Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard law professor and the friend and attorney of convicted pedophile and alleged rapist and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, has a long history of defending extremely bad men and promoting disgusting views about rape, which the New Yorker’s Connie Bruck has helpfully laid out in a wide-ranging profile that reminds us all of how much Dershowitz sucks.
Where to begin? Let’s start with this telling anecdote from 1980, in which Dershowitz dismissed the concerns of undergraduate women at Harvard about a planned screening of the porn film Deep Throat at their dorm (emphasis my own), not long after lead Linda Lovelace wrote a memoir that claimed her husband had coerced her at gunpoint to star in the movie:
Four years earlier, Dershowitz had represented Harry Reems, the movie’s male star, who had been convicted of conspiring to transport an obscene film across state lines. Dershowitz saw the suppression of “Deep Throat” as a violation of free speech. He was also not convinced that Lovelace’s performance was coerced. In “The Best Defense,” he recalls asking Reems about her claims. Reems, he wrote, “laughed and said, ‘Are you kidding? . . . She was really into it.’”
After young women at Quincy House asked police to prevent the screening, Dershowitz maintained that a fundamental liberty was at stake. “If there is anything more obnoxious to a civil libertarian than the punishment of speech after it has taken place, it is the issuance of a prior injunction to prevent speech in the first place,” he wrote. Dershowitz argued in various places, including a monthly column he wrote for Penthouse, that “radical feminists” were using Lovelace to advance an “all-out war against pornography.” When a crowd of viewers and protesters gathered in front of Quincy House for the screening, he told them, “Feminist fascists are no better than any other kinds of fascists.”
And here’s another telling anecdote from his time at Harvard: after the Harvard Revue cruelly spoofed an article titled “A Postmodern Feminist Legal Manifesto” published posthumously by Mary Joe Frug, a professor at New England Law who had been murdered shortly before her article was published, professors at Harvard were outraged and wrote a letter blasting the law school’s “sexism and misogyny.” Dershowitz, naturally, defended the students who had described the stand-in for Frug as the “Rigor-Mortis Professor of Law,” and in a column for the Los Angeles Times, described the response as a “witch hunt.” “The overreaction to the spoof is a reflection of the power of women and blacks to define the content of what is politically correct and incorrect on college and law school campuses,” he wrote, according to the New Yorker, adding, “Radical feminists can accuse all men of being rapists, and radical African-Americans can accuse all whites of being racists, without fear of discipline or rebuke.”
Dershowitz, according to several of his former Harvard students cited by the New Yorker, just loved defending men accused of rape, and would regularly bring up the issue in his classes. Bruck notes that in Dershowitz’s book Contrary to Popular Opinion, he “included a list of cases in which women acknowledged having made false accusations of rape,” arguing that “it is precisely because rape is so serious a crime that falsely accusing someone of rape should be regarded as an extremely serious crime as well. Imagine yourself or a ‘loved one’ being falsely accused of raping a woman!” His views seemed to go beyond merely the principle that everyone accused of a crime deserves legal representation. One of his former students told Bruck, “In Dershowitz’s view, men who are accused of rape, there has got to be a defense.” She added: “He had convoluted ways of thinking about how men could misinterpret lack of consent. And it wasn’t relegated to when we were speaking about a rape case. Wherever we were on the syllabus, he would bring it up.”
Another former student, also a woman, recalled that he often spoke of William Kennedy Smith, a nephew of John F. Kennedy, who had been accused and then was subsequently acquitted of raping a woman. According to that student, “he would talk about Smith and the woman frolicking in the waves, ripping off their clothes.”
When students raised concerns about Dershowitz’s frequent discussions of rape—and the need to defend accused rapists—he brushed them off:
Midway through the semester, “a woman raised her hand and said, essentially, O.K., enough rape examples! There are women in this class who have been raped. Can we move on to something else?”
“His hair just caught on fire,” Murph Willcott, a male student who was in the class during the confrontation, recalled. “He seemed to take that as a challenge to his authority, and he made it clear he was going to teach what he wanted to teach.”
Dershowitz told The New Yorker, “There was a controversy in the class, and a very small number of students objected to the teaching.” His intention, he said, was to play “devil’s advocate” in order to challenge students’ thinking.
Dershowitz has also for decades argued in support of other ideas that show a remarkable disregard for women (emphasis again my own):
In a 1997 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, he argued against statutory-rape laws, writing, “There must be criminal sanctions against sex with very young children, but it is doubtful whether such sanctions should apply to teenagers above the age of puberty, since voluntary sex is so common in their age group.” He suggested that fifteen was a reasonable age of consent, no matter how old the partner was. He has also argued against punishing men who hire prostitutes. In a 1985 article, in the Gainesville Sun, Dershowitz proposed that a john “who occasionally seeks to taste the forbidden fruit of sex for hire” should not be arrested. The nonprofit executive recalled his discussing the idea in class: “He said, ‘Prostitutes know what they’re doing—they should be prosecuted. But you shouldn’t ruin the john’s life over that.’ If I had raised my hand to challenge that, I would have been singling myself out as—God forbid—a feminist.”
And in Dershowitz’s defense of Epstein after his friend was charged in Florida, Dershowitz had no problems publicly questioning the character of one of Epstein’s alleged victims, known as A.H., who said she was 16 when she says that Epstein raped her:
Dershowitz sent Recarey a letter about A.H., containing what he described as a “troublesome and telling illustration of her character.” He said that he had sent two investigators to speak with her, instructing them to take notes, “because we feared that she, an accomplished drama student, might try to mislead them as successfully as she had misled others.” The investigators, he continued, were “quite shocked at the overwhelming, non-stop barrage of profanity . . . from what initially appeared only to be a young woman of slight build and soft demeanor.” He also enclosed snippets from A.H.’s presence on social media. “She, herself, has chosen to go by the nickname of ‘pimp juice’ and the site goes on to detail, including photos, her apparent fascination with marijuana,” Dershowitz wrote. (Dershowitz denies gathering information from social media, and says that the letter was composed by someone else in his office, although it bears his signature and is written in the first person.) He suggested that her claims about Epstein were motivated by a desire for money. He publicized the accusations in the Daily Mail, saying that A.H. “had a long record of lying, theft, and blaming others for her crimes.”
It’s no surprise that Dershowitz is currently in the midst of a years-long public relations campaign to discredit Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims who has also alleged that Dershowitz was a willing participant in Epstein’s abuse of young girls:
Starting in January, 2015, he made a series of television appearances to dispute Giuffre’s claims. Using some of the same language that he had employed to describe Epstein’s victims a decade earlier, he called her a “serial liar,” a “prostitute,” and a “bad mother,” who could not be believed “against somebody with an unscathed reputation like me.” He insisted that Giuffre had “made the whole thing up out of whole cloth,” in search of “a big payday.” When a TV reporter in Miami questioned his characterization of Giuffre, a sex-abuse victim, as a “prostitute,” Dershowitz replied, “She made her own decisions in life.”
In April of this year, Giuffre sued Dershowitz for defamation. “He’s been challenging me for years—‘Come say it in public, come say it in public.’ And I said, ‘You know what? Challenge accepted,’” Giuffre told Bruck. “I know he’s going to put up a good fight. But, at the end of it, I know we’re gonna win. We’ve got the truth on our side.”
The full New Yorker piece is here.