Alan Dershowitz Sues CNN For Playing His Own Words
Alan Dershowitz is BIG MAD at CNN.
He thinks CNN made him look like "a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind."
"And how did CNN do that?" you ask.
By playing tape of ... wait for it ... Alan Dershowitz.
I was really excited to read this, and y'all ... it did not disappoint.
Let's break this down
Once upon a time, Alan Dershowitz was a respected name in the legal profession. He was always a contrarian dickhead, but he was a dickhead people listened to. Until a few years ago, Dersh was best known for his defense of the likes of O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, and his attacks on Bill Clinton during that impeachment.
Since his glory days, however, Dershowitz has seemingly been on a crusade to destroy anything that might be left of his former reputation. And today, he is best known as Jeffrey Epstein's BFF, Donald Trump's chief bootlicker, an alleged child rapist, and that old guy who doesn't believe in age of consent laws.
Dershowitz v. CNN stems from Alan Dershowitz's testimony at the farce that was Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate. Dersh was, you see, on Trump's "Dream Team" of crackpots defending his Article II right to do whatever he wants, along with the brilliant legal minds of Jay Sekulow, Pat Cipollone, Pam Bondi, and Ken Starr. And as part of his attempt to completely eradicate any reputation he had left as a competent constitutional lawyer and scholar, Dershowitz made an appearance at Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate.
At the trial, Dershowitz managed to keep his panties on while he garble garbled for a while about how we all must bow down to the supremacy of the president, so long as he is a Republican. Dershowitz's arguments were bad and, appropriately, roundly mocked by pundits and legal scholars alike.
But in Dershowitz's lawsuit, filed Tuesday, we learned what the real problem was: CNN just didn't give us enough Dershowitz! If CNN had just given us more Dershowitz, everyone would have applauded him for his greatness!
Amazingly, Dershowitz's entire case is premised on the fact that CNN somehow slandered him by ... PLAYING A VIDEO OF HIM SPEAKING.
BUT WAIT! It gets even better! CNN actually did play Dershowitz's argument in full — just not every time. Truly, Dershowitz's actual argument is that CNN did not play enough of his incomprehensible ramblings about impeachment on the air!
Oh yes, that's right. A Harvard Law prof who fancies himself an intellectual and constitutional scholar is arguing that CNN was somehow LEGALLY REQUIRED to show more of him speaking, lest it defame him!
Why can't CNN be more like the New York Times, when it put eight reporters on the Dershowitz beat for four stories on "In Martha's Vineyard, An Old Balls Barbecue, Minus Alan Dershowitz"?
Here is the full garble garble that Dersh thinks CNN was legally required to play if it wanted to talk about him:
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.
According to Dersh, it was somehow illegal and defamatory for CNN to air only the last sentence of that diatribe without including all of the other sentences before it.
And no, wanting the news to show more of you is not something you can legitimately sue over.
But you wouldn't know that from reading the complaint, which says:
Without question, CNN understood that allowing its viewers to hear those words spoken immediately before CNN's selected video portion, would cause its viewers to categorically reject the conclusions of its hosts and panel guests. In fact, no panel guest would have even considered embarrassing himself or herself on national television with their false conclusions had the video clip properly included the part where Professor Dershowitz unequivocally and unambiguously stated that an illegal act would prevent a quid pro quo from being lawful. The phrase that included the word "illegal" was an essential part of his argument, and that is precisely why CNN decided to omit it.
Even now, Dershowitz and his lawyers are unable to string together a coherent explanation of what he was attempting to say to the Senate. The complaint alleges:
On January 29, 2020, in response to a question posed by Senator Ted Cruz, plaintiff delivered a brief response in which he said that the constitution does not support an impeachment of a president simply because a lawful action taken by a president might have been based in small part to [sic] or to some degree on a desire to be reelected and if the president believes his reelection is in the public interest. This argument was being made in rebuttal to the house [sic] managers' claim that a president can be impeached and removed from office if he takes any action whatsoever that is motivated by any percentage or any degree of desire to be reelected, no matter how minimal.
You see, in Alan Dershowitz's little world, no one could ever see what he said in full and go, "Wow, it's impressive that such an old man still has the flexibility to contort himself into knots trying to defend the indefensible!" If CNN had just been nice and aired more of the old white man speaking on behalf of the grifter-in-chief, and let him produce all of the segments where he is mentioned, everything would have been fine!
