NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times on Tuesday called it inexcusable that lawyer David Boies’ firm tried to halt the newspaper’s investigation into sexual harassment charges against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein while it was also working on other matters for the Times.
Boies disputed the Times’ view that his work for Weinstein represented a conflict of interest. Still, he no longer works for Weinstein and said the task he completed for him was a mistake.
Boies, best known for representing Al Gore in the 2000 disputed election against George W. Bush, is the second prominent attorney to take heat for representing the man accused of being one of Hollywood’s biggest sexual predators. Lisa Bloom, a prominent women’s rights lawyer, quit representing Weinstein when the extent of the accusations against him became known.
The New Yorker magazine reported that Weinstein hired investigators to look into women accusing him of mistreatment, including Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette. Journalists pursuing the story, including Jodi Kantor of the Times and Ronan Farrow, author of Tuesday’s New Yorker piece, were also investigated, the story said.
A spokeswoman for Weinstein did not immediately return a message seeking comment. He has characterized his contact with actresses as consensual.
The article said the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner hired and paid one organization with a background in Israeli intelligence agencies at the same time it was representing the Times in a libel case.
“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,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said. “It is inexcusable, and we will be pursuing appropriate remedies.”
She did not immediately discuss what those remedies might be, or whether Boies’ firm was still doing work for the newspaper.
Boies, in a statement to his firm’s employees on Tuesday, noted that his contract with the newspaper made clear that his firm might do work for clients in unrelated areas that were against the Times’ interests.
He said Weinstein had told him that the Times was considering publishing a story alleging that the mogul had raped an actress. Boies said he would not defend him against these charges, and told him the only way the story could be stopped was to prove it was untrue.
Weinstein selected private investigators to try and do that, Boies said, and asked him to draft a contract with one such group. Boies said he now believes it was a mistake to do this for an investigative firm he did not know.
The New Yorker said some of the investigators misrepresented themselves in contact with their subjects, compiled personal and sexual histories on some, and left some of the targets feeling intimidated. Boies said he never would have drawn up the contract had he known what it would be used for.
“I would never knowingly participate in an effort to intimidate or silence women or anyone else,” he said.