Dershowitz gets smacked down for claiming National Enquirer didn’t try to extort Jeff Bezos

Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz tried to suggest Sunday that the National Enquirer had not actually committed extortion with their threat to publish embarrassing photos of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, but was quickly countered by attorney Dan Abrams.

Dershowitz and Abrams were guests on ABC’s “This Week,” and Professor Dershowitz told host George Stephanopoulos:

“The First Amendment needs breathing room. This is a fight between two media moguls. There was a negotiation. It was a tough negotiation. I’m certainly not here to defend the journalistic ethics of The National Enquirer, but the First Amendment doesn’t distinguish between The Washington Post, ABC News and The National Enquirer.

“You need to draw a line between what is extortion-ish and what is extortion consistent with the First Amendment.”

Abrams, however, quickly reminded Dershowitz that Enquirer’s threats were clearly extortion:

“There are crimes based on words and that’s what extortion is.”

Dershowitz countered:

“That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the fact that we’re dealing with media here, and remember too that the alleged extortion occurred in a letter from a lawyer.

“I have been practicing law for over 50 years and I have never seen an extortion come in the form of a lawyer. You don’t get extortion by mail.”

But Abrams shut Dershowitz down by reminding him:

“Yeah, but the fact that American Media is a media entity does not immunize them from the types of crimes we’re talking about here.”

If the National Enquirer told Bezos they were going to publish private photos of him if he didn’t agree to say what they wanted him to, how can any reasonable person not see that as a form of extortion and blackmail? Here’s the legal definition of blackmail:

“Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public. Inherent in this common form of extortion is the threat to expose the details of someone’s private lives to the public unless money is exchanged.”

Perhaps Professor Dershowitz needs to do a quick Google search before he goes on TV and makes a fool of himself.

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