A very strange thing happened over the weekend: If you follow Twitter closely, you’ll notice that the debate over Brett Kavanaugh moved significantly from the central question of last Thursday’s hearing — did he commit sexual assault? — to a raging debate over whether he lied about high-school slang, college drinking, and inside jokes, and whether he was just too “angry” to be a Supreme Court judge.
This torrent of commentary (most of it silly, including competing, furious arguments about how people described anal sex in 1982) obscures an important development: The sexual-assault claims against Kavanaugh are in a state of collapse.
Let’s deal with the easiest issue first. The day before the hearing, Michael Avenatti released a “declaration” by a client, a woman named Julie Swetnick, claiming that she saw Kavanaugh “waiting his turn” for gang rapes after facilitating them by spiking or drugging the punch at high-school parties. She claimed that she went to multiple such parties and was gang raped at one of them, though she would only assert that Kavanaugh was present on that occasion.
The claim against Kavanaugh was transparently absurd. The idea that a person would repeatedly attend gang-rape parties and that the existence of these parties (which would presumably generate multiple victims and bystander-witnesses) remained utterly secret for decades is nonsense. But left-wing Twitter took up the claims with a vengeance, dragging anyone who dared express doubt through the mud. After all, didn’t the Catholic Church scandals prove that crimes could be concealed? Didn’t Sixteen Candles have a subplot about a drunk male geek sleeping with a drunk popular girl? (Yes, that was an actual article in Vox.)
But then the Wall Street Journal did some actual reporting, “contacting dozens of former classmates and colleagues,” only to find it “couldn’t reach anyone with knowledge of [Swetnick’s] allegations.” Moreover, “no friends have come forward to publicly support her claims.” Again, she alleged repeated gang rapes. Yet there are still no other witnesses.
It also turns out that a former employer, a company called WebTrends, once sued Swetnick for defamation and fraud. Among other things, it contended that Swetnick engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct and then, “in a transparent effort to divert attention from her own inappropriate behavior,” made uncorroborated sexual-harassment complaints against the two men who accused her of such behavior.
The case was never adjudicated, but it’s just one reason that the commentariat should be hesitant to credit lurid allegations from an unknown individual. Shouldn’t there be a modicum of due diligence before leaping to the conclusion that a man is a rapist?
Meanwhile, Deborah Ramirez’s allegation — that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a party at Yale — remains essentially where it was last week, uncorroborated and difficult to believe. She was drinking heavily at the time. She confesses that her memory contains “gaps.” She even told other classmates that she wasn’t certain it was Kavanaugh. No one else could even confirm he was at the party where the incident allegedly occurred.
No responsible journalistic outlet should have run the story. And without more evidence, no fair-minded person should believe it today.
Which brings us to Christine Blasey Ford. Yesterday, Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell released a memorandum to all Republican senators summarizing Ford’s evidence against Kavanaugh. I’d urge you to read the entire thing. Democrats are describing it as a “partisan document,” but it refers to multiple, undisputed facts that should cause even Ford’s most zealous defenders to pause and reevaluate her claims.
Ford has no corroborating witnesses, and even the friend she says was at the party in question has denied being there or knowing Kavanaugh at all. She doesn’t know who invited her to the party, where it took place, how she got there, or how she got home after, by her account, Kavanaugh attacked her. But the problems go beyond gaps in memory. She has offered substantially different accounts about when the attack occurred (she’s previously said it happened in the “mid Eighties,” in her “late teens,” and in the “Eighties.” Now she’s saying it happened in 1982, when she was 15) and how it occurred (her therapist’s notes conflict with her story of the attack, and she has offered different accounts about who attended the party).
All of these inconsistencies and omissions are important. None of them help her case.
For a brief moment after the hearing, Democrats believed that one of Kavanaugh’s calendar entries corroborated Ford’s story. A July 1, 1982, note says, “Go to Timmy’s for Skis w/Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi.” According to the Democratic theory, because Ford testified that “Skis” was short for “brewskis” (beer), and because Mark Judge and “PJ” were allegedly at the party where Ford claimed she was assaulted, this could be the documentary evidence that the party took place.
Interestingly, no Democratic senator explored this theory with Kavanaugh while he was testifying, and Ford’s team never raised it, either. It was left to be floated after Kavanaugh was off the stand. And now legions of Democrats are presenting it as “corroboration.”
It’s nothing of the sort. First and most important, “Timmy’s” house was ten miles from the country club Ford has described as in proximity to the party, and it did not meet the description of the house that Ford offered in her testimony. Second, the lineup of attendees does not mention a single female and is substantially different from the one she has described. And finally, the lineup includes “Squi,” the nickname for Chris Garrett, a boy Ford was (according to her testimony) seeing at the time. It would be odd indeed to remember a party’s attendees and forget that one of them was your then-boyfriend.
In other words, for the July 1 theory to be correct, Ford’s previous testimony would have to be substantially incorrect. The theory is so thin that even a CNN analysis described it as “circumstantial, at best.”
No responsible lawyer would bring even a civil case on the facts described above, and civil cases must meet only the lowest burden of proof. Believe women? Believe men? No. Believe evidence. It’s possible that the FBI investigation will uncover additional material facts. It’s also possible that the investigation will leave us back where we started — with entirely insufficient evidence to prove even one of the terrible claims against a person who was once one of the most-respected public servants in America.