By Lauren Huff
July 31, 2020 at 08:01 PM EDT
Christine Baranski
Credit: Patrick Harbron/CBS

Alan Dershowitz, the attorney and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, is demanding a retraction and public apology from ViacomCBS for comments made about him in relation to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in an episode of the legal drama The Good Fight.

The comments in question aired during the show's season 4 finale, titled "The Gang Discovers Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein." In the episode, Epstein's fictional former attorney Benjamin Dafoe, portrayed by actor David Alford, says, "Probably about the time he ditched me for Dershowitz. 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."

In a letter sent to CBS, Dershowitz's attorney Imran H. Ansari, of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins PC, outlines why Dershowitz believes the episode "is tortious and constitutes both defamation per se and defamation by implication."

"The episode in question is centered on the criminal allegations made against Jeffrey Epstein and his ultimate death," the letter says. "Clearly, 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 letter goes on to say that the fact the character makes mention of an "opinion" would suggest "that CBS knew the statements were defamatory."

"We are extended an opportunity to resolve this matter without litigation," the letter concludes. "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."

ViacomCBS denied to comment on the matter to EW.

In a letter obtained by Variety, which first reported the news, Jonathan Anschell, ViacomCBS Media Networks executive VP and general counsel, noted that The Good Fight "is a work of fiction" and added, "The character whose lines you cite in your letter is made-up as well. Benjamin Dafoe is not a real lawyer; on the Series, he's Epstein's 'fictitious prior lawyer,' as your letter acknowledges. In other words, as one might explain to a small child, the Series, its characters and the things they say are all make-believe. People don't watch the Series for factual information about Professor Dershowitz or anyone else."

In a separate comment provided to EW, Ansari said, "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.' 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."

Dershowitz, who defended Epstein in his 2008 sex abuse case in Florida, has come under fire for his association with Epstein. One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Giuffre, previously accused Dershowitz of sexual misconduct. Dershowitz denied all claims, and in 2016 a defamation suit involving him was settled and Giuffre's lawyers claimed it was "a mistake to have filed sexual misconduct accusations against Dershowitz."

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