A retired NASA manager is suing the Discovery Channel for its false portrayal of his action in connection with the Challenger shuttle accident.

Fake but accurate: A retired NASA manager is suing the Discovery Channel for its false portrayal of him in a movie about the Challenger shuttle accident.

The suit says that in the movie’s crucial scene Lovingood is shown testifying falsely that the odds of a shuttle failure were much higher than other NASA engineers calculated. … “The clear statement and depiction was that Lovingood lied about the probability of total failure being 1 in 100,000 when NASA’s own engineers said it was 1 in 200,” the lawsuit says. “This movie scene never took place in real life at any hearing. (Lovingood) was never asked to give any testimony as depicted and he did not give testimony to the question shown in the movie in this made up scene.”

“It makes it look like (NASA leadership) ignored a highly risky situation” in deciding to launch Challenger that day, Lovingood’s attorney Steven Heninger of Birmingham said Friday. Heninger said the movie was the network’s “first attempt at a scripted program … and they took shortcuts because they were writing for drama.” The testimony in the movie was not in the investigation commission’s records or Feynman’s book “What Do You Care What Other People Think?,” both of which were sources for the film, the suit claims.

Though NASA management did consistently claim the shuttle was safer than it actually was, to falsely portray this specific individual as the person who said those lies when he did not is without doubt slander. I hope he wins big.

This is, by the way, a nice example of typical media arrogance. If you are going to fictionalize real events for dramatic purposes, you don’t use the names of real people and put words in their mouth when you do so. It leaves you very vulnerable legally to exactly this kind of lawsuit. That the Discovery Channel did so is good evidence they think they are above the law and do not have to care if they destroy people’s lives.