Lena Dunham Once Again Threatens Lawsuit Over An Interpretation Of Her Book That She Doesn't Like

from the not-how-it-works... dept

We’ve only written about Lena Dunham once before, and it was in the context of her threatening a lawsuit against Gawker for daring to publish her book proposal and comment on it, mocking Dunham. At the time, as noted, I’d never even heard of Dunham. I’ve still never seen her show, but I have seen/heard her interviewed a few times, and I don’t quite understand why there’s so much hate directed at her some of the time. She seems to have an interesting perspective on life and has turned it into a very successful TV show. Good for her. Still, this is now the second time we’ve felt the need to write about Dunham and, once again, it’s about an apparent legal threat from her, based on her book. This time it’s not about the book proposal, but the book itself, now that it’s out.

The key issue? Some news sites out there interpreted part of her book to be her admitting to sexually abusing her little sister as a baby. These claims appear to be rather overblown. Various experts appear to agree that nothing Dunham did comes close to actual sexual abuse.

Still, it appears that Dunham has at least threatened one site, TruthRevolt, for writing just such a story. She demanded a retraction and a (pre-written) apology. TruthRevolt, wisely, refused. Instead, it just reprinted the text from Dunham’s own book that highlights the basis for the site’s original post. Ken “Popehat” White has the excellent explanation of the legal ridiculousness of Dunham’s lawyers’ threats:

If Ms. Dunham is alleging that the original Truth Revolt article about her is defamatory, she is wrong ? unless it has deliberately and extensively misquoted her book. Truth Revolt has admitted that the article originally and incorrectly said that she was 17, not 7, when one of the incidents described took place. But absent proof that Truth Revolt made that misstatement intentionally, that’s incompetence, not the actual malice required to prove up defamation of a public figure like Ms. Dunham.

Truth Revolt’s characterization of Ms. Dunham’s memoir is not defamation. It’s classic opinion based on specific disclosed facts. You might think that Truth Revolt’s interpretation of Dunham’s stories of her conduct with her sister is irrational, or unfair, or politically biased, or cruel. That doesn’t make it defamatory. If I linked to one of Ben Shapiro’s articles and said “this article proves that Ben Shapiro is a secret lizard person sent by Obama to discredit conservatives,” that wouldn’t be defamation either. It might be crazy, but it’s my statement of opinion based on Shapiro’s own words. If Truth Revolt had said “people have told me that Lena Dunham molested her sister” or “I have reviewed documents that suggest to me that Lena Dunham molested her sister,” that would be different ? that would be a statement of fact, or a statement of opinion based on undisclosed facts.

Of course, White has an alternative theory as to why all of this is happening as well:

Her threat, and her reaction to the coverage, are likely to trigger the Streisand Effect, driving orders of magnitude more eyes to the characterizations of her memoir. She’s media-savvy enough that I can’t help but wonder whether that’s her intention in the first place. It will sell books.

Given that this is the second time she’s appeared in these pages, and both times it’s about threatening some random blog for highlighting her own words and mocking them… that theory is seems to have a fair bit of support.

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Comments on “Lena Dunham Once Again Threatens Lawsuit Over An Interpretation Of Her Book That She Doesn't Like”

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Anon says:

Re: Legally

No, legally, because a 7-year-old can’t commit a crime; and the motivation of the act does not appear to be sexually motivated, or sadistic, or any of the other activities that would lead it to be sexual abuse or a crime of sexual abuse.

I’m torn in two directions here – there is freedom of speech, but publicly implying, accusing, or hinting that someone is a child molester (specifically “one who molests children”, not “one who is a child and molests”) is a serious accusation. Hiding behind the veil of “I never said that” or “thou hast said it”, not me… is disingenuous lying. If you’re not impugning motive, why bring it up at all?

With freedom comes responsibility, whether it’s the right to bear arms or the right to speak.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Legally

She was not seven years old for all of the scenarios she wrote about. The pattern of creepiness apparently continued until she was 17.

Hiding behind the veil of “I never said that” or “thou hast said it”, not me… is disingenuous lying. If you’re not impugning motive, why bring it up at all?

Again: Disclosed Fact vs Undisclosed Fact

“Based on your publicly-made statement, you are a child molester” is a protected opinion, since it’s based on publicly disclosed facts. There’s nothing “disingenuous” about it, and no one is “hiding behind a veil” that I can see.

Noonein part says:

Re: Re: Legally

She would never go to jail for what she did or be arrested.

The incident when she was 7 and her sister was 1 probably would have led to a child services worker declaring that there was a risk of harm and they would have monitored. If another incident happened they would have tried to remove her from the home (go live with grandma kind of thing)

The incident when she was 17 also would have probably never led to an arrest, mostly because she is a female, but I think the police would have gotten involved and, ‘had a talk with her,’ probably suggesting that she move out and find another place to live.

