Attorney Alan Dershowitz has filed a $300 million defamation lawsuit against CNN over its editing of comments he made during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in January.
Dershowitz had said that Trump should be impeached if he had done anything illegal but that actions made by a president to secure election as part of his commitment to the public interest would not necessarily and automatically be a quid pro quo if those actions were not illegal.
In his lawsuit, Dershowitz said CNN edited his remarks to distort his meaning, according to Law and Crime.
“Following the airing of that clip over and over again, the hosts, together with their panel guests, including CNN employees and paid commentators, exploded into a one-sided and false narrative that Professor Dershowitz believes and argued that as long as the President believes his reelection is in the public interest, that he could do anything at all — including illegal acts — and be immune from impeachment,” the lawsuit said.
“The very notion of that was preposterous and foolish on its face, and that was the point: to falsely paint Professor Dershowitz as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind,” it said, adding, “With that branding, Professor Dershowitz’s sound and meritorious arguments would then be drowned under a sea of repeated lies.”
The lawsuit said the full remarks of the Harvard Law School professor emeritus made his position clear, and no one would have criticized his position had they been included in CNN’s broadcast.
“[N]o panel guest would have even considered embarrassing himself or herself on national television with their false conclusions had the video clip properly included the part where Professor Dershowitz unequivocally and unambiguously stated that an illegal act would prevent a quid pro quo from being lawful,” the lawsuit said. “The phrase that included the word ‘illegal’ was an essential part of his argument, and that is precisely why CNN decided to omit it. It is evident that the decision to omit the portion in question was no accident or simple negligence on the part of CNN.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. It said that CNN’s treatment of Dershowitz stemmed from one fact:
“Professor Dershowitz appears to have made one mistake. He chose to defend the President of the United States and defend the U.S. Constitution at a moment in time where CNN has decided that doing so is not permitted. For this, CNN set out to punish him and destroy his credibility and reputation, and unfortunately, succeeded.”
Dershowitz wants $50 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages.
He spoke about the lawsuit during a Tuesday appearance on the Fox News show “Hannity.”
“What CNN did here, and it pains me to say this because, you know, I have friends over there, what they did is they just totally doctored the tape,” Dershowitz said.
“If they had just showed the part where I said, ‘If he does anything illegal he can be impeached,’ but they doctored the tape to take that out,” he said.
Dershowitz said he will donate any money he wins, but is acting because CNN needs a lesson taught.
“I’m doing this to hold them accountable,” he said. “They made a deliberate, willful decision — we believe from the very top — to purposely doctor the tape to make it look like I said something that was crazy, that a president can do anything, even can commit crimes.
“Of course, I never said that. I don’t believe it. I spent an hour in front of the Senate two days earlier saying if the president commits a crime he can be impeached. That was a whole thesis of my presentation.
“CNN knew that, and they doctored the tape, they edited the tape, to make me say exactly the opposite. Shame on them. And they’re going to have to pay, and some good charities are going to benefit from CNN’s willful, deliberate, malicious effort to destroy my credibility as a constitutional scholar.”
CNN recently settled a $275 million lawsuit filed by then-Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann over its reporting of an incident involving Sandmann that took place during the 2019 March for Life.
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