Ronan Farrow’s second bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein for the New Yorker had more than one explosive charge within it. Farrow exposed the network of spies and attorneys that suppressed allegations of rape and sexual assault for decades, and which kept the media at arms-length from the victims. One of the law firms involved, Farrow reported, was Boies Schiller, helmed by Democratic power lawyer David Boies — who happened to have another important client at the same time his firm undermined reporting on Weinstein.
Now that client wants its pound of flesh for Boies Schiller’s “grave betrayal of trust,” the New York Times told Susan Seagar at The Wrap:
The New York Times is seeking “appropriate remedies” for “a grave betrayal of trust” after the New Yorker reported Monday that famed attorney David Boies’ law firm represented the paper at the same time that Boies assisted efforts to derail a bombshell Times expose of his client, Harvey Weinstein.
“We learned today that the law firm of Boies Schiller and Flexner secretly worked to stop our reporting on Harvey Weinstein at the same time as the firm’s lawyers were representing us in other matters,” Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokesperson, told TheWrap.
“We consider this intolerable conduct, a grave betrayal of trust, and a breach of the basic professional standards that all lawyers are required to observe,” she continued. “It is inexcusable, and we will be pursuing appropriate remedies.”
There is some poetic continuity in The Wrap’s coverage of this statement, if not exactly justice. Sharon Waxman, now at the Wrap, tried reporting on Weinstein in 2004 but had her story gutted to remove any hint of sexual harassment or assault. Waxman worked at the NYT at that time, and it was the type of pressure that Farrow describes that wound up spiking the main thrust of Waxman’s investigation of Fabrizio Lombardo, Weinstein’s alleged procurer in Italy.
The NYT covered the story too, albeit with a little less focus on their response, which they include in the sixth paragraph. They did make sure to spell out just how well connected Boies is to Democrats in the fourth paragraph, surely a signal of displeasure:
A contract with one of at least three private investigation firms that Mr. Weinstein employed, Black Cube, listed its “primary objectives” as providing “intelligence which will help the client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY Newspaper” and obtaining content from a book that was to include “harmful, negative information on and about the client.” The magazine identified the newspaper as The New York Times and the book author as Rose McGowan, who has stepped forward to allege that Mr. Weinstein raped her. (He has denied forcing women into “nonconsensual sex.”)
The contract, which the magazine published on its website, had as its signatory a Weinstein lawyer, David Boies, a Democratic Party stalwart who argued for marriage equality at the Supreme Court and represented Al Gore in the disputed 2000 presidential election.
Mr. Boies’s firm, Boies Schiller Flexner L.L.P., has provided The Times with outside legal counsel in three legal matters over the past 10 years, including one libel case.
Boies tried to defuse the situation up front by addressing it with Farrow. He admitted that partnering with Weinstein and the agencies was “a mistake,” but claimed it didn’t represent a conflict of interest in his firm’s relationship with the Times:
But Boies did feel the need to respond to what he considered “fair and important” questions about his hiring of investigators. He said that he did not consider the contractual provisions directing Black Cube to stop the publication of the Times story to be a conflict of interest, because his firm was also representing the newspaper in a libel suit. From the beginning, he said, he advised Weinstein “that the story could not be stopped by threats or influence and that the only way the story could be stopped was by convincing the Times that there was no rape.” Boies told me he never pressured any news outlet. “If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times’ interest.”
He conceded, however, that any efforts to profile and undermine reporters, at the Times and elsewhere, were problematic. “In general, I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to pressure reporters,” he said. “If that did happen here, it would not have been appropriate.”
Although the agencies paid by his firm focussed on many women with allegations, Boies said that he had only been aware of their work related to McGowan, whose allegations Weinstein denied. “Given what was known at the time, I thought it was entirely appropriate to investigate precisely what he was accused of doing, and to investigate whether there were facts that would rebut those accusations,” he said.
Of his representation of Weinstein in general, he said, “I don’t believe former lawyers should criticize former clients.” But he expressed regrets. “Although he vigorously denies using physical force, Mr. Weinstein has himself recognized that his contact with women was indefensible and incredibly hurtful,” Boies told me. “In retrospect, I knew enough in 2015 that I believe I should have been on notice of a problem, and done something about it. I don’t know what, if anything, happened after 2015, but to the extent it did, I think I have some responsibility. I also think that if people had taken action earlier it would have been better for Mr. Weinstein.”
That’s a level of parsing that darn near reaches Clintonian levels. The money ran through his firm, which paid the intelligence agencies based on their work. It’s impossible to believe that Boies had no idea of the scope of that work, especially with multiple contractors working on Weinstein’s behalf. The claim to be working on the NYT’s interest is especially rich, considering that he apparently wasn’t disclosing that work to the Times, nor the methods by which that work was being accomplished.
This is exactly what the Times means when it talks about “grave betrayal of trust.” Boies may be too well connected to lose his bar card, but if a less-successful attorney tried playing both sides against the middle like this for gigantic paydays, the outcome would likely be somewhat different. Expect a large settlement to come the NYT’s way before it gets to the state bar association, which in this scandal would just fit the pattern perfectly.