It’s no secret that Boies Schiller Flexner took heat for representing Harvey Weinstein—work that reportedly included signing a contract for the now-disgraced Hollywood figure to hire a private intelligence agency as the New York Times was reporting on Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. Why, then, would the firm take a separate action for the National Enquirer’s parent company that, at least on first glance, seems similar?
That’s a question raised by a short reference in an Associated Press article, which on Thursday reported on a $30,000 payout to a former doorman at one of President Donald Trump’s looming skyscrapers in Manhattan. According to the AP, the doorman, Dino Sajudin, signed a contract with National Enquirer parent American Media Inc. that effectively kept him from going public with a rumor that Trump had an affair and child with an employee at Trump World Tower on Manhattan’s east side.
The AP also wrote that, during its efforts to fill in the details behind the doorman’s story and the Enquirer’s payoff, “AMI threatened legal action over reporters’ efforts to interview current and former employees and hired the New York law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which challenged the accuracy of the AP’s reporting.”
That description seems to bear some similarity to Boies Schiller’s reported representation of Weinstein, which elicited criticism of the firm and its well-known co-founder David Boies, and resulted in The New York Times publicly dropping the firm as its legal counsel in November. But a Boies Schiller partner said on Thursday that the two matters were unrelated and that the firm’s work for AMI ended months before reports about Weinstein’s misconduct became public in October and November.
Boies Schiller partner Jonathan Sherman confirmed that he and a small team represented AMI for a limited time and scope. Communications with the AP on AMI’s behalf ended in early July, said Sherman, a First Amendment expert based in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.
He also indicated that David Boies did not play a role for AMI.
“I wrote and signed the communication with the AP, and I was the most senior lawyer at Boies Schiller on the engagement,” he said.
For Weinstein, no longer a Boies Schiller client, David Boies was reported to have signed a July 2017 contract with an Israeli private intelligence agency called Black Cube, which was working to undercut a potential New York Times story on Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. The AMI case does not appear to involve similar tactics.
Sherman said that in general, his strategy for dealing with media outlets in similar situations is not to threaten legal action.
Rather, he typically focuses on potential inaccuracies and points out to media outlets that they’re not allowed, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, to knowingly publish something that’s untrue. That, he said, is the approach he and his team took in this case as well.
“We communicated with the AP on behalf of AMI and told the AP, based on what we understood was going to be written by them about our client, that they were going to write something false,” he said.
The AP did not publish the story at that time.