Harvard Law Professor, Bruce Hay, is unhappy after New York magazine released an unflattering story titled “The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge”. The story featured an escalating legal conflict between Hay and two women that “he had loved” – the Shumans: Maria-Pia (a cisgender white woman) and Mischa (a transgender woman of color), who are married to each other.
Hay alleges that the magazine reporter Kera Bolonik “seized the opportunity to produce a sensational ‘True Crime’ story, replete with vicious transphobic and misogynistic stereotypes” while casting Hay as a helpless victim. And, further alleging that the reporter sexually harassed him during the investigative process, Hay filed suit in the Southern District of New York for breach of contract, defamation, bad faith, and sexual harassment – demanding $75,000.00 in lost wages.
In July 2018, Hay agreed to work with New York magazine, including the author, on an article about his dispute with the Shumans. But according to Hay, the article that New York magazine released was not a work of investigative journalism that [New York] had promised. Instead, the article portrayed “the Shumans as scheming, devious femme fatales preying on a series of men.”
In the article, Bolonik describes how Maria Shuman initially approached Hay and how the pair eventually began a sexual relationship. Hay became close friends with her and her wife – leading to increased demands and unpredictable behavior.At one point they seemingly evicted Hay, his wife, and kids from their own home.
The Complaint alleges that Bolonik did not portray Shumans’ relationship with Hay accurately, and that the Shumans are often persecuted because of their gender nonconformity and their unconventional family structure. Though the Shumans are married with several children, they have a platonic relationship and are free to have intimate relationships with other people.
The Complaint also alleges that during the investigation, Bolonik sexually harassed Hay by sharing that she was a lesbian and describing intimate details about her sex life. Hay argues that he qualifies as a magazine “consultant” and therefore, can sue under the New York Human Rights Law, which protects against workplace sexual harassment.
New York magazine responded to Hay’s suit in an interview with Law360 stating that, “New York Magazine was saddened to see the complaint filed by Bruce Hay. It should be clear to anyone who read the articles, or Mr. Hay’s complaint, that he was a willing source for the story and provided the reporter Kera Bolonik with supporting documents throughout the reporting process. We stand by the article and Kera, who has been writing and editing reported features and essays about LGBTQ and intersectional feminist issues for over 25 years.”
The story surely takes some potshots at Hay (e.g. mocking him for teaching a class on legal judgment in the headline), but if believed, it portrays Hay as a victim, and not the only one. Thus, him seemingly taking the Shumans’ side in this lawsuit is yet another bizarre twist in this who-to-believe tale.
But the ultimate potential for tragedy here lies in the number of children, at least four, who are involved. This cannot be a good thing for them, one way or another, and no matter what else can be said, neither the article, nor this lawsuit sufficiently protect them.
Bruce Hay v. New York Media LLC et al., 1:20-cv-06135 (2020).