Making Celebrities Pay for Their Bad Behavior—Through the Nose

Bringing a legal case against someone who is famous and powerful can be a "David and Goliath type of situation," says the lawyer. But she's "in the business of letting the celebrities know what the truth is."
  • Transcript


Question: Has our cultural obsession with celebrity helped or hurt women's rights?

Gloria Allred: Well there definitely is a culture of celebrity and a fascination with it. And I think generally the media is very interested in cases involving celebrities. I do represent a lot of women who have been hurt by the rich, the powerful, and the famous. Many of whom are celebrities and so while the... we're on the end of representing essentially the underdog—the typical person against the celebrity. Now celebrities have their highly paid legal mouthpieces. They have their publicist. They have their promoters, they're managers, their agents, various and sundry hanger-oners, groupies, fans, and others who will be supportive of them because celebrities have often been in millions of living rooms through television or the Internet or through feature films.

Often they are well-liked, well-known, and supported by many. And we're taking the person who is not known at all, a typical person, but who may have been hurt by the arrogance and the sense of entitlement and privilege the celebrity has, and inflicted an injustice on our clients. So it is a very David-and-Goliath type of situation where the David or Davida versus Goliath. But I'm a gorilla fighter—that's G-U-E-R-R. And I am very happy to take on these battles where there's legal merit to the claim and what we want to do is we want to equalize the power. And win as much justice as is possible for our client who has been the victim of injustice by celebrities.

Celebrities are used to being able to get whatever they want, do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. They're often surrounded by yes-people, who don't exercise their judgment to say "no" to the celebrity or even suggest that they might be doing something wrong or even illegal. Because those people surround them in their entourage sometimes are afraid that they will be risking their own jobs if they anger the celebrity by telling them the truth.

I'm in the business of letting the celebrities know what the truth is, that we know it, that what they've done is wrong. They need to be accountable for it. They need to compensate my clients in an appropriate case if they have hurt them, and if there's legal merit to the claim. And so that's what we do and this is shocking to most celebrities. They're not used to being challenged at all. And especially by a woman. And they have generally underestimated the people they have hurt. Not realized that those people do know enough to contact me or another attorney, and do that they have rights and will exercise them in an appropriate case.

So I don't know why they should be shocked. I've been practicing for 35 years. It would not be a surprise to most people that a lot of women who have been hurt by celebrities would come to me. But somehow sometimes these celebrities are just in total shock or express surprise. But I'm a practical person, they know that I'm reasonable, that they can resolve things with me. If they're going to be people who are knowing how to open up a dialogue. But if they want to battle it to the end I'm there for the battle.

Why do celebrities continue to do things that carry such immense potential risks?

Gloria Allred:  Because they can. Because they do. And because in most cases they get away with it. So where they can be challenged, should be challenged, and where we have evidence to support our claim, we will challenge them, if our client wants us to, because we're not afraid of them. I've challenged government. I've challenged big corporations. I've challenged small business. I've challenged wrong-doers. Famous, infamous and not known at all. Batterers, killers, discriminators, sexual harassers, those who sexually abuse children—many, many people.

And, you know, I'm not in fear. I know we're doing what is right. We're standing up for typical people who would otherwise have no voice and have no power, and would not otherwise have anyone to advocate for them or enforce their rights. So the celebrities can say and do whatever they're going to say and do but we're going to do what we need to do that is legal and peaceful to vindicate the rights of our clients.

Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman