Prominent feminist legal scholar Susan Estrich, who famously coined the phrase “nuts and sluts defense” in order to describe the tactics prosecutors use to disparage the testimony of rape victims, has shocked feminist and legal circles by becoming the new defense co-counsel to Roger Ailes, the former Fox News CEO who stepped down last month under a cloud of sex harassment claims. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox host, is suing Ailes for sexual harassment, and some two dozen other women have contacted Carlson’s lawyer alleging harassment by the media mogul.
Estrich, herself a former rape survivor, has argued that “acquaintance rape,” sexual assault by friends, colleagues, or others known to the victim, is devalued by the legal system compared to rape cases that involve strangers and violent force. “It should be obvious that the system already contains serious disincentives to women filing sexual harassment complaints,” wrote a young Estrich in the Stanford Law Review. “Start with embarrassment, loss of privacy, and sometimes shame. If the woman remains employed, she faces the prospect her harasser and others will make her life impossible. If she has quit or been fired … the danger is that she will branded a troublemaker, and find it difficult to find another job.”
Ailes and Estrich met on opposite sides of the 1988 election, when she emerged as the first woman to manage a major-party presidential campaign, on behalf of Democrat Michael Dukakis, while Ailes advised George H.W. Bush on media strategy. Estrich, who has worked for Ailes as an analyst and refers to him as a close friend, is now accusing Carlson’s lawyer Nancy Erika Smith of leading a “concerted smear campaign” against Ailes, a charge that Smith and others found shocking.
“Susan Estrich has published scholarly articles showing that real victims of sexual harassment are frequently unfairly attacked and not believed,” said Smith. “However, after being hired by Ailes, she has done a complete reversal and attacked my client, Gretchen Carlson, and other victims of Roger Ailes, as liars … Frankly, I am saddened by Ms. Estrich’s apparent abandonment of her principals.”
Read the full story at The Washington Post.