Friday, September 18, 2020

Alan Dershowitz sues CNN to halt 'malicious' attacks on innocent people


Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz

Famed liberal lawyer Alan Dershowitz has filed a $300 million defamation lawsuit against CNN over the way it portrayed his testimony during the Democrats impeachment trial against President Trump.

It's not because he wants the money, he says in a column for the Gatestone Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

He wants "innocent people" to be spared the "malicious" attacks from media.

"I intend to donate funds I receive from CNN to worthy charities, including those that defend the First Amendment. Every American will benefit from a judicial decision that holds giant media accountable for turning truth on its head and for placing partisanship above the public interest," he wrote.

"Freedom of speech is designed to promote the marketplace of ideas. It is not a license for giant media companies to deliberately and maliciously defame citizens, even public figures. So when CNN made a decision to doctor a recording so as to deceive its viewers into believing that I said exactly the opposite of what I actually said, that action was not protected by the First Amendment," he said.

He contends that what CNN did is not protected by the First Amendment:

I was asked to present the Constitutional argument against President Trump's impeachment and removal to the United States Senate this past January. For an hour and seven minutes, I argued that if a president does anything illegal, unlawful, or criminal-like -- if he commits treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors -- he satisfies the criteria for impeachment under the Constitution. But if a president engages in entirely lawful conduct motivated in part by the desire to be reelected, which he believes is in the public interest, that would not constitute grounds for impeachment. Everybody seemed to understand the distinction I was drawing. Some agreed, others disagreed. But the distinction was clear between illegal conduct on the one hand, and lawful conduct on the other hand.

Two days later I returned to the Senate to answer questions put to the lawyers by the senators. The first question to me came from Senator Ted Cruz. He asked whether a quid pro quo constituted an impeachable offense. My response was consistent with my argument two days earlier: I said that what "would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were in some way illegal." If it was, it could constitute an impeachable offense. But if it wasn't illegal or unlawful, the president's political motives could not turn it into an impeachable offense. That was quite clear. Indeed, the next question from the senators was directed to the Democratic House Manager who was asked to respond to my answer. Congressman Adam Schiff, disagreed with my answer, but understood the distinction between lawful and unlawful. So did CNN. When they first showed my answer, they showed it in full, including my statement that a quid pro quo would not be impeachable so long as it was not "in some way illegal." I then went on to say that if a president was motivated in part by his desire to be reelected, which he believes was in the public interest, that motive would not turn a lawful act into an impeachable offense.

Later, however, he said, CNN "made a decision to doctor and edit my recorded remarks so as to eliminate all references to 'unlawful' or 'illegal' conduct."

"They wanted their viewers to believe that I had told the Senate that a president could do anything -- even commit such crimes as 'bribery' and 'extortion' – as long as he was motivated by a desire to be reelected. That, of course, was precisely the opposite of what I said. And that is precisely the reason by CNN edited and doctored the tape the way they did: namely to deliberately create the false impression that I had said the president could commit any crimes in order to be reelected, without fear of impeachment."

CNN paid contributor Joe Lockhart then amplified the attack, he said, stating: "This is what you hear from Stalin. This is what you hear from Mussolini, what you hear from authoritarians, from Hitler, from all the authoritarian people who rationalize, in some cases genocide, based what was in the public interest."

Dershowitz said CNN is responsible for its editing of the video and for its commentators.

"I will insist that giant media not abuse their First Amendment rights in the way that CNN did."

Another prominent legal commentator, Jonathan Turley, said Dershowitz has a higher standard to meet in his defamation suit because he is a public figure.

"I have long been a critic of the open bias shown by CNN under Jeff Zucker who admitted that his attacks on Trump were part of a ratings move. In the age of echo-journalism, CNN has sought to attract viewers who only want to hear that Trump is committing clear crimes, will eventually (if not imminently) be jailed and that Trump supporters are knuckl[e]-dragging, gun-toting zombies marching to his tune of white supremacy and authoritarianism," he wrote.

"However, to prevail against a media company, a public figure must meet a higher standard for defamation. … Dershowitz is clearly a full public figure."

In any case, he said, Dershowitz was "widely misrepresented."


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