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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Tabloid’ Subject Says Movie|Maker Errol Morris Defamed Her

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The woman at the center of Errol Morris' documentary "Tabloid" claims the movie falsely portrays her as a rapist and prostitute, and says she was tricked into consenting to the film, partly by a false promise that its producers would save her service dog from extermination. Joyce McKinney, a former Ms. Wyoming, was caught up in a salacious British tabloid story in the late 1970s after she followed her fiancé, a Mormon missionary, to England.

In "Tabloid," lead defendant Errol Morris, creator of "The Thin Blue Line" and "The Fog of War," tells the story of what happened to McKinney 30 years ago.

McKinney's lengthy Superior Court complaint claims the film falsely suggests that she flew to England from the United States, kidnapped her former lover, then tied him to a bed and raped him for days.

McKinney says she was "unwittingly tricked" into granting Morris an interview for what she believed would be a Showtime series about paparazzi. She says the filmmakers told her the series would offer her a chance to clear her name. Instead, McKinney says, Morris made an R-rated documentary that portrayed her as "crazy, a sex offender, an S&M prostitute, and/or a rapist."

According to the complaint: "The film dredges up a long-dead tabloid hoax, the so-called 'Manacled Mormon' story. British tabloids concocted that story in 1977 based on false information that Mormons disseminated when McKinney tried to rescue her fiancé from the Mormons, which led to McKinney's wrongful arrest for 'carrying away' her fiancé. Over thirty years later, 'Tabloid' revives the 'Manacled Mormon' story and takes it to a new, outrageous level.

"In September 2009, while Morris interviewed McKinney for the nonexistent Showtime television series, his cronies ransacked her luggage and stole personal photographs and memorabilia that she had planned to use for a book-memoirs based on her life. One of Morris's cronies, Mark Lipson, repeatedly lied to McKinney in deceptive attempts to obtain her purported consent. The film promotes vicious and malicious lies about McKinney. It casts a positive light on various unscrupulous tabloid 'journalists' who created the scandal and who repeatedly insulted and slandered McKinney, questioned her character and morality, and accused her of raping a 300 pound, 6-foot 5-inch man.

"The film portrays McKinney as a prostitute. It portrays her as engaging in S&M for money, while flashing sex ads with pictures of women who are not McKinney. It portrays her with a hypodermic needle inserted in her genital area. It includes comments about 'vagina dentata' while showing an X-ray of a vagina with teeth, followed by a stolen photo of McKinney where the camera has zoomed in on her crotch, then pans up to her face. The film uses a stolen, innocent photo of McKinney in a college musical, 'The Apple Tree,' to portray her as an evil seductress. McKinney never authorized any of this.

"The deception was so disgusting that, in order to force McKinney under duress to sign a 'consent,' Morris's crony Mark Lipson promised a desperate woman a lawyer to help save her service dog from being killed in a pound. In fact, no lawyer showed up for a critical hearing, and McKinney's service dog was killed. Lipson and Morris were never honest with McKinney, and they exploited McKinney's charm and story to line their own pockets."

McKinney, who says she is "visually impaired," claims she became embroiled in a legal battle to save her "beloved service dog Jazz puppy" from being killed by animal control officials. She says the defendants "knew of the situation involving Jazz puppy, saw it as making plaintiff vulnerable, and seized the opportunity to prey upon plaintiff."

She claims that Lipson came to her house uninvited and told her that Jazz puppy would die if she did not sign the release.

"At one point, plaintiff clenched her hand tightly to avoid taking the pen that Lipson thrust at her and Lipson stabbed her hand with the pen, causing her hand to bleed, and screamed 'sign it, sign it, or the dog will die!'" the complaint states.

McKinney says that on another occasion Lipson came to her house "bearing a birthday card and flowers, even though it was not plaintiff's birthday. Lipson had a small camera hidden under his arm. Upset by Lipson's conduct, plaintiff asked Lipson whether or not she was being filmed, and Lipson replied in the negative. Lipson also stated, 'I have a gift for you - a bracelet. He gave her what turned out to be a cheap plastic pop bead bracelet, stating, 'it's a karma bracelet, you're going to get what's coming to you.'"

McKinney says that when she saw the movie at a documentary film festival in New York she "became extremely distressed, to the point of shaking and vomiting."

She seeks damages for misappropriation of likeness, intrusion on seclusion, false light, defamation, intentional misrepresentation/fraud, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, unjust enrichment and violations of California Business and Professional Code.

She is represented by Steven Tidrick, of Oakland.

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