Pictured: Alan Dershowitz in the US Senate Reception Room on January 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Should Yale have fired Dr. Bandy Lee, the psychiatrist who diagnosed someone she had never even seen -- actually me -- as suffering from "psychosis" because of my views on the constitutional rights of President Donald Trump? She claims I caught the psychosis from Trump. Her evidence: that I used a word -- "perfect" -- months before he used it!
Lee has never met me, never examined me, never seen my medical records, never even spoken to anyone close to me.
Yet she was prepared to offer a diagnosis of "psychosis' which she attributed to my being one of President Trump's "followers." (I am a liberal Democrat who did not vote for Trump.)
Indeed, she went even further, diagnosing the severity and spread of "shared psychosis' among "just about all of Donald Trump's followers!"
Nor was she using these psychiatric terms as political metaphors, dangerous as that would be. She literally claimed that all of us were mentally ill and our views should be considered symptom of our illness, rather than as legitimate ideas that simply differed from hers.
Publicly offering "professional opinions" or diagnoses in the absence of a psychiatric examination, is a violation of Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Psychiatric Association.
According to the esteemed organization, "it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement." This is called the Goldwater Rule because it derives from the irresponsible acts of more than 1,000 psychiatrists diagnosing 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater as psychologically unfit to be president. Goldwater lost and went on to be one of the most productive and respected Senators, exhibiting no symptoms of any mental illness during his long and distinguished career. The psychiatric quacks who misdiagnosed him without ever examining him deserved the professional opprobrium they received. Evidently, Lee learned nothing from this sordid history
On the contrary, Lee herself has a long history of such unprofessional conduct. She previously diagnosed President Trump, whom I believe she also never met, as being psychotic. Then she accused me of having a "shared psychosis" with President Trump, and having "wholly taken on Trump's symptoms by contagion."
Lee's absurd conclusions rest on several factual assumptions that are provably false: first, that I am guilty of sexual misconduct in the Jeffrey Epstein case, despite overwhelming evidence I never even met the woman who has falsely accused me. My accuser has essentially admitted never meeting me in a series of emails and a draft manuscript which she unsuccessfully tried to hide. Despite the overwhelming evidence -- all documented in my book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the age of #MeToo -- Lee includes as a factor in her diagnosis, my unwillingness to show "remorse" for something I did not do.
Third, she said that my use of the word "perfect" -- the same word used by Donald Trump in describing his phone call to the Ukrainian president – is evidence of a "shared psychosis." She does not mention I used the word "perfect" in the context of rebutting the false accusations against me and proclaiming, truthfully, that I have never had sex with any woman other than my wife, since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein. I used the word "perfect" in reference to my fidelity during the period in which I was falsely accused, just as someone might say she had a "perfect" attendance record. Moreover, Lee neglects to mention that the interview during which I used the work took place months before President Trump used it to describe his call to the Ukrainian president. I used the word in a television interview in July 2019. Trump used the word in November 2019. I guess Lee believes he caught the contagion from me.
The man who put Lee up to making this false accusation, Professor Richard Painter, recently doubled down. Despite knowing of the actual chronology -- that I used the word before Trump did -- Painter has falsely and maliciously claimed that I "echoed Trump's narcissistic boast," by using the word "perfect." Although he is not a psychiatrist, he is a lawyer who is ethically bound not to the lie or mislead. I challenge him to defend his mendacious claim that I "echoed" Trump -- or to publicly admit he lied.
It is difficult to imagine anyone ever hiring Lee as a forensic psychiatrist to offer an actual diagnosis of a litigant. On cross-examination, she would have to admit that she has diagnosed "just about all of Donald Trump's followers" as having a "shared psychosis." This would likely include jury members and perhaps the judge, along with millions of voters.
If it is difficult to imagine Lee as an effective forensic witness, just try to imagine her as a fair teacher! (It is equally difficult to imagine Painter teaching ethics or honesty to law students!)
Even at Yale, some of Lee's students are likely to be Trump supporters. Would she grade them or diagnose them? Would she prescribe anti-psychotic drugs to students who she believed to be Trump "followers"? Would she refuse to recommend them because of their illness? Would they be entitled to the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Does she teach her students to diagnose their classmates and friends who disagree with them politically, instead of engaging with them?
Lee's resort to diagnosis rather than dialogue is a symptom of a much larger problem that faces our divided nation: our unwillingness to debate issues and our willingness to resort to ad hominems and diagnoses instead of reasoned argumentation. Lee is part of that problem, not its solution. So is Painter. Shame on them.
Despite her violation of ethical and professional rules, I did not call for Lee to be fired. I simply advised Yale of her actions and asked them to investigate these violations. Yale decided to fire her not because of what I said, but because of what she did.
Lee is now suing Yale and blaming me for having caused her to be fired. She credits me with far more power than I have. I simply exercised my freedom of speech right to correct her falsehoods and to ask Yale to investigate her misuse of her credentials. I have also challenged her to debate her conduct in the marketplace of ideas on Zoom. I await her response.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo, Skyhorse Publishing, 2019. His new podcast, "The Dershow," can be seen on Spotify, Apple and YouTube. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.