Because CNN did not have the foresight to air the full clip specifically to Dershowitz's desires, CNN's panelists were mean. And for some reason, Dershowitz and his lawyer seem to think that this is illegal. You see,
[n]o panel guest would have even considered embarrassing himself or herself on national television with their false conclusions had the video clip properly included the part where Professor Dershowitz unequivocally and unambiguously stated that an illegal act would prevent a quid pro quo from being lawful. The phrase that included the word "illegal" was an essential part of his argument, and that is precisely why CNN decided to omit it.
So, you see, it is actually CNN's fault — and not Dershowitz's — that no one understood WTF he was trying to say and everyone made fun of him.
With [CNN's] branding, Professor Dershowitz's sound and meritorious arguments would then be drowned under a sea of repeated lies. With that portion of Professor Dershowitz's words played without his words that preceded that sentence, it was an easy sell to CNN's viewers that the respected Alan Dershowitz believed that the President of the United States could commit illegal acts as long as he thought it would help his reelection and that his reelection was in the public interest, even though it was the opposite of what he said. The only way to fool its viewers into believing that Professor Dershowitz actually said and meant what the CNN hosts and panel guests knew was the exact opposite of what he said was to deliberately omit: "the only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were somehow illegal."
It's very hard for entitled old white men who are used to getting everything they want to face criticism. Had CNN simply taken a break from its live coverage of the impeachment trial to ask each speaker which segments of their remarks to the Senate to air, none of this would be a problem!
Dershowitz was harmed by this very cruel airing of his own words and is asking for $50 million dollars as he has sustained
damage to his reputation, embarrassment, pain, humiliation, mental anguish, and has sustained past and future loss of earnings.
In addition to that $50 million in compensatory damages, Dershowitz is also asking for another $250 in punitive damages — because CNN's decision to play some of Dershowitz's Senate arguments was just that egregious. (I find Alan Dershowitz's voice as offensive as anyone, but I had never thought to actually sue CNN for hundreds of millions of dollars for making us listen to him.)
Dershowitz seems to truly believe that, if CNN had just shown exactly what he wanted them to show, all of the other political and legal pundits would have been nicer to him, too.
The aftermath of that barrage of defamatory programming was its ripple effect throughout the entire media industry. From other news outlets, to talk show hosts and social media trends, CNN's deliberately false narrative spread like a disease, with each other forum replaying solely that portion of the tape and mimicking CNN's malignant conclusion that Alan Dershowitz believes that a president could commit crimes and escape impeachment as long as he subjectively believes it is in the nation's interest that he be reelected.
Because, you see, there is just NO WAY anyone could ever listen to Dershowitz in full and come away thinking, "Wow, did that guy really used to be famous for being a good lawyer?"
This damage suffered, says Dersh, was VERY REAL AND NOT AT ALL MADE UP.
The damage to Professor Dershowitz's reputation does not have to be imagined. He was openly mocked by most of the top national talk show hosts and the comments below CNN's videos show a general public that has concluded that Professor Dershowitz had lost his mind.
Yes, that is surely when it happened. Just then.
Someone needs some lawsplaining
It sounds like the Harvard Law professor needs to be reminded of a few basic legal concepts. The big one, of course, is that you can't sue the news for playing clips of your own speech, no matter how dumb those clips make you look. Just ask Bradlee Dean, who sued Rachel Maddow for same, with the kind offices of superlawyer Larry Klayman — and to our knowledge has still never ponied up her court-ordered attorneys fees. The second one is that true facts are not defamatory (again, no matter how dumb they make you look).
The actual argument Dershowitz makes in his complaint is that CNN "falsely painted Professor Dershowitz as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind." So if this case proceeds, CNN will get to collect evidence and take depositions on whether or not Dershowitz is, in fact, a constitutional scholar and intellectual who has lost his mind. And, based on the last few years, that ... might not be a place he really wants to go.
While the eight-page complaint reads as something that was written in crayon by a pro se plaintiff, it turns out Dershowitz managed to find a lawyer willing to take on this exercise in narcissism. Dershowitz is being represented in this farce by fellow Florida Man Brian Rodier, who took the opportunity to bash the media.
"Clearly, any person living in the U.S.A. today has witnessed the erosion of public trust in the media. We believe that this lawsuit will not only provide justice to Professor Dershowitz for the harm we have asserted CNN caused, but will hopefully inspire media organizations to make changes in their policies that will restore the public's trust and restore their own integrity."
I wonder if Mr. Rodier was actually able to say that with a straight face.
Here's the complaint, in all its glory.
Follow Jamie on Twitter!
Wonkette is funded ENTIRELY by YOU. Keep us in lawyers fees, please, if you are able!