WebMD profile of Amber Heard expert witness flooded with negative reviews during trial

WebMD profile of Amber Heard expert witness flooded with negative reviews during trial

May 5, 2022

A WebMD profile of a clinical psychologist was flooded with negative comments Tuesday after she testified as the first defense witness for actor Amber Heard in a defamation suit filed by her former husband, actor Johnny Depp.

Dawn Hughes, who was called to the stand by Heard's legal team, testified that she diagnosed Heard with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what she described as intimate partner violence experienced during her relationship with Depp.

As Hughes was on the stand, a WebMD profile with her name and practice information was hit with a barrage of negative reviews.

WebMD did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The reviews appeared to be removed from the website after NBC News reached out to WebMD.

It’s unclear whether Hughes created the profile herself. She didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the page and its reviews.

In many of the reviews, commenters accused Hughes of being biased against men in cases of domestic abuse, calling her sexist and unprofessional.

"bad energy, vicious and hates men. … this review was created by a woman," one review read.

A majority of review writers appeared to take issue with Hughes' use of female pronouns when she described victims of abuse, noting that men can also be victims of intimate partner violence.

"Doesn't believe men can be victims of abuse," another review said. "Extreme biased. Guess she'll discredit victims just for money."

Some reviews included a derogatory and profane term used to denigrate women.

There were no reviews on the profile before Tuesday, and a cached version saved from March showed no reviews for the webpage.

Hughes is the first witness to be called in Heard's defense, which began after Depp's legal team finished presenting its evidence Tuesday. She told the court that she also conducted supplemental interviews and forensic testing and consulted medical records while she was diagnosing Heard.

Hughes testified that in her diagnosis of Heard, she determined the allegations of emotional and physical abuse Heard reported to be legitimate. She described what she called coercive abuse exhibited by Depp, trying to control Heard's clothing or career choices as an example.

"The basis of the opinion was looking at all the dynamics in this relationship — looking at not just the hitting and the yelling, but looking at how much more pitting was done," Hughes said. "Looking at the coercive control, the obsessive jealousy, the possessiveness, the sexual violence, the choking behavior, the threats to kill, those are all, as I stated, very significant and often found in cases of lethal domestic violence."

Shannon Curry, a clinical psychologist presented as an expert witness by Depp’s legal team, previously rejected the idea that Heard had PTSD. Curry diagnosed Heard with borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder, which Hughes disagreed with.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in damages over a 2018 essay she wrote for The Washington Post, in which she said she had become the “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although the essay never mentions Depp by name, his attorneys said it indirectly refers to allegations she made against him during their 2016 divorce. Heard is countersuing Depp seeking $100 million in damages.

In 2016, Heard filed for a protective order against Depp, alleging he threw a phone at her, leaving her bruised. She wrote in a sworn declaration to the court that she was living “in fear that Johnny will return to [our house] unannounced to terrorize me, physically and emotionally.”

Depp has denied the allegations of abuse, telling the court over four days of testimony that he had never “struck a woman in my life.” He characterized his former wife as having a "need for conflict," instigating fights and physical violence, in the course of their relationship.

Heard is expected to begin her own witness testimony Wednesday. Her attorneys cross-examined Depp last month, reading text messages he sent that included violent language about Heard and audio clips in which she appeared to confront him about assaulting her.

Social media users have largely backed Depp in the case, with hashtags like “JusticeForJohnnyDepp” racking up nearly 3 billion views on TikTok last month. Some people have posted play-by-plays of each day in court, while others have suggested their own theories about Heard’s behavior in court.

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