Controversial attorney Alan Dershowitz made headlines on Friday when his name appeared in documents that had been unsealed, relating to the defamation case involving Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Giufre and the convicted pedophile’s alleged accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell.
While Dershowitz — whose clients have included O.J. Simpson and Klaus von Bulow — has denied Giufre’s claims that she had sex with the Harvard law professor when she was a minor, he’s now taking aim at a new target: W Network drama “The Good Fight”.
It all stems from an episode titled “The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein”, which features Epstein’s fictional one-time attorney Benjamin Dafoe, played by David Alford. In the episode, the character states: “At least I didn’t get a massage, like that shyster. And for the purposes of any potential lawsuit shyster is just my opinion not a statement of fact.”
A letter from a law firm representing Dershowitz, obtained by Variety, is addressing “defamatory statements” made about Dershowitz in the episode, alleging the character’s line is “tortious and constitutes both defamation per se and defamation by implication.”
The letter continues: “The episode in question is centred on the criminal allegations made against Jeffrey Epstein and his ultimate death. Clearly, the dialogue and the context in which it is made, with words loaded with innuendo such as ‘massage,’ ‘Epstein,’ the ‘Virgin Islands,’ in combination with the word ‘shyster,’ falsely suggests that Professor Dershowitz engaged in sexual conduct, i.e. a ‘massage,’ with an underage girl associated with Epstein, and is crooked, unscrupulous and lying about it, i.e. a ‘shyster.'”
The letter also alleges that the word “shyster” in reference to Dershowitz is “defamation per se” while claiming that “some even attribute an anti-Semitic connotation to the term.”
The letter further alleges that “CBS’s use of the term ‘shyster’ to describe Professor Dershowitz is a direct attack on his professional reputation as an attorney and professor of law,” which is claimed to be defamatory.
“We are extended an opportunity to resolve this matter without litigation,” the letter concludes. “Professor Dershowitz requests that CBS promptly retract the defamatory content, cease and desist from further airing the defamatory content, and issue a public apology to Professor Dershowitz.”
Attorneys representing CBS All Access issued a response.
“If we understand your letter correctly, you are complaining about a line spoken by a fictional character, in an episode of the fictional series ‘The Good Fight’,” the responding letter states.
“You make this complaint on behalf of Professor Alan Dershowitz, a public figure who has long been associated with Jeffrey Epstein, and who has admitted on television to receiving a massage from a woman at Epstein’s mansion. In the non-fictional world, these factors require us to decline your request that we withdraw the episode, and our correspondence could end right here,” the letter continues. “Nevertheless, out of respect for Professor Dershowitz, we explain more fully below.
“By every measure, the Series is a work of fiction, and it has been praised for ‘its playful embrace of surrealism,’ (The Guardian, May 14, 2019) and as an example of ‘full-bodied entertainment: brainy, gutsy, a little love crazy.’ (Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2017). The character whose lines you cite in your letter is made-up as well. Benjamin Dafoe is not a real lawyer; on the Series, he’s Epstein’s “fictitious prior lawyer,” as your letter acknowledges. In other words, as one might explain to a small child, the Series, its characters and the things they say are all make-believe. People don’t watch the Series for factual information about Professor Dershowitz or anyone else,” the letter adds.
“Although the Series is a work of fiction, its writers strive for accuracy when referring to people or events from the real world. When it comes to Professor Dershowitz getting a massage at Epstein’s house, the writers were spot-on. In a televised interview broadcast on WPLG-TV in Miami on April 17, 2019, Professor Dershowitz admitted on camera that he got a massage from a woman at an Epstein mansion. In fairness, Professor Dershowitz claimed that he “kept [his] underwear on during the massage.” A more benign mental image than what the mind might otherwise conjure, so at least there’s that,” the letter points out.
The letter goes on to compare Dershowitz’s claim of being defamed to late actress Olivia de Havilland’s defamation lawsuit regarding her portrayal in the FX series “Feud: Bette and Joan”, which was ultimately tossed by the Supreme Court.
“We appreciate your bringing Professor Dershowitz’s concerns to our attention, and we hope our explanation puts those concerns to rest. Of course, this is not intended as a full statement of our position or as a waiver of any rights, remedies or defenses, all which we respectfully reserve,” the letter concludes, adding a postscript to point out that “although nobody takes ‘shyster’ as a compliment, we cannot agree with your assertion that the word is anti- Semitic,” citing a case in which that “same allegation has been debunked elsewhere.”