Amber Heard grilled by Savannah Guthrie over being ‘caught in a lie’ about donating $7m divorce settlement

Aquaman actress came under intense scrutiny during the six-week defamation trial after it emerged that she had not yet donated the full $7m settlement to charity

Rachel Sharp
Friday 17 June 2022 22:40 BST

Amber Heard is grilled by Savannah Guthrie over pledge to donate divorce settlement

Amber Heard was grilled by Savannah Guthrie about being “caught in a lie” over her pledge to donate her $7m divorce settlement to charity, in the actor’s first sitdown interview since her bombshell defamation trial with ex-husband Johnny Depp.

The NBC Today host put Ms Heard on the spot over the discrepancies between her pledge and the actual payments made, questioning whether this raised doubts about her “credibility” among the jury.

“Do you think to the jurors sitting there that was you getting caught in a lie?” probed Ms Guthrie, whose husband works for Mr Depp’s legal team, in a clip from the interview aired Wednesday.

Ms Heard defended the furore over the charitable donation, saying that the trial was used to try to paint her as “a liar” and arguing that she shouldn’t have had to pledge her entire settlement in the first place for people to believe her accusations of abuse against her ex-husband.

When the couple’s $7m divorce settlement was reached back in August 2016, Ms Heard had said she would split the entire payout equally between the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

During the six-week trial, the Aquaman actress came under intense scrutiny over the pledge after it emerged that the ACLU had so far received less than half of the $3.5m payment it was promised.

“You had promised to donate $7m of your divorce settlement to charity,” said Ms Guthrie.

“It was revealed at trial that you haven’t done so yet however they played a tape where you state on air that you have donated it.”

She asked: “Do you think that raised questions as to your credibility with the jury?”

During the trial, jurors were shown a clip from Ms Heard’s appearance on Danish TV show RTL Late Night in October 2018, where she said that “$7m was donated in total”.

“I split the amount between the ACLU and CHLA. ACLU is a prominent non-profit organisation in the US and they work on the behalf of marginalised communities on the ground, and in legislative reform,” she said on the show.

“I wanted nothing.”

During her NBC interview, Ms Heard doubled down on her defence at trial that the plan had always been for the donations to be paid out over time.

“I made a pledge and that pledge is made over time by its nature,” she said.

At this point, Ms Guthrie interjected that to use the term “donated” people expect the money to have been paid out.

“You say donated you know that everybody thinks you’d donated – not that you’ve pledged it,” probed the TV host, questioning whether she feels she “got caught in a lie”.

Ms Heard pushed back that “so much of the trial” was used to try to “cast aspersions” on her credibility.

“I don’t know because so much, I feel like so much of the trial was meant to cast aspersions on who I am as a person, on my credibility, to call me a liar in every way you can,” she said.

Ms Guthrie fired back: “That was the trial, it was a credibility contest – that was it.”

Ms Heard responded: “This is another one of those examples if you pull back and you think about it I shouldn’t have had to have donated it in an attempt to be believed.

“I shouldn’t have had to earmark the entirety of it in order to –”

The NBC host interrupted her comments once again, telling her “you shouldn’t have but once you said you did”.

Ms Heard replied: “Right and that was where it was intended to go.”

Savannah Guthrie probed Amber Heard over her pledge to the two charities

At the defamation trial, jurors heard testimony from ACLU Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Terence Dougherty that the charity had so far received less than half of the $3.5m promised.

Mr Dougherty said that $350,000 had been paid directly by Ms Heard, $100,000 paid through Mr Depp, $500,000 paid by Elon Musk through a donor-advised fund, and that $350,000 was also paid via a donor-advised fund (which is also believed to be from Mr Musk) – for a total donation of $1.3m.

The court was shown a 2016 email which detailed a 10-year plan for Ms Heard to make the donation.

The ACLU executive testified that the charity had not received any money from Ms Heard since 2019 because the actor “was having financial difficulties”.

Ms Heard was accused of “lying” about the donations under an intense cross-examination from Mr Depp’s legal team.

At one point, she told the court that she had been unable to complete the payments because of legal costs arising from her ex-husband’s lawsuit.

She also claimed that she uses the terms “pledged” and “donated” interchangeably.

Ms Heard’s grilling from Ms Guthrie over the topic comes days after the NBC host admitted that her husband worked as a consultant for Mr Depp’s legal team.

Ms Guthrie is married to Michael Feldman, a public relations consultant and one-time Democratic political adviser who worked on Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

She made the disclosure about the connection last week when she interviewed Mr Depp’s attorneys Camille Vasquez and Benjamin Chew on the Today show.

“A quick disclosure, my husband has done consulting work for the Depp legal team, but not in connection with this interview,” she said.

Ms Guthrie also previously interviewed Ms Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft on the Today show the morning after the verdict was announced.

Ms Heard’s sitdown with Ms Guthrie marks the first time the actor has given an interview since she lost the defamation case with her ex-husband and was ordered to pay him $8.35m in damages.

Mr Depp sued his ex-wife for defamation over a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post where she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse and spoke of feeling “the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.

Following an explosive six-week trial, a jury of seven determined that Ms Heard had defamed him on all three counts.

Amber Heard is seen on the witness stand during intense cross-examination in the trial

Jurors awarded Mr Depp $10m in compensatory damages and $5m in punitive damages, before Fairfax County Circuit Judge Penney Azcarate reduced the latter to the state’s legal limit of $350,000.

Ms Heard won one of her three counterclaims against her ex-husband, with the jury finding that Mr Depp – via his lawyer Adam Waldman – defamed her by branding her allegations about a 2016 incident “an ambush, a hoax”.

She was awarded $2m in compensatory damages but $0 in punitive damages, leaving the Aquaman actor $8.35m out of pocket.

Ms Heard described the verdict as “a setback” for women who speak up with allegations of abuse and has said she plans to appeal.

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