Alan Dershowitz should not have had friends to lose

The lawyer and Harvard professor has made a business of defending the deplorable.

Alan Dershowitz should not have had friends to lose

The lawyer and Harvard professor has made a business of defending the deplorable.

The award for the most irritating news cycle of late goes to the pseudo-debate last week over whether Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer and Harvard professor turned frothing mercenary for President Donald Trump and Fox News, is entitled to a thriving social life on tony vacation enclave Martha’s Vineyard. The genesis for this was an op-ed by Dershowitz in The Hill in which he complained that his liberal friends were “shunning [him] and trying to ban [him] from their social life” on the island. “This is all familiar to me,” he wrote, “since I lived through McCarthyism in the 1950s.”

The reaction was fairly predictable. Fox News co-signed Dershowitz’s pathetic whining and amplified it on Tucker Carlson — a show whose audience of geriatric racists, tolerated begrudgingly or not at all by their families, could surely relate. The liberal media response — and there was quite a bit — ranged from earnest rebuttal to self-satisfied jeering. On Thursday, MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Dershowitz with the help of neoconservative ghoul John Podhoretz, as if to send the message: Look, just offer a few superficial critiques of Trump’s rhetorical style, and we will let you back in the clubhouse, no questions asked! It’s that easy!

But the strangest part of this melee is that Dershowitz’s reputation is only just now taking a hit. The popular narrative seems to be that up until last year, he was a principled defender of civil liberties and a respected public intellectual. In April of this year, The New Republic article “What Happened to Alan Dershowitz?” described him in the most generous terms, calling him “one of the nation’s most recognizable liberal advocates” and describing his supposed heel-turn as “surprising.” This rosy image persists on Wikipedia, where his entry calls him “a political liberal” in its opening paragraphs to the dismay of nearly everyone on the Talk page. (“How is he liberal?” “Support of Trump Travel Ban,” “Eliminate ‘liberal’ from the lead,” read some thread titles.) Then, this narrative continues, enchanted by the prospects of making lots of money and appearing on TV a lot, Dershowitz turned to the dark side and aligned himself with the Trump administration.

No. This is not how any of this happened. Alan Dershowitz has always defended the most transparently evil people alive so that he may grandstand on cable news, and this is what he always will do, because he is a sociopathic bottom-feeder with no moral compass. Even a cursory look at his biography provides ample evidence of this.

The strangest part of this melee is that Dershowitz’s reputation is only just now taking a hit.

Let’s recount the lawyer’s worst moments, all of which the commentariat seems to have revised out of his biography. In 1984, he cemented his public image as the foremost defender of accused wife-murderers by helping Claus von Bülow, a Danish-American socialite, successfully vacate his 1982 conviction for allegedly putting his wife Sunny into a coma by dosing her with insulin. In 1995, Dershowitz joined O.J. Simpson’s defense team after the retired football player and serial domestic abuser was charged with murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman. This, of course, famously ended in Simpson’s acquittal, though a 1997 civil lawsuit found him liable for Nicole’s wrongful death and ordered him to pay her family $33.5 million. (In a July 7 interview with The New York Times, Dershowitz said that backing Trump has been “worse” than defending von Bülow, Simpson, or any other of his infamous clients. He may just mean that he hasn’t been paid yet.)

Dershowitz’s finest moment, however, has to be his legal defense of Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who was investigated by the FBI for trafficking underage prostitutes in his mansion and on his private jet, dubbed the “Lolita Express.” At least 40 women, some of them as young as 12, alleged that Epstein knowingly solicited sex from minors and lent his underage harem to a host of high-profile perverts. Prior to his mid-2000s downfall, Epstein had ties to big names like Bill Clinton, whose name appears 11 times in Epstein’s flight logs; Kevin Spacey, now a disgraced pedophile in his own right; and Trump, who told New York in 2002 that “[Epstein is] a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Dershowitz jumped to Epstein’s defense during the initial federal investigation in 2005 and 2006. According to a contemporaneous account in New York, Dershowitz sought to sully the reputations of the underage accusers: he “provided the police and the state attorney’s office with a dossier on a couple of the victims gleaned from their MySpace sites — showing alcohol and drug use and lewd comments.” With the help of Dershowitz, Epstein was able to negotiate the federal government down to a single charge of soliciting prostitution, to which he pled guilty and served a total of 13 months in prison. Epstein was released in 2011.

