Famed defense lawyer and Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz became difficult to avoid in the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, appearing on nearly every media outlet that would have him to defend the White House as the furor over the Russia investigation boiled over. But he’s now in the media’s eye for his own conduct rather than his commentary, caught in the deluge of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
A new profile of Dershowitz published in the New Yorker by Connie Bruck on Monday delves into his past socializing with and providing legal representation for the wealthy financier who stands accused of orchestrating a sex trafficking ring targeting vulnerable underage girls. Dershowitz is tied up not only in the dubious circumstances surrounding Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal reached with federal prosecutors in 2008 but also in the allegations of sexual abuse. At least two of the women, as documented in the profile, who have said they were victims of Epstein’s sex trafficking scheme also say they were directed to have sex with Dershowitz, claims he furiously denies.
But the profile didn’t just report on the allegations against Dershowitz. It documented his history as a high-profile lawyer and legal thinker, including claims that are particularly troubling given his defense of Epstein and the accusations against. It also found that, while the claims against him aren’t unassailable, his defense of himself has also been riddled with aggression, apparent falsehoods, distortions of fact.
Here are five disturbing details from the report:
1. Dershowitz advocated for the repeal of statutory rape laws in 1997.
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.
2. While he bills himself as a liberal and a civil libertarian, he often seems just as critical of opponents of racism and misogyny as he is of government power.
For instance, Bruck reported that Dershowitz spoke in favor of decriminalizing prostitution — but only for the johns, not the women:
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 when his fellow Harvard professors criticized a parody article that mocked a dead feminist, Dershowitz was outraged:
“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. “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.”
3. To defend Epstein, Dershowitz’s team mercilessly attacked his accusers.
He and his team went especially hard against one of Epstein’s most damaging accusers, known as “A.H.”:
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.”
4. Asked about Guiffre, who has accused both Epstein and Dershowitz of abuse, he has likewise been vicious:
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.”
5. Dershowitz’ defense of himself has been forceful but also filled with holes.
As vehemently as Dershowitz has denied the allegations, his defense has been particularly sloppy. It led Epstein to remark of his rhetoric in an email to a friend, according to Bruck, that “Dershowitz is out of his mind.”
For example, Dershowitz said Guiffre had “made her allegations in a statement, rather than in a sworn affidavit” because her lawyers know “if they submit a sworn affidavit they would go to jail.” Shortly thereafter, Guiffre submitted a sworn affidavit.
He’s also made promises in an attempt to bolster his credibility that he fails to keep:
Dershowitz once offered during an interview to waive any statute that prevented Giuffre’s claims from being tested in court—but when her lawyers asked him to waive it to allow a civil suit, he refused. The only way for Giuffre to test her allegations in court was in a defamation suit.
And he has made some claims that are just not true, according to Bruck:
He has pointed to an unpublished memoir by Giuffre, saying, “In her manuscript, she says she never had sex with me.” She does not say this. In the memoir, Dershowitz appears in only one passage: He knocks on the door of a bedroom where Epstein has just finished having sex with Giuffre, and Epstein invites him in for a discussion. Giuffre writes, “Alan’s taste for the young and beautiful was the bias [sic] for a blooming business relationship between him and Jeffrey.”
When attacking Meghan McCain, who said he was not welcome on “The View” with such serious allegations against him, he again distorted the facts:
Dershowitz responded with a column on Newsmax: “In 2008, according to the New York Times, Meghan McCain’s own father—the late great Senator John McCain—was accused of sexual misconduct for an alleged relationship with a lobbyist 30 years his junior. I do not recall Meghan McCain calling for her father to be barred from television.” In fact, the Times had reported no accusation of sexual misconduct—just McCain aides’ unconfirmed speculation about an affair.