Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig dropped his lawsuit against the New York Times after the Times added an editor’s note to an article he sued over.
The Sept. 2019 article is now headlined, “What are the ethics of taking tainted funds?” with the subheadline, “A conversation with Lawrence Lessig about Jeffrey Epstein, M.I.T. and reputation laundering.”
It was originally headlined, “A Harvard Professor Doubles Down: If You Take Epstein’s Money, Do It in Secret,” and said Lessig “has been trying” to defend donations from Epstein.
Lessig sued in January, arguing the headline was “clickbait” and the lede was “sensationalized, false and defamatory,” according to the Associated Press.
In a Medium blogpost, Lessig wrote that he withdrew the lawsuit but “none of this was negotiated and there is no settlement.” He said he was “very happy” the headline and lede have been corrected, but noted, “Only a tiny fraction of those who formed an opinion based on that headline and lede will see the correction, or these explanations. No doubt, the vast majority will be left with the opinion they formed.”
A spokesperson for the New York Times told iMediaEthics,
“We are pleased that Professor Lessig has decided to end his lawsuit. We chose not to enter into a settlement agreement but instead decided to make minor changes in the lede so that it more fully captures what the story says, and we are now using our original print headline on the online version of the story. As we were about to file a motion to dismiss, Professor Lessig withdrew his suit, before a judge was able to assess the suit’s merits.”
The Times added the following editor’s note:
“An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely in the lead paragraph to the views of Professor Lawrence Lessig.”The lead has been edited to reflect that while Mr. Lessig defended Joi Ito, who had accepted anonymous donations from Jeffrey Epstein, he said he would prefer that institutions not accept such money. The headline has also been changed, and this version of the article now has the same headline as in the print edition of The Times.”