Today, on Day 11 of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed in damning testimony that Amber Heard has given just $1.3 million to the organization after promising in 2016 to give $3.5 million of her divorce settlement to the organization—and her ex Elon Musk donated nearly half of that money ($500,000, to be exact).
Worse yet, ACLU staffers actually ghost-wrote The Washington Post op-ed at the center of the trial, in which Heard claimed to be a survivor of domestic violence, and they pitched on her behalf, timed to the release of Heard’s then-upcoming film, Aquaman.
Email correspondence shows that Robin Shulman, a communications strategist with the ACLU, wrote the first draft of the op-ed in November 2018, a month before the article was published, while Heard’s legal team made edits to avoid obvious incrimination of Depp. Terence Dougherty, general counsel and COO of the ACLU, said the ACLU was charged with pitching the op-ed to a number of outlets and had considered the New York Times, Teen Vogue and USA Today before eventually placing it in the Post. Another ACLU communications associate, Gerry Johnson, emailed other team members about timing the op-ed so it would be released near the premiere of Aquaman.
Johnson wrote: “Since draft turned out pretty strong and Aquaman slated to do large numbers I’m wondering what you think about it?”
Another staffer wrote that the goal was to ensure the piece was published as quickly as possible to “to capitalize on the tremendous campaign for Aquaman.”
It’s unclear exactly whether there was a quid pro quo between Heard and the ACLU, with them helping her in exchange for the sizable donation she promised them from the divorce settlement—but it’s clear Heard hasn’t paid them in full.
To recap: Back in 2016, after Depp and Heard reached a settlement, she announced that the entirety of her $7 million payment would be split between two organizations: the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Dougherty confirmed via pre-recorded video deposition that since she made the verbal pledge nearly six years ago, the ACLU has received just four donations in Heard’s name, totaling just $1.3 million, only one of those payments ($350,000 in August 2016) came directly from Heard.
Meanwhile, the three following payments included a $100,000 check from Heard’s ex-husband, $500,000 from a donor-advised fund at Vanguard, and $350,000 from a donor-advised fund at Fidelity. Dougherty testified that the ACLU believes the Vanguard payment was from a fund established by Musk, as he had emailed Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, indicating that Heard would give the total $3.5 million over a 10-year period as opposed to a one-time donation.
In a 2016 email sent to Romero, Musk wrote: “Amber, I described your plan to donate $3.5 million to the ACLU over the next 10 years as you very much believe what you were doing.”
But the organization says Heard never signed the formal pledge prepared for her by the ACLU, and it has not received another donation from her. “We reached out to Heard starting in 2019 for the next installment of her giving and we learned that she was having financial difficulties,” Dougherty said.
Heard’s team and the ACLU have not responded to Jezebel’s requests for comment.