Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram booze fortune who was convicted of joining the alleged self-help group Nxivm, warns TNT documentary series makers Rich and shameless to be careful in their portrayal of her as the benefactor of a division in the organization turned out to be a sex cult.
In a letter to the network, Warner Bros. Discovery and producer Tom Lindley, a Bronfman attorney, the show’s show that she knowingly funded DOS, a subgroup within Nxivm that trafficked and abused women.
“While we hope this letter will be redundant, we are deeply concerned at the misleading and inaccurate promotional material already issued in connection with the Program and strongly caution you to use caution not to proceed with Ms. Bronfman. defame. ”, writes attorney Duncan Levin in the note obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Rich and shamelesswho debuted on April 23 with a talk about Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, tells the stories of the rich and famous. TNT will air an episode called “The Heiress and the Sex Cult” on May 22, targeting Bronfman, who was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for her role in Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um).
Hollywood actors were instrumental in recruiting about 18,000 people who paid thousands of dollars to take the group’s self-help courses. Prominent members included TV actor Allison Mack, best known for playing Clark Kent’s childhood friend in smallville† She was convicted on charges of manipulating women to become sex slaves for Keith Raniere, the group’s leader.
Bronfman, who has not seen the episode, disagrees with the title of the program. Levin says it “gives the impression that Ms. Bronfman knowingly funded or was in any way associated with a ‘sex cult’.”
The episode’s description states that Bronfman was a “financier of one of the most violent cults of the 21st century”.
Levin argues that the series’ producers are not fully aware of the specific legal findings in Bronfman’s prosecution. He says his client was only involved with Nxivm, which he calls a “well-regarded organization” that has always been separate and distinct from DOS.
“Not only is the evidence in the case file extremely clear on that point, but the federal judge presiding over Ms. Bronfman’s case has issued a specific court ruling on this point,” Levin writes.
Bronfman pleaded guilty to charges related to immigration fraud and identity theft. The judge overseeing the proceedings clarified that Bronfman had not been convicted of participating in sex trafficking and that it appeared Bronfman was not aware of Raniere’s crimes.
“I agree with Ms. Bronfman that the available evidence does not show that she knew about DOS or that she directly or knowingly funded DOS or other sex trafficking activities,” U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in a statement. Bronfman’s sentencing memo.
The judge ruled, “I don’t think Ms. Bronfman knowingly funded a sex cult.”
Bronfman spent at least $116 million on Nxivm, prosecutors claimed. Critics of the group said she forced them into bankruptcy by suing them and persuaded local prosecutors to investigate them.
The demand for nonfiction and true crime content has sparked a spate of defamation lawsuits against production companies and the networks and streamers that contain them. Netflix has been accused of violating defamation laws in make a killer† Jeffrey Epstein: Dirty Rich and when they see usamong other series documenting real life events.
However, defamation lawsuits are known to be difficult for people in the public interest to win. They must prove that the people who made the allegedly defamatory statements knew that they were lying and acting with a reckless disregard for the truth.
When Bronfman decides to file a lawsuit, it turns out that the series’ creators had sources that said the heiress knowingly funded illegal activities through DOS might be enough to evade the case.
“I don’t see any difference in the standard a documentary has to meet and that of any other journalistic organization,” Levin says.
TNT and Warner Bros. Discovery did not immediately respond to requests for comment.