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Alan Dershowitz has sued CNN for defamation of character, arguing that it unfairly abridged his argument in the impeachment trial.

Boris and Billy

According to several news accounts, Alan Dershowitz filed a civil lawsuit on September 15, 2020 against CNN for defamation of character. According to the suit, CNN implied that he had “lost his mind” when it “unfairly abridged” the argument he made during the Senate impeachment trial in January. The suit demands $300 million in compensation.

The argument at the impeachment trial was apparently a lengthy one, difficult to summarize. According to the “Law and Crime” blog by Dan Abrams on September 15:

Dershowitz’s allegations stem from news coverage of his argument about the kind of quid pro quos a sitting president may engage in while office—provided that the exchange is done with the intent of winning re-election in the public interest and not in violation of some law. While his theory was widely panned by attorneys and legal experts across the media, Dershowitz claimed that CNN intentionally omitted portions of his argument to make it appear as though he was arguing “the exact opposite of what he said.”

It seems that the president’s “intent” was the crux of Dershowitz’s argument– he was saying that as long as at least part of the president’s intent was not corrupt, then the quid pro quo was not unlawful. That is, the president’s desire to be re-elected was at least partly in the public interest.

So he claims that CNN’s omission of that part of his argument was defamatory. Some of the comments to the blog post point out that under Florida case law, quoting only part of a statement is not defamatory… this is unclear to a non-lawyer, but so is the rest of this case.

Dershowitz’s entire argument was “widely panned”, as in, most media commentators considered it fatuous. A commenter on the blog compared the argument to justifying robbing a bank with the intent of testing the bank’s security systems– in the bank’s customer’s interest– or to eating human flesh to see how it tastes– as a food critic. Personally, I do not see how winning re-election could be in the public interest, especially not for the current sitting president.

The $300 million demanded in this case appears to be completely imaginary. Dershowitz’s suit is likely to be dismissed. He is, as it happens, a public figure, so he is not easily defamed unless “actual malice” can be shown. His support of the current president has made him persona non grata among the liberal elites whose company he used to enjoy.

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