The big thing is the age difference. When you have a 6 year age difference between siblings, authorities essentially view the older of the two siblings as an adult and the younger as a child because that is comparatively what you are. A 17 year old’s development and ability to manipulate is light years beyond that of an 11 year old.

Thatch (user link) says:

Re: Legally

Well, I believe she said herself that what she did with her sister was ongoing and that she tried basically anything a child molester would try if he wanted to groom her sister. She doesn’t get to say stuff like that and then act all innocent when people take her at her word.

Just to be clear I understand she paid her sister with candy for lingering kisses, coaxed her sister to “relax” on her (and I shudder to think what that means), went spelunking in her sister’s vagina and used to play on her sister’s fears to get her to sleep in the same bed with Lena where she admits masturbating next to her. I don’t think anyone needs a psychiatrist to tell them that is some sick behavior.

So yeah, people are going to be mortified. Lena is basically a spoiled little trustafarian with boundary issues because her parents did not bother to socialize her properly. And her sister said as much in that she claims Lena is still violating boundaries by including her in the book when she has made it known she does not want her life made public.

Lena says she wants to be the voice of her generation so you aren’t even allowed to write it off as one more freak getting famous by doing outrageous things since you now have to go to the trouble of saying, “No Lena, you are a freak and do not represent anyone but yourself.”

Now my disclaimer since she is so litigious: All of the above is my opinion and based on things I have read on the internet and not first hand knowledge (thank God).

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s funny how those “experts” focused on the most benign portion of her writing (7 year old looking a 1 year old’s vagina), conveniently ignoring the more disgusting parts of the narrative (grooming her sister, controlling her, all up until she (Leah) reached age 17). If you read the comments to the 2nd story of the expert on gawker, you get the full story (and it’s also posted elsewhere). She also likened her own behavior to that of a sexual predator. She’s a sick puppy and now wants to pretend none of this happened, using the legal system as her hammer.

Case says:

If I linked to one of Ben Shapiro’s articles and said “this article proves that Ben Shapiro is a secret lizard person sent by Obama to discredit conservatives,” that wouldn’t be defamation either. It might be crazy, but it’s my statement of opinion based on Shapiro’s own words.

The difference is that being a secret lizard person would not be illegal, whereas accusing somebody of being a child abuser is making an accusation of serious criminal behavior…

CosmicConservative (user link) says:


The comments in her book speak for themselves. The fact that it took a conservative blog (and a well-respected one run by a Harvard-graduated lawyer) to bring them to light only reveals how the general book-reviewing press either doesn’t read what they review, or didn’t want to address the stories to protect one they view as one of their own.

Either what she wrote is true, which most rational parents would take as a severe warning never to leave a child alone with Ms. Dunham; or else it is false and was written because she wanted to “push the envelope” and did not believe that anyone would do anything but celebrate her awesome courage and openness. The fact that people took her words seriously seems to have surprised the hell out of her.

Norm says:

a bit more to it..

I hadn’t heard of Lena Dunham until this whole thing blew up and then I learned that she is the daughter of Carrol Dunham, the artist who is famous for his cartoony paintings of intestines and reproductive organs.

If you actually read what she’d written about her behavior towards her sister, you’ll see that it goes well beyond the vagina pebbles incident at 7, which is what the ‘experts’ at Salon and Gawker are highlighting.

From what she describes, she’d engaged in a pattern of baiting her much younger sister for sexual acts into her late teens. This included kissing, having her sister ‘relax’ on her, and masturbating next to her sister. What makes it worse it that she characterizes her own behavior as like that of a pedophile and acknowledges that it was intended to induce her sister into performing sexual acts or to enabling herself to perform sexual acts in her sister’s presence.

Honestly it reads like a textbook pattern of child sexual abuse. I don’t know why Salon and Gawker are defending her except that it seems that she’s become a darling of the Progressive media.

DonM says:

Re: Poor Grammar

Chinese fortune cookies were invented in US, specifically by Fu get su do, a Japanese-American confectionery shop. The place is still in business, operating on 1st Street in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles.

Wonderful people there, and Japanese American couples often get their picture taken there as it is unchanged since the 1940s. Their parents often had their pictures taken there.

Glad I could answer that question for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good for her that she’s a wealthy Hollywood celebrity who will never need to get a real job for the rest of her life, because she destroyed any possiblilty of ever being a baby-sitter, nanny, or day care worker.

She shouldn’t even be allowed around children at all. Depraved, perverted predators like her don’t even belong in society.

Donald Campbell says:

Consider her choice...

She is suing Truth Revolt, yet National Review also ran a similar discussion with quotes from her book. Which has more readers, especially progressive readers interested in her book?

This indeed suggests that she is probably utilizing the Streisand Effect. Unfortunately for her, Babs had a minor point, pictures of her house. In this case, the Effect might bring more interest in her possible sexual predation instead of the desired increase in book sales. She can invoke the Effect, but she can’t necessarily focus the outcome.

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