Tort Law

CNN defamed me by falsely reporting my impeachment views, Alan Dershowitz says in $300M suit

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Alan Dershowitz 2020

Alan Dershowitz argues on the floor of the U.S. Senate during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in January 2020. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a former professor at Harvard Law School, has filed a $300 million defamation lawsuit against CNN over its coverage of his views on high crimes and misdemeanors.

Dershowitz says CNN showed a shortened clip of his argument on behalf of President Donald Trump at the impeachment hearing that misrepresented his views and tarnished his reputation. The suit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Miami.

Courthouse News Service posted the Sept. 15 lawsuit.

Dershowitz had argued that a president can’t be impeached simply because he takes action based on a desire to be reelected, if the president thinks his reelection is in the public interest. But Dershowitz said a president can be impeached if he did something illegal, regardless of his motive.

CNN hosts Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper aired Dershowitz’s full argument. But when CNN interviewed people for their take on Dershowitz’s view, it aired a shorter segment of his argument that “exploded into a one-sided and false narrative,” the suit says.

The shortened clip suggested that Dershowitz thought a president could do anything—including illegal acts—as long as the president thinks it is in the public interest, according to the suit.

“The very notion of that was preposterous and foolish on its face, and that was the point: to falsely paint Professor Dershowitz as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind,” the suit says.

The suit says this was the relevant portion of Dershowitz’s argument that was shortened by CNN:

“The only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were somehow illegal. Now we talk about motive. There are three possible motives that a political figure could have. One, a motive in the public interest and the Israel argument would be in the public interest. The second is in his own political interest and the third, which hasn’t been mentioned, would be his own financial interest, his own pure financial interest, just putting money in the bank. I want to focus on the second one for just one moment. Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest and, mostly you are right, your election is in the public interest, and if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

The shortened clip aired just the last sentence. The suit argues that the editing was an intentional distortion.

“Dershowitz appears to have made one mistake. He chose to defend the president of the United States and defend the U.S. Constitution at moment in time where CNN has decided that doing so is not permitted,” the suit says. “For this, CNN set out to punish him and destroy his credibility and reputation, and unfortunately, succeeded.”

Newsweek, and Fox News had coverage of the suit. Dershowitz told Fox News that he will donate any award to charity.

Dershowitz is involved in another defamation claim against a woman who claimed that Dershowitz had sex with her when she was was a victim of financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring. Dershowitz said the allegations are false and are intended to extort settlements from wealthy individuals associated with Epstein.

See also: “Trump lawyer Dershowitz acknowledges many disagree with his take on ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’”

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