In his testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh vigorously refuted Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual-assault allegation against him, calling it “radically inconsistent with my record and my character from my youth to the present day.”
As part of his testimony, Kavanaugh described in detail his lifelong friendships with several women:
One feature of my life — that has remained true to the present day — is that I’ve always had a lot of close female friends. I’m not talking about girlfriends. I’m talking about friends who are women. That started in high school. Maybe it was ’cause I’m an only child and had no sisters. But we had no social media or texts and email and we talked on the phone. I remember talking almost every night, it seemed, to my friends Amy or Julie or Kristin or Karen or Suzanne or Maura or Meghan or Nicki. The list goes on. Friends for a lifetime built on a foundation of talking through school and life starting at age 14. Several of those great women are in the seats right behind me today.
Several of the women named in his remarks, along with a few others, spoke with National Review about their decades-long friendships with Kavanaugh and their anguish over the allegations that have arisen against him.
Meghan McCaleb was a year behind Kavanaugh in school and met him her freshman year of high school. She says she knew him because he had dated a few of her friends, as well as her older sister for a few months. “I just remember that he was always so kind to her. My parents really liked him, and he was so polite to all of us,” McCaleb says.
Even though Kavanaugh and her sister broke up after three months, all three of them stayed friends. “It always struck me what a great guy he was,” she adds. “There were other boyfriends we had who we never saw again. But it was different with Brett.”
“I can count on one hand the number of people from high school that I’d stand up for in such a vocal way, and Brett is one of them,” McCaleb says. “I have complete faith in his character. I absolutely stand by him.”
Julie DeVol is also one of the women Kavanaugh referenced in his testimony, and she tells National Review they became best friends after they met in 1980 through a group of high-school friends. “We used to get each other dates to dances and different events, but he and I never went to dances together because we were like brother and sister,” she says.
DeVol said several times throughout our conversation that Kavanaugh was always the patient, responsible one in their friend group. “He was always there taking care of us,” she says. “I was a year younger, and he was like my big brother. He wouldn’t let any guys mess around with you. If anybody was drinking, he would be the one taking care of you. Not everyone in his friend group was like that, but he always was.”
And that was true all the time, not just when their friends were spending time together on weekends or at parties. “He used to always help me with my homework over the phone,” DeVol adds. “My mom would say we couldn’t talk on the phone until I had done my homework, so he’d walk me through my math problems and other work so that we could talk.”
Suzanne Matan — another of the women Kavanaugh mentioned in his testimony and who sat behind him during the hearing — met him in 1980 when she entered private Catholic school her sophomore year. She agrees with DeVol that he was always known among their friends for being responsible and careful. “You always have one in every class who sort of looks out for everyone,” she explains. “He stood out among us as being the responsible guy, the smart guy.”
She has a specific memory of when she realized in high school what kind of person Kavanaugh is. “One time he had asked me out to dinner, and it started to snow fairly heavily,” Matan says. “His mother called my mother and said Brett wanted to use the car to take me out to dinner, but his mother and mine were both worried the roads might get bad.”
But Kavanaugh was insistent that he had promised to take her to dinner, and he intended to do so, snow or not. He convinced their parents that he’d drive carefully and bring Suzanne home early. “He took me out, brought me home, and walked me right to the door and said good night,” Matan recalls. “That’s how I remember Brett. The guy that came and picked you up, you had a nice conversation, he brought you home and took you to the door. The guy who kept his promises.”
According to women who have known him later in life, too, Kavanaugh’s character and integrity have remained consistent regardless of age or circumstance. Monica Mastal has known Kavanaugh for several decades because her siblings were in school with him, they’ve remained lifelong friends, and she also worked with him for a time. Their children attend the same parish school, Kavanaugh coached her daughter in basketball at the school, and she testified for him before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I worked with him briefly at the office of independent counsel when I was in my young twenties, when I was an intern during law school,” Mastal says. “I was just an intern and he was an attorney, but he was always very friendly and supportive. He was kind to everyone on staff, whether you were an intern or FBI agent. It didn’t matter.”
