Despite Lawsuit Threat, CNN Airs Documentary on Campus Sex Abuse

By Brian Flood 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had the best game of his professional career on Sunday afternoon, tossing five TD passes while racking up 246 yards in a 45-17 blowout victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. While the star rookie won on the field, he probably wasn’t too happy when he got home and turned on the TV. A documentary featuring a criminal case against him, was airing on CNN.

48 hours earlier, Winston’s lawyers sent a letter to CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker saying they were prepared to sue if the network aired The Hunting Ground, a documentary that takes a broad look at sexual assault on college campuses. Using clips from ESPN, ABC News and Fox News, the doc includes the story of Erica Kinsman who accused Winston of rape in 2012 when the two were students at Florida State University. She sued for sexual battery. He filed counterclaims.

The Hunting Ground premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and had its debut Sunday night on CNN. The two-hour special won its time period in the A25-54 demo averaging 179,000 viewers, but finished second to Fox News in total viewers with 457,000. (The Kinsman/Winston case was featured in the second hour).

CNN followed up the doc with a special hosted by Alisyn Camerota at 10 p.m. ET, looking at the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, which further delved into the Winston case.

We’ve reached out to the law firm GrayRobinson to try and determine whether they will move ahead with any legal action against CNN, but we have not heard back.

The documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me remains the highest-rated CNN Films debut, with 2.76 million viewers and 510,000 in the demo.