Despite having the Oscar-winning Reversal of Fortune made from his book of the same name, it seems Alan Dershowitz this week had to have the difference between fact and fiction painstakingly explained to him by one of ViacomCBS’ top lawyers over Jeffrey Epstein.
“If we understand your letter correctly, you are complaining about a line spoken by a fictional character, in an episode of the fictional series The Good Fight,” wrote the company’s Jonathan Anschell to Dershowitz’s attorney Imran Ansari on July 28 (read it here).
The company’s response comes after a letter sent by Ansari to seemingly everyone associated with the production of The Good Fight — including creators Robert and Michelle King and producers Scott Free — alleged that the line in the Fred Murphy-directed and Laura Marks-penned season finale that aired May 28 was defamatory and could lead to further legal action.
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“You make this complaint on behalf of Professor Alan Dershowitz, a public figure who has long been associated with Jeffrey Epstein, and who has admitted on television to receiving a massage from a woman at Epstein’s mansion,” the Viacom EVP and general counsel adds of the acclaimed CBS All Access series. “In the non-fictional world, these factors require us to decline your request that we withdraw the episode, and our correspondence could end right here.”
But, of course, after the seething letter that was sent on Dershowitz’s behalf on July 17 about the dialogue in the “The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein” episode of Good Fight’s recently concluded fourth season, it doesn’t.
“In other words, as one might explain to a small child, the Series, its characters and the things they say are all make-believe,” Anschell goes on to say with a tone you can clearly hear off the page, if you know what I mean. “People don’t watch the Series for actual information about Professor Dershowitz or anyone else.”
Ansari had stated that “Professor Dershowitz requests that CBS promptly retract the defamatory content, cease and desist from further airing the defamatory content, and issue a public apology to Professor Dershowitz,” in the letter sent by the lawyer at Harvey Weinstein-representing Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins PC.
Literally drawing from a few seconds of dialogue in the hourlong and sometimes openly loopy drama, a fictional defense lawyer played by David Alford laments with a wink to real life to series stars Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald about being shown the door by Epstein in the past. “Probably about the time he ditched me for Dershowitz,” says Benjamin Defoe to fictional attorneys Diane Lockhart and Liz Reddick. “At least I didn’t get a massage, like that shyster. And for the purposes of any potential lawsuit ‘shyster’ is just my opinion not a statement of fact.”
“The dialogue and the context in which it is made, with words loaded with innuendo such as ‘massage,’ ‘Epstein,’ the ‘Virgin Islands,’ in combination with the word ‘shyster,’ falsely suggests that Professor Dershowitz engaged in sexual conduct, i.e. a ‘massage,’ with an underage girl associated with Epstein, and is crooked, unscrupulous and lying about it, i.e. a ‘shyster’” the three-page letter from Dershowitz’s real-life lawyer oddly states.
“We’re confident that no viewer would conclude that Professor Dershowitz is a shyster based on one line of opinion from a fictional character on the Series, as opposed to the real-life, factual publications that have called him exactly that,” ViacomCBS’ Anshell lobbied back in his own letter.
And, with the Sword of Damocles of the often litigiously and equally media savvy Dershowitz taking this to the courts hanging there, the lawyer for the Epstein-, Weinstein- and Donald Trump-representing ex-Harvard Law School professor volleyed back this afternoon.
“Contrary to the position CBS has taken, the law does not allow one to defame under the guise of fiction nor by labeling defamatory content ‘opinion’” Ansari told Deadline. “When taken as a whole, and in the context made, the defamatory innuendo of the statement is clear, and the statement, made about an individual who is far from fictional, adds up to little more than a gratuitous attack on my client’s professional and personal reputation.”
First reported by Variety, the news of the correspondence dust-up comes as one-time real-life Epstein lawyer Dershowitz is seeking to further extract himself from association with the sordid matter of the now deceased private island-owning convicted sex offender. A dump of documents related to Epstein, who died in custody last year, and his ex-lover and tabloid offspring Ghislaine Maxwell saw Dershowitz’s name come up again in connection with sex trafficking young women in the orbit of the man he helped to get a sweetheart deal from Florida prosecutors in 2008.
“I demanded release of these documents,” Dershowitz asserted in a statement email to Deadline and other media outlets today requesting an interview. “They contain no new accusations that were not made public in Guiffre’s prior lawsuits,” he added, referring to Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre and the approximately 600 pages released late Thursday to the irritation of U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska after Maxwell’s attorneys attempted an eleventh-hour delay. “The reason I wanted them released is because they contain smoking gun emails and a manuscript that prove in Guiffre’s own words that she never met me and made up the entire story,” Dershowitz said Friday.
Held in New York City without bail and under constant guard to avoid a repeat of Epstein’s contested fate, Maxwell did score a win Friday when a federal judge agreed to hit pause on the unsealing of the British heiress’ 2016 deposition in the matter – for now.
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