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Harvard Law professor sues New York Times alleging ‘clickbait defamation’

A Harvard Law School professor filed a lawsuit against The New York Times over what he describes as “clickbait defamation” over a piece he wrote about convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

“Today I filed a defamation action — call it a ‘clickbait defamation’ action—against the New York Times,” Lawrence Lessig declared in a piece published in Medium on Monday.

Lessig has taken legal action over an article that was published about him and what he wrote about the contribution that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] took from the sexual predator

“A Harvard Professor Doubles Down: If You Take Epstein’s Money, Do It in Secret,” the Times headline read.

The Times article lambasted Lessig right out of the gate.

Lawrence Lessig, seen here in 2015, sued The New York Times for defamation.

Lawrence Lessig, seen here in 2015, sued The New York Times for defamation. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo)

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“It is hard to defend soliciting donations from the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor, has been trying,” Times reporter Nellie Bowles wrote at the top of the article.

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“This title and lede are false,” Lessig reacted. “Yet I’ve found — in the months since this was published, facing the endless attacks I get in person and online—that the challenge is to focus anyone’s attention enough long to see just why they are plainly false. Offering a tweet-length proof that a perfectly tweetable headline is flatly false is not, it turns out, simple.”

Lessig highlighted the portion of a lengthy essay he claimed the Times took out of context: “Maybe you can take the money from a tax fraud, again, if and only if anonymous. But the kind of pain triggered here means that that general rule should not apply here. Which again is why I said I believe it was a mistake to take this money, even if anonymous.”

“I did not defend taking money from Epstein. I didn’t say it was ok to take money from Epstein ‘if in secret.’ I said it was wrong to take Epstein’s money, ‘even if anonymous,'” Lessig continued. “The assertion—in the tweeted headline and lede—to the contrary is thus flatly false.”

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The Times told Fox News, “When Professor Lessig contacted The Times to complain about the story, senior editors reviewed his complaint and were satisfied that the story accurately reflected his statements. We plan to defend against the claim vigorously.”

Epstein donated $ 750,000 to MIT and visited campus at least nine times as he sought to rehabilitate his image following a 2008 sex crimes conviction, according to findings released Friday by a law firm hired to investigate Epstein’s ties with the school. Former Media Lab director Joi Ito resigned last year amid uproar over his ties to Epstein. He issued a public apology and vowed to raise money for victims of trafficking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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