Anita McBride also worked with Kavanaugh in the White House, under the George W. Bush administration. She’s known him since 2001, when she was working as acting director of White House personnel for the transition period, which meant working closely with Kavanaugh, who was an associate counsel in the White House at the time.
“There were things I’d send to him for review, and he was always a very responsive colleague,” McBride explains. “A lot of the time we’d work long hours, and he’d walk papers down to my office late, late at night, just to be sure that he got to them in the same day that I had sent them to him. I very much appreciated that, his responsiveness and collegiality as a fellow staff member.”
McBride says Kavanaugh was widely respected in the White House, especially when he later served as staff secretary to President Bush and managed decision-making processes. She calls him “an exemplary honest broker” and says he was “fair to everybody on the staff,” making sure everyone, no matter their rank, had a chance to give equal input. “It was very clear the president really trusted the way that he handled his job.”
Cathie Martin first met Kavanaugh when they both were lawyers in Washington, D.C., running in the same professional and social circles; they later worked together in the White House. “We had children at the same time and spent those early parenting years together, at each other’s houses, dealing with children’s birthday parties, and holidays, and babies,” she says. “You get to know people pretty well during those times.”
Martin says Kavanaugh was always highly professional in the workplace: “He’s a really reserved and humble guy, so he had a way of connecting with staff throughout the White House in a very friendly and unassuming way.” At one point, Martin managed a staff made up of people under 30, who she says “were always highly impressed with how professional and respectful [Kavanaugh] was to them, not to mention to his peers and seniors.”
McBride agrees that Kavanaugh was always highly regarded for the way he treated everyone with whom he worked, including women. “Honestly, I’ve worked in this town for 35 years. . . . I’ve seen the best of colleagues and not the best of colleagues,” she says. “There are very, very few in all those years who I can say I’d truly go to the mat for. Brett is one of them, because of the way he treated people around him, whether superiors or subordinates. Even in the highly intense atmosphere of the White House, this is a guy who never lost his cool and had a sense of humor about him, even in the toughest of times, that was very helpful to be around. The way he treated everybody, men and women, was always the same.”
“Brett was the kind of person who, because he’s so mild-mannered, so accomplished, and has such a grounded center of what is right and good, he attracted really good people around him,” Martin adds. “He made you want to be better, and that’s why people who know him are standing up for him.”
All of these women are insistent that they are completely sure Kavanaugh would never commit the sexual misconduct of which he’s been accused — it would contradict everything they’ve experienced over decades of friendship with him.
“Knowing Brett, who honestly was always mature and respectful, nothing in his life has ever led us to believe he would do anything like this,” Mastal says.
“I am 100 percent sure that this isn’t something he would do, because everything I know and have seen and experienced with Brett contradicts that,” Matan tells me. “If any of my friends had experienced anything differently, we would know about it. We could choose the guys we hung out with. No one was forcing us to hang out with that group of guys. We chose to hang out with those guys because we felt comfortable around them, they were fun to be with, and they respected us.”
McCaleb says she could never believe the allegations against Kavanaugh. “That just wasn’t Brett’s personality at all,” she says. “He was one of the more responsible ones of the bunch, there’s no question. He just was not aggressive in that way at all. When I heard the allegation, I was shocked. . . . I don’t doubt that something happened to [Ford] at some point. But not with Brett. Never ever.”
“I’m confident that he’s incapable of doing this,” says Martin, “because I know Brett’s character and I know his heart, and I know what kind of person he is. He’s been nothing but ethical and moral and good and decent in all aspects, professionally and personally, in all the time I’ve known him.”
DeVol says she’s never been a political person and has never gotten in an argument over politics, but she feels an obligation to stand up for her friend’s character. She even wrote a letter this week to Senators Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins saying just that. “It’s devastating to watch Brett and his family go through this,” she tells me over the phone, her voice shaking. “He is just such a good person. I can’t imagine how he’s surviving this. He is a good, good person and he would never do what she says he did. It’s crazy what they’re doing to him. None of it is true.”