Despite Dershowitz’s best efforts, the Epstein scandal resurfaced. In 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Florida by Virginia Roberts alleging that Epstein had recruited her from her prior employer — Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where she worked as a towel girl at the age of 15 — and trafficked her as a sex slave to Prince Andrew and Dershowitz himself, both of whom appeared many times in Epstein’s flight logs between 1997 and 2005. The purpose of this lawsuit was to have Epstein’s 2008 plea agreement thrown out. Prince Andrew and Dershowitz both vociferously denied the allegations. Andrew, who had been photographed with Roberts during the period in question and openly partied with Epstein to celebrate the Level 3 Sex Offender’s 2011 release from prison, denied through his spokesperson that the two "had any form of sexual contact or relationship.” No explanation was offered for why a 17-year-old girl of no familial relation to any of these men was present in their social circle. Dershowitz maintained on the Today Show that he “was never in the presence of a single underage woman” and “never saw [Epstein] doing anything improper.”

Dershowitz countersued and referred to Roberts’ lawyers as “villains,” accusing the court of treating him unfairly by accusing him of sex crimes in a lawsuit in which he was not a party. In 2015, Dershowitz had the accusations stricken from the record, and in 2016 both parties dropped their suits after a settlement that included an undisclosed financial arrangement. During this ordeal, Dershowitz emphatically denied having been close with Epstein, telling The American Lawyer in 2015 that their relationship was “entirely professional” and mainly centered on encouraging Epstein’s multi-million dollar donations to Harvard. This contrasted with Dershowitz’s past comments about Epstein, like when he told Vanity Fair in a 2003 Epstein profile that “I'm on my 20th book... The only person outside my immediate family that I send drafts to is Jeffrey.” From that same interview with The American Lawyer: “People know that I won't argue a case or give a speech unless my wife travels with me. This is not the profile of someone who screws around.” This seems to contradict the flight logs, which show Dershowitz traveling without his wife every time his name appears. Whoops!

CNN allowed Dershowitz to whine on the air about being snubbed at Martha’s Vineyard as recently as July 7.

Having had a decade-long friendship with a serial child molester who was publicly known to like his women “on the younger side” — and then working to ensure that he got off with a slap on the wrist once the allegations were made public — was apparently not enough to soil Dershowitz’s reputation. Neither was his decision to join Harvey Weinstein’s defense team in April, an association that should, at the very least, make it impossible to appear on cable news. But because Dershowitz is somehow still considered a selfless crusader for justice, whose predilection for defending high-profile rapists and pedophiles (the personal lives of whom mysteriously overlap with his own) is purely coincidental, none of this seems to matter.

Tucker Carlson, who lambasted Democrats for taking donations from Weinstein and said in 2017 that lawyer Lisa Bloom — who temporarily defended Weinstein in the early stages of the scandal — “took the side of the predator over the prey, likely because the price was right," continues to give Dershowitz endless fawning interviews about Trump’s innocence and Martha’s Vineyard without so much as mentioning the disgraced movie producer. CNN, which covered the Weinstein allegations in great detail, allowed Dershowitz to whine on the air about being snubbed at Martha’s Vineyard as recently as July 7. His recent activities outside the dinner-party circuit were left unmentioned here, just as they were on Carlson. For the cable-news set, Dershowitz isn’t “Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer,” as anyone else on Weinstein’s legal team would surely be described on the CNN chyron, or a lifelong ally of violent misogynists and child rapists. He is a lovable contrarian scamp whose complaints about his social life are a pleasant diversion from more serious news.

In a just world, Dershowitz would be snubbed not only in Martha’s Vineyard, but everywhere he goes. His associations, not just with Trump and Fox News, but with Epstein, Weinstein, and the rest of his celebrity clients, should be more than enough to blackball him from every news network, Harvard, and any future legal team, given that hiring him is a virtual admission of guilt. Even if he had never jumped to Trump’s defense in the Mueller investigation, he would still be a jowly, liver-spotted bag of bones who has devoted his career to ensuring that the ultra-rich are not held accountable for their crimes. Now that he has added Trumpism to his vast array of nauseating qualities, it is utterly unfathomable that anyone not personally invested in seeing Trump exculpated in the Mueller investigation is even willing to consider a position on Alan Dershowitz, the world’s shittiest man, other than that he should never be heard from, anywhere, ever again.

Alex Nichols is a contributing writer at The Outline.