Amanda Knox probably should have known what was coming.
Knox, a Seattle native, was wrongly convicted of killing her roommate, 21-year-old British national Meredith Kercher, while studying abroad in Italy in 2007. Knox, who was 20 at the time, spent eight years on trial and four years in prison before her conviction was overturned by Italy’s highest court. This case made Knox not just famous but infamous—the subject of books and movies and TV shows and endless articles in magazines and newspapers and tabloids—and now, the smallest, most incidental thing she does can spark another media circus.
That's what happened this week after media outlets all over the country reported that Knox and her fiancé, a writer named Chris Robinson, are crowdsourcing funds for their wedding. CNN covered it, People Magazine covered it, the New York Daily News covered it, as did, locally, KING5, the Seattle Times, KOMO, and KIRO Radio. Seattle radio host Dori Monson wrote, "I wish those kids the very best. I think that starting out a life together as moochers is a very solid foundation for a wonderful future."
"Moochers" is how many outlets portrayed this story. Knox and Robinson were accused of shamelessly capitalizing on Knox's fame to bilk the public into paying for their elaborate Doctor Who-themed wedding. In the Daily Beast, Italian correspondent Barbie Latza Nadeau wrote that if Knox "really doesn't want the attention, why go to such lengths to be so publicly outrageous? The registry is not an invitation-only site and is clearly designed to be talked about."
Or is it? Knox, when reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, along with her fiancé, told me that the media has, once again, gotten her very wrong. “This is a deliberate misinterpretation,” she said.
“Whatever I do in the world, the tabloids spin it in the most sensational way possible. They've decided I'm the resident villain, and they make news out of something that is not news when there are things in the world really worth getting outraged about. They don't do any research. They just take a headline and recycle it."
Since this story started making the rounds, both Knox and Robinson say they’ve received a flood of hatemail, including from people telling Knox she deserves to die. While she is called a “cunt,” Robinson is more likely to get “scum bag.” But what Knox and Robinson actually did is far less dramatic that media reports may have you believe. They aren’t “begging” for money, as the New York Daily News proclaimed in its headline. All they are doing is asking their family and friends to donate to the cost of the wedding in lieu of buying them presents.
“We don't need a new toaster and we don't need a set of dishware,” Robinson said. “Those traditions are outmoded. We told our friends and family, ‘Look, don't give us gifts. If you feel compelled to help us out in some way, you can help us make this a more awesome event.’ Instead of having Two Buck Chuck, we can have nice wine.”
“I think that's the way weddings are going,” Knox continued. “Wedding registries do not make sense anymore. We embrace the whole it-takes-a-village philosophy, and as many haters as I have in the world, I also have a ton of family and friends and supporters and I wanted to give anyone who wanted to wish us well the opportunity to do that.”
The wedding registry is not unlike a Kickstarter in format. There are different levels of support, from $25 to over a thousand, a level they’re calling the “Temporal Patron.” “You’re joking, right?,” the registry reads. “We don’t really expect to have donors this generous, but if you’re out there, and you exist, your friendship is truly timeless.” In exchange for donating at any level, Knox and Robinson will give the donor a copy of The Cardio Tesseract, a book of poems they created together.
It’s not traditional, to be sure, but it’s hardly a scandal to ask people for cash instead of cookware. That is, unless it’s Amanda Knox doing the asking. Still, Knox is surprised at the level of media attention and the volume of hatemail she and Robinson have received. “I always anticipate that there is a strong contingent of people out there who are going to view everything I do in the worst possible light, and the tabloids are always going to view things in the worst possible light,” she said. “They've always reliably done that. But crazily enough, I admit that I did not anticipate the amount of vitriol. I should have.”
“She has too much hope for humanity,” her fiancé interjected.
After more than a decade in the spotlight, unwanted attention is hardly new for Knox. Besides, after spending four years in jail and eight years on trial for a crime she did not commit, strangers calling her a cunt on the internet is far from the worst thing that’s happened. But still, she’s frustrated and angry at how the media takes small events in her life and spins them into something dramatic, usually without even asking her for comment first. She says not a single Seattle news organization reached out to her before their stories were published.
“I'm a journalist myself,” she said. “I try to put good work out into the world. I try to put out thoughtful analysis and be compassionate towards the people that I write about. I try to do the opposite of what happened to me, but I get deeply saddened and disappointed that tabloid culture still exists and that it taps into some kind of instinct that we all have to feel easy outrage.”
She’s doing what she can to combat this trend. In addition to her work with various Innocence Projects—including a recent trip back to Italy to speak at a criminal justice conference—Knox hosts an online television show, The Scarlet Letter, about people who’ve been publicly shamed. She also hosts a podcast, The Truth About True Crime, that investigates unsolved crimes, vigilante justice, and wrongful convictions not unlike her own. Last season, she, along with Robinson, investigated the case of Jens Soering, a German national who was convicted over 30 years ago of murdering his girlfriend’s parents in Virginia. Soering is still in prison, but Knox says she is sure that he’s not guilty.
As for their fundraiser, the media attention hasn’t exactly led to a windfall. “We got a handful of donations,” Knox said. “And a truckful of hate.” Regardless of how much or how little they receive, the wedding is scheduled for next February.