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Psychiatrist Says Yale Dumped Her Over Alan Dershowitz and Trump

March 30, 2021
 
 

Bandy X. Lee, a former faculty member in psychiatry at Yale University, says she lost her job because she commented on the mental health of former president Trump’s lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz. According to a lawsuit she recently filed against Yale, Lee noticed that Dershowitz said in a 2019 interview about his ties to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein that he had a “perfect, perfect sex life” with his wife. Recalling this comment in early 2020, during Trump’s first impeachment trial, Lee tweeted that Dershowitz and Trump shared the same “bravado toward his opponent with a question about his own sex life -- in a way that is irrelevant to the actual lawsuit.” Among other traits, the two men also seemed to share a sense of “grandiosity and delusional-level impunity,” Lee also tweeted.

Dershowitz later complained to the university about the tweets, according to the lawsuit, arguing that Lee was violating professional ethics by diagnosing public figures without examining them and gaining their consent to discuss them. Lee says her department chair soon warned her about following what’s known as the Goldwater rule among psychiatrists, and she was not reappointed to her position for the first time since 2003.

Lee says that her tweets were not a formal diagnosis and that Yale violated her First Amendment rights and her academic freedom. “My goal currently is to ensure that professionals and intellectuals are not silenced,” Lee told The New York Times. “I have never diagnosed the former president. But I have tried to fulfill my societal duty, which is to call out signs of danger, and signs of unfitness. These are of interest to public health, not to Donald Trump’s personal health, but to the public health.”

Lee was an outspoken of critic of Trump during his presidency and even organized a 2017 conference on the Goldwater rule with respect to Trump. She also edited a book called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Dershowitz told the Times that Lee was mixing medicine with politics, as “The idea that you can diagnose me, without ever having even met me, is unprofessional, irresponsible and unacademic.”

Karen Peart, a Yale spokesperson, said that Lee was an untenured, “voluntary faculty member” in the medical school who taught up to four hours per week. Lee’s “request for reappointment was considered in accordance with Yale’s policies and practices” and Yale “does not consider the political opinions of faculty members when making appointment decisions,” Peart said.

Lee says Yale warned her in 2017 to make clear she wasn’t speaking for the university when she talked about Trump, including the threat of a “shared psychosis” among his supporters. A letter from Yale to Lee about her non-reappointment excerpted in the lawsuit says she was clearly making public comments about public figures in her capacity as a psychiatrist, and a committee therefore “decided it was appropriate to consider how these statements reflected your ability to teach trainees.”

The American Psychiatric Association reaffirmed the Goldwater rule most recently in 2018, warning against the use of the psychiatry as a “political tool.” Lee says that she was reluctant to speak out about Trump at first but that members of Congress from both parties encouraged her to talk about what she knew.

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