Law professor Alan Dershowitz on Sunday defended The National Enquirer's parent company, AMI, and its chairman, David Pecker, against allegations that they attempted to blackmail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
In an interview on ABC's This Week, Dershowitz claimed that AMI had a First Amendment right to threaten to publish nude photographs of Bezos if he did not drop an investigation into their "catch and kill" business practices.
"The First Amendment needs breathing room," Dershowitz argued. "This is a fight between two media moguls. There was a negotiation. It was a tough negotiation. I'm certainly not here to defend the journalistic ethics of The National Enquirer, but the First Amendment doesn't distinguish between The Washington Post, ABC News and The National Enquirer.
"You need to draw a line between what is extortion-ish and what is extortion consistent with the First Amendment," he added.
Attorney Dan Abrams, however, suggested that Enquirer's threats amount to "extortion."
"There are crimes based on words and that's what extortion is," he explained.
"That's not what I'm talking about," Dershowitz shot back. "I'm talking about the fact that we're dealing with media here, and remember too that the alleged extortion occurred in a letter from a lawyer."
"I have been practicing law for over 50 years and I have never seen an extortion come in the form of a lawyer," the law professor added. "You don't get extortion by mail."
"Yeah, but the fact that American Media is a media entity does not immunize them from the types of crimes we're talking about here," Abrams pointed out.