Impeachment attorney and Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz put CNN on blast Thursday night — while on CNN — for the "total distortion" of comments he made during the impeachment proceedings.
Dershowitz had argued on the Senate floor that nearly all politicians take actions to serve their re-election prospects believing their re-election best serves the public interest, and that the existence of such a motive as a minor influence in taking an action is not impeachable.
"If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," Dershowitz said in closing his argument.
Predictably, left-leaning news outlets like CNN, proceeded to take Dershowitz's closing quote in isolation and run it on the airwaves without any context. Dershowitz had something to say about this when he appeared on CNN later Thursday night.
"I never said, never suggested, and it was a total distortion, not misunderstanding, distortion of my point that I think a president can do anything if he thinks his election is in national interest," he exclaimed to host Wolf Blitzer.
"Never said it, it is nonsense, and your network should never have said I said it repeatedly," Dershowitz scolded as Blitzer shifted uncomfortably.
Below is the full segment, but you can watch Dershowitz scold CNN beginning at the 2:30 mark.
Earlier on Thursday, Dershowitz had penned an op-ed in The Hill alleging that "media pundits and partisan politicians are deliberately distorting the argument I made during the Senate's impeachment trial."
"Taking advantage of the fact that most of their readers or viewers didn't actually watch the Senate's question-and-answer session, they have mischaracterized my argument as if I said that a president who believes his reelection is in the national interest can do anything," he said.
Dershowitz explained, as he would do again during the CNN interview, that his argument was in response to House impeachment managers' suggestion, which he characterizes as "any action by a politician motivated in part by a desire to be reelected was, by its nature, corrupt."
Having a "mixed motive," such as advancing the national interest in a way that also helps re-election efforts, is not impeachable, he argues, despite the claims of the House impeachment managers.
To prove his point, Dershowitz gave two examples during his speech on the Senate floor, which he reiterated in his op-ed:
I gave, as an example of mixed motive, President Lincoln's decision to send Indiana troops home from the battlefield so they would vote for his party in a state election. He genuinely believed that his party's victory in Indiana was essential to the war effort, but he also knew it would help him politically.
I gave another hypothetical: President Obama promised to bomb Syrian military targets if Syria's President Assad used chemical weapons. He broke his promise. What it if turns out that one reason he broke his promise was that his political advisers warned him that bombing Syria would lose him votes among the hard left? My point is that these are complex issues and the Framers did not intend impeachment for mixed-motive decisions that contain an element of personal partisan benefit.
It appears, though, that discussing Dershowitz's argument in its full context was not as juicy as running a quick soundbite.
But, Dershowitz said the "TV talking heads who mischaracterized my argument knew exactly what they were doing," and he wasn't going to let them off the hook.