Controversy has brewed for weeks over the portrayal of journalist Kathy Scruggs in Clint Eastwood's upcoming film, "Richard Jewell," which characterizes the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter as trading sex for scoops.
But according to Fox News host Jesse Watters, it's all much ado about nothing, because it's a regular occurrence both in Hollywood and in real life.
"This happens all the time," he said Wednesday on "The Five," a Fox talk show. "Ali Watkins was a reporter for many, many years at many distinguished publications. She slept with one of her sources, allegedly, for four years and broke a lot of scoops according to this Politico report here."
Having provided that example - of a New York Times reporter who, records seized by federal investigators revealed, had a relationship with a senior Senate Intelligence Committee aide - Watters insisted it's something that "happens a lot."
His comments were condemned by some as sexist, an accusation he's faced in the past.
"This is a really disgusting, baseless charge, and one Fox should denounce for the sake of its own female reporters," conservative CNN host SE Cupp wrote on Twitter.
In April 2017, less than a week after Bill O'Reilly's ouster from Fox amid sexual harassment allegations, Watters made what was widely viewed as a dirty joke about Ivanka Trump. After saying of the president's daughter, "I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone," Watters spent several days off the air for what he called a family vacation.
On Wednesday, initial criticism of Watters' remarks about female journalists came from a co-host seated beside him.
"I do have a problem with what you said," liberal commentator Juan Williams told Watters. "I don't think that most women reporters - "
"I don't say most women reporters," Watters interjected. "Male reporters could do it, too. I'm just saying, it happens. I'm saying it's happened many times in the past."
There is no evidence to suggest that Scruggs had a sexual relationship with her sources, and her former colleagues have bristled at the suggestion, according to a Journal-Constitution story recounting her career and challenging her depiction in "Richard Jewell."
"My concern is they're going to turn her into some sort of femme fatale who would do anything to get a story," former reporter Ron Martz, who is also portrayed in the film, told the newspaper.
He added, "If they had actually contacted me it might have ruined their idea of what they wanted the story to be."
The movie is based on the eponymous security guard who discovered a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Initially hailed a hero, Jewell spent three days in the spotlight before Scruggs broke the news that the FBI considered him a top suspect.
An FBI investigation cleared him within months, but the security guard and the reporter's lives were both derailed by the story and the lengthy legal battle that followed.
Neither is alive to see the way they are portrayed in the new film. Scruggs died in 2001 at 42 years old, followed by Jewell in 2007 at 44.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)