The filmmaker called the report “false, reckless and defamatory,” and says he was never charged with killing an animal.
In a legal letter, obtained by Variety, Bay’s attorney is demanding a retraction or correction from TheWrap, after the Hollywood trade publication published a report this past week regarding the pigeon incident.
The filmmaker’s attorney, Mathew Rosengart, says TheWrap’s story states that Bay has been accused or “charged” with “killing a pigeon” in connection with the film he directed. “Those statements are simply wrong; they are also harmful,” Rosengart writes.
TheWrap reported that the filmmaker was facing charges in Italy relating to the killing of a pigeon on the set in Rome of the Netflix film, despite making several attempts to clear the case with Italian authorities. The report cited a production insider who said a homing pigeon was allegedly killed by a dolly during a take, and because Bay was the director, he was held responsible. (Pigeons are a protected species in Italy, and the country has a national law that makes it illegal to harm, kill or capture any wild bird.)
Bay told TheWrap that he would not get into the specifics since the matter is an ongoing court case, but said he declined the option to settle for a small fine with Italian authorities, stating, “I would not plead guilty to having harmed an animal.”
Bay has fiercely denied the claims. “I am a well-known animal lover and major animal activist,” Bay had previously said in a statement to TheWrap. “No animal involved in the production was injured or harmed. Or on any other production I’ve worked on in the past 30 years.”
Now, in a legal letter, Bay’s attorney writes that the filmmaker was “never accused, much less ‘charged,’ with ‘killing’ an animal.” Rosengart writes that ahead of publishing the story, TheWrap was made aware of “video evidence rebutting these allegations and demonstrating that at no time was any animal harmed, let alone ‘killed.’”
TheWrap couldn’t be reached for comment because a phone number for its media inquiries had a full mailbox that wasn’t currently accepting messages.
Bay’s attorney says the only “charge” in Italy “concerns whether, in his capacity as the film’s director, Mr. Bay failed to properly supervise crew members (whom he did not even have the ability to hire) responsible for handling the animals on set.” Bay’s attorney says that charge is being “vigorously defended.”
Read the legal letter sent from Michael Bay’s attorney, Mathew Rosengart, here:
I am litigation counsel to Michael Bay, and I write concerning your and the Wrap’s false, reckless, and defamatory headline and story stating that Michael Bay had been accused or “charged” with “killing a pigeon” in connection with a film he directed. Those statements are simply wrong; they are also harmful.
As you know, Mr. Bay was never accused, much less “charged,” with “killing” an animal. Indeed, prior to publication, you were placed on notice of the existence of video evidence rebutting these allegations and demonstrating that at no time was any animal harmed, let alone “killed.” Further, as you also know (but failed to publish), the only “charge” at issue in Italy concerns whether, in his capacity as the film’s director, Mr. Bay failed to properly supervise crew members (whom he did not even have the ability to hire) responsible for handling the animals on set. That charge is being vigorously defended — and indeed, Mr. Bay feels so strongly that, to his credit, he refused to settle the case even for the nominal fine that was proposed by authorities to resolve it.
What makes your story all the more egregious is that you were expressly told, and you therefore knew, that the headline was false because Mr. Bay did not “kill” an animal and he was charged with no such thing. You evidently also failed to adequately investigate the matter by obtaining the actual charge or interviewing authorities or others who could have provided the facts. Instead, you proceeded with your story, with a false and misleading “clickbait” headline, demonstrating actual malice and reckless disregard of the truth.
Your story is particularly harmful and malicious because, contrary to its implications, Michael Bay is an animal rights activist; he passionately loves animals, as his track record shows. As a result of your story, however, his name is now associated with “killing” or “murdering” an animal, connoting intent. He is therefore being unfairly maligned and attacked. Indeed, there are now numerous articles and countless social media images associating Mr. Bay with “killing” or “murder,” which have gone around the world.
Your story is therefore extremely damaging to Mr. Bay personally and professionally (he has publicly discussed his love of animals and his desire to make a film about saving African elephants, another fact of which you had prior notice but ignored) and has tarnished his reputation as someone who fiercely supports animals, financially and otherwise, causing him extreme anguish. All of this exposes you and The Wrap to significant monetary damages. See, e.g., Ringler Associates Inc. v. Maryland Cas. Co., 80 Cal. App. 4th 1165, 1181 (2000); see also Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1, 19 (1990); White v. Fraternal Order of Police, 909 F.2d 512, 518 (D.C. Cir. 1990). Kapellas v. Kofman, 1 Ca1.3d 20, 33, 81 Cal.Rptr. 360 (1969) (defendant is liable “for what is insinuated as well as for what is stated explicitly”).
Given the above, and other facts and evidence, on behalf of Mr. Bay, we hereby demand an immediate retraction or correction of your story.