As if the crumbling of their ratings in the Post-Trump era wasn’t a big enough headache for CNN. Now their anti-Trump activism has opened them up to a libel suit.
Dershowitz, you may remember, is one of the more unlikely supporters of President Trump. He voted for Hillary, he is a (traditional) Democrat, and he taught Law in Harvard. But he is *also* an unflinching backer of the First Amendment, even (or especially) when it protects unpopular and controversial speech.
In that context, it is much less surprising that he became part of Trump’s defense team in both impeachment cases. CNN’s loathing of Trump took the predictable course it always did. It villainized anyone in Trump’s orbit. That loathing extended to Dershowitz, and they twisted his words to fit their narrative and drive public opinion.
Here is the Professor’s reply to a question Senator Cruz asked during the show trial of Impeachment 2.0.
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 just for 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.
When CNN referenced this answer they dropped the nuance of his three possible listed motives, reducing their quote to his final sentence. ‘Every public official … cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.’ That final sentence was a clarification of his intent behind point two, not a broad dismissal of quid pro quo generally, as can be seen by the mention of point three which would be plausible grounds for impeachment.
They changed the quote and used it to straw-man him, suggesting that even illegal acts could not be ground for impeachment if they were to help him get elected.
Having worked on about a dozen campaigns, there is always the sense that, boy, if we win, it’s better for the country. But that doesn’t give you license to commit crimes or to do things that are unethical. So, it was absurd. What I thought when I was watching it was this is un-American. 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 rationalized, in some cases genocide, based on what was in the public interest.” —Joe Lockhart @ 7:11 p.m., January 29, 2020.
The president’s defense team [Dershowitz] seems to be redefining the powers of the president, redefining them towards infinity.”… [truncated clip played] … “If you look at what he says there it blows your mind. He says if a president is running for re-election because he thinks getting elected will help America, he can do anything, anything. And that redefines the presidency and America.” —John Berman @ 6:17 a.m., January 30, 2020.
I did not go to Harvard Law, but I did go to the University of Texas School of Law, where I studied criminal law and constitutional law, but never dreamed a legendary legal mind would set them both ablaze on the Senate floor. The Dershowitz Doctrine would make presidents immune from every criminal act, so long as they could plausibly claim they did it to boost their re-election effort. Campaign finance laws: out the window. Bribery statutes: gone. Extortion: no more. This is Donald Trump’s fondest figurative dream: to be able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.” —Paul Begala on CNN.com, January 29, 2020 @ 9:11 p.m. —Reason
This framing of his arguments was, on its face, intended to discredit and ridicule Dershowitz, and undermine his credibility as a legal scholar.
CNN claims they are protected against libel because it was a fair abridgment of his original statements.
You can read the legal brief here.
Here is the official complaint he is suing for, and the financial compensation he seeks:
Dershowitz alleges that CNN knew or had serious doubts that its commentators’ statements were false at the time they were made but nonetheless made and/or published the statements with an intent to indulge ill will, hostility, and an intent to harm. (Id. ¶ 20). Dershowitz asserts that CNN’s airing of only a portion of his answer was done to falsely paint him “as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind” and that “[w]ith that branding, [his] sound and meritorious arguments would then be drowned under a sea of repeated lies.” (Id. ¶ 8). The result of omitting the words “[t]he only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were somehow illegal,” says Dershowitz, is that CNN could “fool” its viewers into thinking “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.” (Id). Dershowitz alleges he has suffered and continues to suffer damage, including but not limited to damage to his reputation, embarrassment, pain, humiliation, and mental anguish and has sustained past and future loss of earnings. (Id. ¶ 19). He seeks $50 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages from CNN
Those old jokes about Nick Sandmann being CNN’s highest-paid employee might be getting ready for a re-write.
This is exactly the tool it will take to hold these power-mad ghouls accountable. They don’t care about ethics, fair play, or the Constitution. The only thing they love more than their ideology is their bottom line. Hit them there, hard and often, and they will back off. (At least for a while.)
Let’s hope some of the other targets of their slander are taking notes.
Especially since some of those Project Veritas exposes have their motives exposed dead to rights.
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