As you may know, Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted this week of five federal sex-trafficking charges in connection with her grooming of young girls alongside ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein. She faces 65 years in prison with no sentencing date yet set for the new year. Her conviction sets a precedent for what kind of actions are criminal and part of the sex-trafficking process. So, naturally, in covering this news the BBC needed an expert to comment on Maxwell’s guilty verdict.
Instead of an expert, the BBC turned to disgraced lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who was embroiled with Epstein in more ways than one. Not only is Dershowitz is an accused accomplice of Epstein, but he acted as the late alleged sex trafficker’s lawyer during the 2008 “sweetheart deal.” In 2014, Virginia Roberts Giuffre — who accused Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite son Prince Andrew of sexual abuse — accused Dershowitz of having sex with her when she was as young as 16. Both Dershowitz and Buckingham Palace have denied the accusations. And yet, on Wednesday, Dershowitz appeared on BBC News to comment on the Maxwell verdict.
During the interview, Dershowitz specifically mentioned Giuffre and appeared to use the interview as an opportunity to impugn her credibility. He said:
The most important thing for British viewers is that the government was very careful who it used as witnesses. It did not use as a witness the woman who accused Prince Andrew, who accused me, who accused many other people, because the government didn’t believe she was telling the truth.”
Dershowitz went on to defend Prince Andrew and claimed that Giuffre was “mentioned in the trial as somebody who brought young people to Epstein for him to abuse.” He argued that Maxwell’s “case does nothing to strengthen the case against Prince Andrew, indeed it weakens the case against Prince Andrew considerably because the government was very selective in who it used.” He also remarked that Giuffre was “deliberately” not used as a witness because “they didn’t believe she was telling the truth and they didn’t believe a jury would believe her and they were right in doing so, so it was very smart on the part of the government.”
After viewers rightly questioned the network’s editorial decision, the BBC said in a statement that they were investigating: “The interview with Alan Dershowitz after the Ghislaine Maxwell verdict did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards, as Mr Dershowitz was not a suitable person to interview as an impartial analyst, and we did not make the relevant background clear to our audience. We will look into how this happened.”
People are not as dumb as you’d like to assume, BBC! Twenty-four-hour TV news production, while chaotic and unpredictable, is a fairly rote production formula. One critical part of that formula: A producer seeks out guests to commentate on news events either in-studio or by internet connection. I’m willing to bet that a producer leafed through the “experts” available to comment on the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and Dershowitz was easily accessible. Dershowitz has been a pretty regular commentator on American television since his role in the acquittal of O.J. Simpson back in the 90s, which is likely why he was selected as a candidate to fill the interview slot. But his conflict of interest with Epstein (and by extension Maxwell) is obvious with just a quick scan of his Wikipedia page. The BBC’s bungling of this is in stark contrast to Fox News, which has mentioned Dershowitz’s legal relationship to Epstein, Giuffre’s defamation suit and his countersuit as well as Dershowitz’s denial of all wrongdoings before letting him speak about Maxwell’s conviction. Sure, he’s still a bad choice of guest, but at least the network attempted to give its viewers the full context.
It’s awful that the BBC used this opportunity for Dershowitz to spew venom about sex trafficking victims instead of asking someone from an organization that works on helping abused children like National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, or, perhaps, even an expert on the American federal court system more than six-degrees away from the convicted.