Martin Center column highlights controversy involving NYU and Weinstein trial

Anthony DiMauro writes for the Martin Center about the Harvey Weinstein trial’s impact on one university.

Elizabeth Loftus is perhaps one of the world’s most renowned cognitive psychologists. She is a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California-Irvine where she lectures about the cognitive sciences and in the law school. She has influenced the field with decades of research focusing on the malleability of memory. She has written 23 books and has been awarded seven doctoral degrees for her achievements.

Dr. Loftus is what anyone would call an expert.

And, because of her expertise, New York University’s psychology department invited her to speak as part of NYU’s Distinguished Lecture Series. …

… All seemed well and good; Loftus’ appearance was set for April 2020 and preparations were beginning, including the university purchasing Loftus’ plane tickets.

However, on February 6th, the Los Angeles Times published an article that highlighted Loftus’ upcoming role as an expert witness in the Harvey Weinstein trial. The article explained that she would testify as an expert on memory called by the defense the next day—which she did.

The same day as the L.A. Times article was published, however, Loftus received a curt email from Ben Rehder, the chair of the NYU psychology department, telling her that her distinguished lecture had been canceled. …

… On the one hand, it is entirely possible that there was a routine reason for the cancellation: a budget issue, a venue that is suddenly booked, an administrative error, etc. Yet, why not just say that? The unwillingness to provide an explanation to the speaker is odd at best, and evidence that the university is hiding something at worst.

On the other hand, it seems entirely plausible that the haphazard cancellation had something to do with Loftus’ role as an expert witness.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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