Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz scored a procedural victory in federal court when a judge threw out CNN’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit against the network.
“CNN presented an abridgment of Dershowitz’ answer to Senator Cruz’ question,” Singhal wrote. “The abridgment is not accurate, to the extent that it omitted a crucial qualification: that an illegal motive for a quid pro quo would be corrupt. As a result, the commentators’ statements – that Dershowitz believes a President can do anything, even commit crimes if it would help his re-election – are not based upon a fair and accurate summary of Dershowitz’ statement to the Senate.”
“At this stage, the Court concludes that Dershowitz’ Complaint meets the plausibility standard for alleging a false statement of fact,” the judge said.
The case: Dershowitz sued CNN over a segment in which the network’s hosts and guests discussed his defense in the impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump. The panel specifically talked about his answer to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) question about whether “quid pro quo” arrangements are common in foreign policy.
While Dershowitz spoke more than five minutes about this topic, CNN only aired a portion of his remarks where he said: “And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected—in the public interest—that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
The network did not show the part where he said that “the only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were somehow illegal” or his other comments on the matter.
Thus, the professor sued CNN, accusing it of trying to “falsely paint” him “as a constitutional scholar and intellectual who had lost his mind,” the $300 million defamation lawsuit.
The motion to dismiss: CNN filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, writing that “Dershowitz’s disagreement with CNN about the meaning of the words he spoke on the Senate floor is just the type of political debate involving matters of profound national importance that is central to the American values of self-governance; it is not grounds for a defamation lawsuit.”
The network’s lawyers argued that CNN “cannot be held liable for reporting—verbatim—what Dershowitz actually said to Congress” and that its employees’ remarks cannot be the subject of a defamation case because they were expressing their opinions.
Dershowitz pushed back in a reply to the motion, accusing the network of “essentially making a pitch for this Court to be the jury and decide the case on the merits right away.”
He highlighted that his lawsuit is about CNN telling falsely portraying his comments as claims “that an American President can commit crimes and be immune from impeachment so long as the president believed his reelection was in the public interest while he was committing the crimes.”
“The complaint alleges that CNN and all of the commentators knowingly lied when they said this and that they knew they were lying when they said it. If the evidence proves plaintiff’s allegation, then each commentator committed unlawful defamation and CNN is both vicariously and primarily liable for damages. It really is that simple,” he wrote.
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