Update: One week after the premiere of When They See Us, Linda Fairstein was dropped by her book publisher. Dutton, the Penguin Random House imprint Fairstein's books were published under, offered no further comment than to say that “Linda Fairstein and Dutton have decided to terminate their relationship.”
Calls to reopen Fairstein's past cases have been made in response to the Ava DuVernay-directed mini-series. “The truth about my participation can be proved in the pages of public records and case documents,” Fairstein said in her board resignation letter to the chairman of her alma mater, Vassar. “But that has not been apparent to those embracing the mob mentality that now dominates social media, any more than it was considered by the rashly irresponsible filmmaker.”
This story was originally published on June 4, 2019.
Netflix's When They See Us has viewers revisiting the Central Park 5 case when a group of boys were wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in New York City's Central Park in 1990. A key person responsible for that conviction is Linda Fairstein, a prosecutor on the case and now a successful mystery book writer. She is played by Felicity Huffman in the series, who illustrates Fairstein's key role in coercing the false confession from the boys that led to their wrongful conviction. Now that the injustices have been revisited, many are calling for a boycott of her books, according to CNN, and TMZ reports that staffers at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit for victims of abuse and violence in New York City, want Faistein off the board.
Fairstein told The Daily Beast that the series and the resulting backlash against her is "a basket of lies," but that has not quelled the public's fury.
"Linda Fairstein achieved her fame & fortune through her wild imagination & at the expense of five INNOCENT children's pain," one petition reads. "Linda Fairstein led a witch hunt against five teenage boys even though the physical evidence didn't support her theory she raged on with one goal in mind & that was to get a conviction at any expense even the lives of teenage boys."
As a result, Fairstein has deleted both her Instagram and Twitter, removed her contact information from her website, and is no longer listed in Women's Media Center's "Shesource," an online database of women experts. However, her author page is still live on Penguin Random House, and she still holds the Glamour Woman Of The Year honor from 1993, despite Glamour publishing a note on Tuesday acknowledging that they would not make that choice today.
"Unequivocally, Glamour would not bestow this honor on her today," editor Samantha Barry wrote. "She received the award in 1993, before the full injustices in this case were brought to light. Though the convictions were later vacated and the men received a settlement from the City of New York, the damage caused is immeasurable."
Refinery29 has reached out to Fairstein's publisher for comment.
When They See Us is available on Netflix now.