from the don't-even-start dept
NPR has an incredible story about the media and Jeffrey Epstein. You should read the whole damn thing, because no summary here will do it justice. It covers multiple attempts by various large media organizations, including Vanity Fair, the NY Times and ABC to report on Jeffrey Epstein over the years, and how Epstein, intimidated, coaxed and even potentially bought off reporters to get more favorable coverage, or to kill stories outright. It’s horrific and awful and everything along those lines. Go read it.
But, I’m going to focus on the fact that NPR quotes David Boies throughout the piece, acting horrified at how the media fell down on this. He’s 100% correct about that, but he’s the wrong fucking messenger given his own long history doing pretty much exactly what Epstein is reported to have done regarding the media in this particular piece. Boies is defending some of Epstein’s victims, and good on him to be a strong advocate for his clients and against Epstein. But this quote is not one David Boies should be making:
“We count on the press to uncover problems, not merely to report on when problems have been prosecuted and when people have been indicted, but to uncover problems before they reach that stage,” says David Boies, an attorney for several of Epstein’s accusers. “And here you had a terrible problem. A horrific series of abuses.”
Shall we review some of the record on David Boies and his attempts to intimidate and silence the press when they tried to “uncover problems before they reach that stage”? As you may recall, one of David Boies’ big clients was… Harvey Weinstein. And, as Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker reported in great detail, Boies and his firm seemed to work very, very hard to stop anyone from revealing Weinstein’s problems with multiple women.
That article covers how Weinstein hired a bunch of former Mossad and Israeli intelligence officers who had set up a firm called “Black Cube” to try to “extract information” on various Weinstein accusers.
Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women?s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.
The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies ?target,? or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.
You might ask, what does that have to do with Boies? Well, according to the New Yorker, it was Boies who hired Black Cube and signed the contract with them to run this operation to silence Weinstein accusers and block negative stories. He even did this despite a clear conflict of interest (he was trying to suppress a NY Times story while representing the NY Times in a separate case):
In some cases, the investigative effort was run through Weinstein?s lawyers, including David Boies, a celebrated attorney who represented Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential-election dispute and argued for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Times story about Weinstein?s abuses, while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case.
And that’s not all. Remember the big Theranos scandal and mess, which turned out to be a pretty massive fraud? That only came to light thanks to some whistleblowers at the company who went to a reporter at the Wall Street Journal with their concerns. And can you guess what happened there, too? Yup. In a big Vanity Fair article we learned about an incredibly aggressive campaign to silence the whistleblowers. There’s some irony here given that, in this new NPR piece, Boies is criticizing Vanity Fair as one of the publications that “failed” to publish information about Epstein’s crimes. But the Vanity Fair piece shows that Boies was heavily involved in the campaign to discredit and silence the whistleblowers:
Shortly after reading the article, Carreyrou started investigating Theranos?s medical practices. As it turned out, there was an underside to Theranos?s story that had not been told?one that involved questionable lab procedures and results, among other things. Soon after Carreyrou began his reporting, David Boies, the superstar lawyer?and Theranos board member?who had taken on Bill Gates in the 1990s and represented Al Gore during the 2000 Florida recount case, visited the Journal newsroom for a five-hour meeting. Boies subsequently returned to the Journal to meet with the paper?s editor in chief, Gerard Baker.
It also notes very threatening letters from Boies’ firms to multiple whistleblowers at the company, claiming imminent legal action merely for talking to reporters:
Meanwhile, Theranos had its lawyers send a letter to Rochelle Gibbons?s attorney, threatening legal action for talking to a reporter. ?It has been the Company?s desire not to pursue legal action against Mrs. Gibbons,? a lawyer for Boies, Schiller & Flexner wrote. ?Unless she immediately ceases these actions, she will leave the Company no other option but to pursue litigation to definitively put an end [to] these actions once and for all.? Others who spoke to the Journal were met with similar threats.
Rochelle Gibbons, if you haven’t read the story, was the wife of a Theranos scientist who had tried to whistleblow within the company, saying the technology didn’t work, and had protested internally the fact that Elizabeth Holmes had publicly announced that the tech worked and that they’d be opening “Theranos Wellness Centers” at Walgreens. As he kept talking internally, he was ordered to go meet with Holmes. Fearing he was about to be fired, he tried to take his own life, and died a week later in the hospital. This leads to the following:
When Rochelle called Holmes?s office to explain what had happened, the secretary was devastated and offered her sincere condolences. She told Rochelle Gibbons that she would let Holmes know immediately. But a few hours later, rather than a condolence message from Holmes, Rochelle instead received a phone call from someone at Theranos demanding that she immediately return any and all confidential Theranos property.
The report also notes that Elizabeth Holmes’ two day “war room” strategy to figure out how to deal with this reporting exposing the corporate fraud involved multiple “lawyers from Boies, Schiller & Flexner.” It does not say that Boies himself was in that room, but given that he wasn’t just a lawyer for them, but a member of the board, it would not be surprising to find out that he was a key strategist in that meeting.
And that’s not all. While perhaps not nearly as serious as efforts to kill stories about Harvey Weinstein’s accusers or Theranos whistleblowers, Boies also personally sent a bunch of totally bogus, censorial letters to basically every publication that wrote about the contents of the hacked Sony Pictures emails. He even sent one to me. The letter, ridiculously, demands that publications not write about the contents of those emails to “help [protect] the First Amendment.” Convincing news organizations not to report on news is not protecting the First Amendment, David.
So, yes, Boies is right that it’s a travesty that Epstein was able to convince powerful media organizations not to run stories exposing Epstein’s misdeeds, but for Boies of all people to be bitching about that is particularly rich, given his own well-documented efforts to do similar things.
Filed Under: david boies, elizabeth holmes, free press, harvey weinstein, jeffrey epstein, stifling free press
Companies: abc, ny times, sony pictures, theranos, vanity fair