Last month, the BBC’s decided to apologize for interviewing me about the verdict in the Ghislaine Maxwell case. Earlier this month, the Times of London reported falsely that I had lobbied former President Donald Trump to pardon Maxwell.
These two examples raise fundamental questions about the role of the media in reporting on disputed allegations of sexual misconduct. They reflect a widespread refusal by many journalists to report fairly on both sides of the story, or to investigate credible claims by the accused that the allegations are false. They fear that if they do, they will be accused of shaming or silencing victims of sexual abuse.
I know, because — as I have noted elsewhere — I have provided reporters with incontestable recorded evidence that they have promised to publish but then failed to report, while reporting on any testimony that bolsters the credibility of alleged victims. The result of this one-sided presentation is to deny the public information necessary to evaluate the comparative credibility of the accusers and the accused, and to encourage false accusations.
Following the Maxwell conviction, the BBC reached out to me for an interview, as other media did. The media also interviewed several of Maxwell’s victims and their supporters, as they have in the past. During the BBC interview and others, I explicitly disclosed that Virginia Giuffre had accused me and others of having sex with her. I did not present myself as a neutral legal expert, but rather as victim of a false accusation, challenging the credibility of my accuser. I commented that the Maxwell prosecutors were smart not to have called Giuffre as a witness because — I contend — she lacked credibility. In fact, her own lawyers have disputed her credibility in recorded statements. The Maxwell prosecutors are aware of the evidence of Giuffre’s lack of credibility, because I provided it to them both in person and by mail. I think they decided not to call her as a witness because they believe she was not telling the truth.
The media, including the BBC, had previously failed to report on why the Maxwell prosecutors had decided not to call Maxwell’s most prominent public accuser as a witness against her. This was an important point, especially for British viewers who are obviously interested in Giuffre’s accusations and lawsuit against Prince Andrew. Giuffre is Andrew’s only accuser and her credibility, or lack thereof, is central to evaluating the accusation.
If prosecutors have doubts about the credibility of Prince Andrew’s accuser, the British public should be made aware of the basis for those doubts. They should also know, as they were informed by me, that I, too, have been accused by Giuffre— along with other high-profile people including Senator George Mitchell, Ambassador Bill Richardson, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, billionaire Leslie Wexner, Professor Marvin Minsky, and Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter, Alexandra. So, I told the BBC why I thought the prosecutors decided not to vouch for Giuffre’s credibility. No one was misled about my interest in discrediting my false accuser. There was no pushback by the BBC interviewer.
So why did the BBC apologize for interviewing me? Obviously because of the subsequent criticism they received, including from members of Parliament and other politicians.
One such politician, Labor MP Nadia Whittome, demanded that “BBC should not give a platform to people accused of child sexual abuse,” because “we have a responsibility to believe people when they disclose sexual abuse…”.
In other words, even those who allege to have been falsely accused should be silenced, and only their accusers —even if the evidence of their mendacity is overwhelming—should be given a platform and believed.
The complaint was not that the BBC failed to alert its viewers of my interest in the case, because I did so. The complaint and resulting apology was that I “was not a suitable person to interview as an impartial analyst . . .” — but I was not interviewed in that capacity, as I made crystal clear throughout the interview. Those who complained about my interview simply didn’t want my point of view to be aired by anyone. This is clear from the complaints directed to the BBC regarding its decision to interview Ian Maxwell, whom everyone knows is Ghislaine’s brother. The complaint is that defenders of Maxwell shouldn’t be “given airtime.” Only the alleged victims should — as they have been, with no complaints.
This is a call for censorship, and for only one side of a disputed accusation to be heard. It is precisely this censorial attitude that prevailed during McCarthyism, when people were falsely accused of communist affiliation, and were denied airtime to defend themselves. The media refused to report on their side of the story for fear being labelled “fellow travelers” or “commy simps.” Today the media fears being accused of “victim shaming,” even if the alleged “victims” are themselves alleged to be victimizers.
All sides of these important issues should be heard. Alleged victims should not be silenced, but nor should those who credibly dispute their allegations. Indeed, real victims can also be perpetrators. Giuffre may well have been victimized by Epstein, but another Epstein victim reportedly testified at the Maxwell trial that Giuffre victimized her: “Carolyn” testified, as a government witness, that Giuffre brought her to Epstein when Carolyn was 14. She said that Giuffre then undressed and had sex with Epstein in front of her, presumably to ease her into doing the same – which she then did for many months.
In other words, according to that testimony, Giuffre committed a serious crime as well: she trafficked a 14-year-old friend to Epstein for money. She didn’t have to do that. Epstein was not even aware of Carolyn. Giuffre, an adult, volunteered to traffic her with the expectation that she would be paid for it.
Giuffre may also have lied under oath about having sex with numerous prominent individuals— as she has about me. All these issues should be fully investigated by the media as well as by law enforcement. The public has the right to know these details about Giuffre in order to evaluate her allegations against so many prominent people.
There should be no presumption of guilt, as Ms. Whittome proposes. Indeed, what she proposes is more than a mere presumption. It is a certainty assured by censorship of any opposing views.
I welcome a full and complete investigation by the BBC of their interview with me, as I have called for a full investigation by the FBI of Giuffre’s accusations and my documentation. I will be happy to present the BBC with the evidence that I have given law enforcement officials in the United States, including Giuffre’s own emails and other writings that prove conclusively that her accusations against me are entirely made up, that I never even met her, and that she had collected between five and ten million dollars from her accusations against others. I will also provide them with the recorded statements by her own lawyers acknowledging that Giuffre was “wrong.” Let not the media silence the falsely accused and let not politicians call for an end to the presumption of innocence.
The BBC has not contacted me as part of its “investigation.” It has merely “investigated” the reason why they interviewed me, not whether the interview was appropriate, given that I disclosed my interest as a victim of Giuffre’s false allegation.
Perhaps the BBC should have included some of the above facts in their introduction of me. That is on them. But I quickly made up for any such BBC omission by myself stating that I was among those accused by Giuffre. I certainly did nothing wrong by accepting the BBC invitation to be interviewed, any more than alleged victims and their supporters did by being interviewed. At the very least, the BBC investigation should conclude that I did nothing improper in being interviewed.
I will continue to speak out about the false accusations against me whether on BBC or other media, especially if the media persists in its refusal to investigate the credibility of those who have made serious and credibility disputed allegations. No one is trying to silence the alleged victims of sexual abuse. Virginia Giuffre has been interviewed by many TV programs, newspapers, magazines and blogs. And no one should silence those, like me, who seek to prove we are victims of false accusations.
As to the report by the Times of London that I lobbied former President Trump to grant a pre-emptive pardon to Maxwell, that never happened. Yet it was widely reported around the world, with most of the media not even calling me for a comment or denial.
The media and politicians have no right to censor the victims of false charges in the name of political correctness. The public has the right to know the whole truth. I provided an important part of that truth. I was as “suitable [a] person to interview” by the media, as were the alleged victims and their supporters.
Alan M. Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo.