998, several years after the bombing. “I didn’t know Richard before the bombing. But afterward, he was so paranoid, he would be watching all the windows when we were out in public — looking in the rearview mirror… He would have nightmares — wake up in cold sweats — until he died, he still had those.”
The movie “Richard Jewell” has attracted it’s own controversy over its depiction Scruggs. The AJC has accused the film of suggesting that she had sex with an FBI agent in return for information about the case, which the paper fiercely denies. Scruggs died in 2001. Warner Bros. slammed AJC’s claims as “baseless” and accused the paper of “trying to malign our filmmakers and cast.”
After 88 days, the FBI concluded that they had the wrong man, but the damage had been done. The agency took the unusual step of writing a public letter stating that Jewell was not a suspect, essentially clearing him of wrongdoing. Domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph was later identified by the FBI as the attacker after he was arrested for bombing an abortion clinic in Alabama in 1998.
Overall, Dana Jewell said Eastwood’s movie accurately depicts her late husband as the man she knew him to be.
“It shows he was the hero and I think it shows very well what the media and the FBI did to him,” she said. “Richard was a wonderful man. He was sweet, he was tenderhearted, he was very giving he wanted to help everybody… he had his weakness just like everybody else but overall he was genuine, he was honest and he was good man.”
To watch all of “Hero for a Moment: The Richard Jewell Story” go to Fox Nation and sign up today.
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