Updated 2:30 pm
When Alan Dershowitz, the famed attorney, wrote an op-ed for the Hill that he was being shunned for his public positions on President Donald Trump, Twitter blew up.
In his op-ed, Dershowitz writes about how bad the divisions have gotten over Trump. “I know this because I have experienced this firsthand on Martha’s Vineyard. I am not a Trump supporter, nor am I a member of the Trump administration,” Dershowitz wrote. “I have strongly and publicly opposed his immigration policies, ranging from the travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court to the zero-tolerance policy that led to the separation of parents and children at the border. I oppose other Republican policies as well. I voted for, and contributed handsomely to, Hillary Clinton.”
For several hours Monday night, both #marthasvineyard and #Dershowitz were trending on Twitter, and the attorney who successfully defended Claus Von Bulow in a high-profile Newport murder case, and was part of the O.J. Simpson “dream team,” was getting skewered.
“Alan Dershowitz says he’s being shunned by liberal friends on Martha’s Vineyard,” wrote Jennifer Grossman. “If this continues he may have to seek refuge in the Hamptons.”
The vast majority of the tweets followed along those lines, offering faux pity for Dershowitz.
In a phone conversation with The Times Tuesday morning, Dershowitz, who has a house in Chilmark, said his column is being misunderstood.
“I couldn’t care less about being invited to a few parties,” Dershowitz said. “I’m actually getting more invitations. People are saying, ‘Come to my party. We don’t approve of what’s going on.’”
Dershowitz makes it clear that he doesn’t defend Trump’s policies. His support is about civil liberties, something he said he’s fought for throughout his legal career.
Tuesday’s cell phone conversation was interrupted several times by his home phone ringing in the background. All of them were well-wishers, including one prominent Vineyarder whom he declined to publicly name, Dershowitz said.
Asked to name names of those who had shunned him from social gatherings, Dershowitz again declined. He said he continues to frequent the porch at Chilmark General Store, though it’s obvious to him that some people have stopped going.
“For me it’s a red badge of courage. I’ve taken the same positions on Trump as I did with Clinton when he was impeached,” Dershowitz said. “It’s just you have some intolerant, small-minded people.”
Dershowitz said it’s similar to when he has defended people like O.J. Simpson. “That’s been my life,” he said. “I’m going to continue to do it. I don’t care if I get an invite or I don’t. That’s their right.”
Though he repeatedly said he is a Democrat and strongly supported Hillary Clinton, Dershowitz took a shot at liberals. “Students don’t want to hear opposing views,” he said. “They want trigger warnings and safe spaces.”
The Vineyard had always been different, Dershowitz said. It’s been a place where partisanship was left on the mainland, a place where people could come, relax, mingle, and not worry about party lines.
“If we’re going to start having Republican parties and Democratic parties, that’s not what the Island has been about,” he said. “This has no impact on me. I’m not complaining. I’m not lamenting. This is a symptom of the divisiveness. It’s a tragedy that it’s come to the Island. This is supposed to be a place where you leave your politics at the door.”
The Times met up with Dershowitz later in the day at Chilmark Store, where he frequently sits on the porch. He walked up and down the porch, and shook people’s hands.
“I’m still his friend. He’s always been an educator to my kids,” Laurie Hake said. “He sparks controversy wherever he goes, but he has a big heart.”
Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College, said the political divide is nothing new, but with Trump as president, the divide is becoming greater: “Alan Dershowitz has chosen to pursue a little bit of self-aggrandizement in defense of someone of Donald Trump’s character, so it’s reasonable to think some people will keep him at arm’s length because of it.”
With the likes of Von Bulow and Simpson as defendants he’s represented, this probably isn’t the first time some of Dershowitz’s friends have questioned whether to have him over for cocktails.
Those choices probably had them “scratching their heads” and re-evaluating their relationships with Dershowitz, too, Ubertaccio said.
Despite Dershowitz’s comment that he is getting more invitations since his piece appeared in the Hill, Ubertaccio said, don’t expect him to be the one to unite the country: “The divisions are deep, they’re dangerous, and they’ve been around for a long time.”
Reporter Brian Dowd and photo editor Gabrielle Mannino contributed to this report.