Recently, the emeritus Harvard law professor has felt shunned at his usual haunts. Is it “cancel culture,” or something else? The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner sits down with Prof. Dershowitz to find out.
Alan Dershowitz became one of the most famous lawyers in America by representing high-profile clients such as Jeffrey Epstein, Mike Tyson, and O. J. Simpson, and enmeshing himself in political debates on subjects such as torture and the Israeli occupation. (He has defended both.) In recent years, however, his career has taken even more controversial turns, notably his public campaign against the Mueller investigation and his decision to join President Trump’s legal team. In 2019, Connie Bruck profiled Dershowitz for The New Yorker, and looked into allegations that he had sexually abused Virginia Giuffre, who was trafficked by Epstein. (Dershowitz denies the accusations.)
Dershowitz has lately been going on television and Twitter to discuss cancel culture, specifically how he has been shunned on Martha’s Vineyard, his longtime summer getaway. He even released the text of what he said was an e-mail from someone who had been beaten up on the beach for reading one of his books. I recently spoke by phone with Dershowitz, an emeritus professor of law at Harvard and the author of the new book “The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth the Consequences.” It was released last week and happens to be about the very subject of the e-mail he received: cancel culture, and an unwillingness to hear differing opinions. (He describes the book as “the story of my cancellation.”) During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed what has happened to his social life since he defended Donald Trump, his falling-out with Larry David, and why he compared the January 6th committee to McCarthyism.
Can you tell me a little bit about this letter you received?
It’s part of a pattern. I was the most popular speaker in the Chilmark Library series.
I can imagine.
Every year, they would have an overflow crowd to hear me speak about whatever book I was writing, or whatever I was doing. But suddenly, after I represented the Constitution on behalf of President Trump, the library found excuses for never having me. Their first excuse was that my crowds were too big. So I said, “Well, why don’t you limit the crowds?” They said, “Oh, we hadn’t thought of that.”
Can you imagine if Ed Sullivan had done that with the Beatles? It’s a ridiculous excuse.
Yeah, of course. So I’ve been cancelled, basically, by the Chilmark Library. That has resulted in lots of people in Chilmark calling me and calling the library and saying, “We’re being deprived of Alan’s annual speech.” [Ebba Hierta, the Chilmark’s director, disputed Dershowitz’s characterization, and said, “Not one single person has contacted me to complain that they haven’t had a chance to hear Alan speak.”]
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