Savannah Guthrie’s husband Michael Feldman worked as a consultant for Johnny Depp’s legal team during Depp’s explosive defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, the Today Show host revealed on Wednesday.
“A quick disclosure, my husband has done consulting work for the Depp legal team, but not in connection with this interview,” the NBC News anchor casually noted just before launching into an interview with Depp’s two lawyers.
Feldman, who’s been married to Guthrie since 2014, is a one-time Democratic political adviser who previously served as former Vice President Al Gore’s traveling chief of staff during Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. He is also the founding partner and managing director of consulting firm The Glover Park Groupwhich he formed with two other Gore aids and ex-White House press Secretary Joe Lockhart.
In the past, according to an interview Feldman gave to The Hollywood Reviewthe group specialized in giving advice and marketing tips to controversial or niche films, with Feldman boasting about being “Hollywood’s PR guy in DC,” claiming it all began with his work for Gore’s climate documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
NBC and representatives for both Depp and Heard did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Guthrie’s quick admission was almost missed at the top of the interview, before she launched into a series of questions to Camille Vasquez and Benjamin Chew, who have both been launched into stardom after successfully winning the civil defamation trial against Heard in Virginia. After three days of deliberations, a jury found that Heard defamed Depp when she penned a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described herself as a domestic violence victim. The jury awarded him over $10 million in damages.
The jury also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages after finding she was defamed by Depp’s ex-attorney, Adam Waldman, when he described her abuse claims as a “hoax.”
Guthrie interviewed Amber Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredhoft, last week after the verdict—and notably did not disclose her husband’s connection to Depp’s legal team. During the interview, Bredhoft said she believed that Depp’s team worked to “demonize” Heard during the highly publicized trial and noted that Heard is “absolutely not” able to pay the hefty judgment to her ex-husband.
Guthrie came under attack from Depp’s fans over the interview, which they felt was too sympathetic to Heard. She also anchored NBC’s special coverage of the June 1 verdictwhere she also did not appear to disclose her husband’s connection.
On Wednesday, Chew and Vasquez said they believed Depp came out victorious because he “owned his issues” during his two stints on the witness stand. Heard, on the other hand, did not take accountability for her actions during the celebrity couple’s short-lived marriage, they said.
“Johnny owned his issues. He was very candid about his alcohol and drug issues. He was candid about some unfortunate texts that he wrote,” Chew told Guthrie. “I think it was [a] sharp contrast to Ms. Heard, who didn’t seem, or at least the jury may have perceived that she didn’t take accountability for anything.”
Through the trial, scores of witnesses—and Heard and Depp themselves—took the stand to make harrowing claims of abuse and damaged careers. The claims galvanized legions of Depp fanatics to defend the actor, praising his testimony while mocking, and dissecting, every move and allegation Heard and her legal team presented. Heard, who claimed on the stand that Depp’s legal team launched a “smear campaign” against her and that she was bombarded with negative social media comments, called the verdict last week a “setback” for other women.
Vasquez and Chew slammed the suggestion that there was a coordinated social media campaign against Heard as “utterly baseless” and “categorically false.” They added that there was no way the jury could have been influenced by Depp’s online fanbase and they said they were confident there were no errors to justify any appeal that Heard’s team may try to make.
“[Coverage of the case] is everywhere, but at the same time, they were admonished every single night,” Vasquez said, referring to the seven-person jury. “And they had a tremendous amount of respect for the court and the process, and they were doing the best that they could.”
In a separate Wednesday interview with Good Morning AmericaChew hinted that the Pirates of the Caribbean actor may not even collect his multi-million payout as “this was never about money for Mr. Depp.”
“This was about restoring his reputation—and he’s done that,” Chew said.