A planned film about Patty Hearst, the San Francisco Bay Area newspaper heiress whose kidnapping and transition to revolutionary and back captivated America in the mid-1970s, was abruptly canceled Thursday after Hearst evoked the #MeToo movement, saying that a recent book and upcoming media projects about her experience “romanticizes my rape and torture.”
Now known as Patricia Hearst Shaw, she issued a statement Thursday specifically criticizing author Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote the unauthorized 2016 biography American Heiress and is a producer of a CNN docuseries due to air next month, and will co-host an upcoming CNN podcast. The book was also an inspiration for the previously announced Fox film.
In her statement, Hearst said Toobin’s book “romanticizes my rape and torture and calls my abduction a ‘rollicking adventure.’ ”
“This project is attempting to rewrite history and directly flies in the face of the present #MeToo movement where so much progress is being made in regard to listening, and providing a voice, to those who have suffered abuse,” Hearst said.
In response, Twentieth Century Fox Film issued a statement saying they “have decided to cancel the studio’s planned project based on the book American Heiress.” No explanation was given.
Hearst, the granddaughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped on Feb. 4, 1974, from her Berkeley apartment in the middle of the night by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a homegrown anti-government terrorist group. She later claimed in recordings released to the media that she’d developed an affinity for the group mission while taken hostage, but then renounced her captors after she was arrested 19 months later and charged for her role in a bank robbery carried out by its members.
She was convicted and served 22 months in prison. Her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and she was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
She said the “incredibly moving testimony” of women such as Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey at the recent Golden Globes awards show compelled her to speak out now against those whose efforts would “make me a victim again.”
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“It’s no secret that I was abducted, raped and tortured at 19,” she said in the statement released through her daughter, Lydia. “What followed was a series of events that were the direct result of a child having been destroyed both inside and out.”
“Over the years I have been approached many times to discuss my ordeal, and I have answered many questions,” Hearst said. “I have spoken the truth about my experience and even wrote a 499-page book where I lay it all out, as painful as it was to relive. Each time I do, it puts me back in the nightmare which, as you might imagine, is deeply painful. It’s very hard on me, and not something I want my daughter to be reminded of.”
PEOPLE reached out but did not immediately receive a response from the book’s publisher.
In a brief statement, a network spokesperson said, “CNN’s The Radical Story of Patty Hearst, a six-part docuseries based on historical events, will air as scheduled on Feb. 11.”
CNN’s six-part series The Radical Story of Patty Hearst is set to debut Feb. 11. A companion weekly podcast, “Patty Has a Gun: The Life and Crimes of Patricia Hearst,” to be co-hosted by Toobin and CNN’s Brian Stelter, is due to start Jan. 26 on iTunes. CNN says its sources for the original docuseries include Bill Harris, the man who abducted Hearst from her apartment, and her then-fiance Steven Weed, who witnessed it.
Toobin’s book The Run of His Life also served as the basis for the FX series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.
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Prior to the decision by Fox to cancel its planned film project, Hearst said she was “saddened and appalled that Fox 2000 agreed to finance and produce a movie based on Toobin’s book (with a similarly themed screenplay, also written by men) and that CNN has agreed to perpetuate a one-sided dialogue romanticizing my rape and torture by hosting a podcast and docuseries through Toobin’s distorted lens.
“I refuse to give Jeffrey Toobin, 21st Century Fox, CNN or anyone else involved in these projects about my life the power to make me a victim again, or the power to provide a platform where victim blaming is ok.”