The decade's most triggering comedy
After she tweeted in January 2020 that “just about all” of former President Trump’s followers suffered from a “shared psychosis,” a doctor of psychiatry who taught at Yale University was terminated from teaching there. Now she’s filed a complaint against the university, claiming she was unlawfully terminated “due to her exercise of free speech about the dangers of Donald Trump’s presidency.”
Dr. Brandy Lee sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019 arguing that Trump was showing “signs of delusion.” On January 2, 2020, after two of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims claimed they were forced by Epstein to have sex with famed attorney Alan Dershowitz — Dershowitz responded by saying that since he met Epstein, he had only had sex with his wife, adding that he had a “perfect sex life” — attorney Richard Painter likened Dershowitz’s rejoinder to a remark of Trump’s, writing, “Just like @realDonaldTrump’s ‘perfect phone call.’”
That prompted Lee to tweet, “Alan Dershowitz’s employing the odd use of ‘perfect’—not even a synonym—might be dismissed as ordinary influence in most contexts. However, given the severity and spread of ‘shared psychosis’ among just about all of Donald Trump’s followers, a different scenario is more likely.”
Alan Dershowitz’s employing the odd use of “perfect”—not even a synonym—might be dismissed as ordinary influence in most contexts. However, given the severity and spread of “shared psychosis” among just about all of Donald Trump’s followers, a different scenario is more likely. https://t.co/m3XK3ztQgA
— Bandy X Lee, MD, MDiv (@BandyXLee1) January 3, 2020
She added, “Which scenario? That he has wholly taken on Trump’s symptoms by contagion. There is even proof: his bravado toward his opponent with a question about his own sex life — in a way that is irrelevant to the actual lawsuit — shows the same grandiosity and delusional-level impunity.”
Which scenario? That he has wholly taken on Trump’s symptoms by contagion. There is even proof: his bravado toward his opponent with a question about his own sex life—in a way that is irrelevant to the actual lawsuit—shows the same grandiosity and delusional-level impunity.
— Bandy X Lee, MD, MDiv (@BandyXLee1) January 3, 2020
The Yale Daily News reported what happened next:
In response, Dershowitz — a current member of Trump’s legal team and professor emeritus at Harvard — refuted Lee’s claims via a Jan. 11 Op-Ed posted on the website of the Gatestone Institute, an international policy council and think tank. The day the article went up, Dershowitz sent an email to University spokesperson Karen Peart and University President Peter Salovey’s Chief of Staff Joy McGrath requesting an investigation of Lee. He copied Lee and Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken on the email.
“Dr. Bandy Lee of the Yale Medical School has publicly ‘diagnosed’ me as ‘psychotic,’ based on my legal and political views, and without ever examining or even meeting me,” Dershowitz wrote. “This constitutes a serious violation of the ethics rules of the American Psychiatric Association. I am formally asking that association to discipline Dr. Lee. By this email, I also formally ask Yale University, Yale Law School and its medical school to determine whether Dr. Lee violated any of its rules.”
The chair of the Yale Psychiatry Department, John Krystal, then warned Lee via email that the department “would be compelled to ‘terminate [her] teaching role” if she insisted on repeatedly making statements about Trump and mental illness, writing, “Although the committee does not doubt that you are acting on the basis of your personal moral code, your repeated violations of the APA’s Goldwater Rule and your inappropriate transfer of the duty to warn from the treatment setting to national politics raised significant doubts about your understanding of crucial ethical and legal principles in psychiatry.”
The Goldwater Rule states:
On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.
On May 17, 2020, Lee was notified that she had been terminated. She appealed the decision in August and September 2020.
Lee told the Yale Daily News of her complaint: “I have done this with a heavy heart, only because Yale refused all my requests for a discussion, much as the American Psychiatric Association has done. I love Yale, my alma mater, as I love my country, but we are falling into a dangerous culture of self-censorship and compliance with authority at all cost.”
Lee stated in her complaint that she did not diagnose Dershowitz, “but [was] rather commenting on a widespread phenomenon of ‘shared psychosis.’”
Dershowitz commented on the lawsuit: “[Lee] credits me with getting her fired. I’m not that powerful. I am pleased with the fact that I brought to Yale’s attention the facts that demonstrate her deviation from professional norms. The facts are the facts, and Yale acted on the documented facts, not on my opinion.”