The New York Times Co. was hit with a lawsuit in Massachusetts federal court on Monday by a Harvard law professor who says the news giant published a false article saying he had defended secret donations by Jeffrey Epstein to academic institutions.
Professor Lawrence Lessig accuses the New York Times of publishing “a sensationalized, false and defamatory ‘clickbait’” story called, “A Harvard Professor Doubles Down: If You Take Epstein’s Money, Do It in Secret.” The story was spurred by an article Lessig had published on Medium.com about the ethics of controversial contributions.
Lessig says he made it clear in the article that his “moral preference would be that universities take clean money only” and that he didn’t support the fundraising involving Epstein, according to the lawsuit.
“The final article with its title displayed a reckless disregard for the truth,” attorneys for Lessig wrote in the complaint.
The New York Times has vowed to defend itself from the suit.
“Senior editors reviewed the story after Professor Lessig complained and were satisfied that the story accurately reflected his statements,” a NYT spokesperson told Bloomberg Law in an email. “We plan to defend against the claim vigorously.”
Cause of Action: Defamation
Relief: Damages; fees and costs.
Attorneys: Lessig is represented by Todd & Weld LLP. Counsel information for the New York Times wasn’t immediately available on Monday.
The case is Lessig v. The New York Times, D. Mass., No. 1:20-cv-10060, complaint 1/13/20.