Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
1. The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, a controversial new book by two New York Times reporters, spotlights the justice’s record as a high-school student at Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School and an undergraduate at Yale.
A review of the book published in the Times summed up the authors’ primary focus: the “main thing they portray Kavanaugh learning is how to expertly blend into the background hum of blasé misogyny and clubby competitive drinking.”
The book’s widely anticipated launch was kicked off with a Sept. 14 essay for the Times opinion section penned by the authors, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly.
“We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year,” they reported in the essay, citing a claim that Kavanaugh had drunkenly exposed himself to a female classmate.
The account echoed a similar accusation made the previous year by Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate, Deborah Ramirez. And the authors reported that other Yale classmates had stepped forward to say they remember hearing about Ramirez’s story, thus purporting to substantiate her claim. Get more information on the Yale classmates who said they remembered her story here.
After the essay was published, Senate Democrats and presidential hopefuls called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.
2. On Sept. 16, the Times issued a correction to the story, after critics said the column omitted a key fact: the newly identified victim told friends she didn’t remember the incident, and refused to be interviewed by the authors.
The authors cited Max Stier, another classmate at Yale (who would go on to serve as a lawyer and aide to President Bill Clinton, before his present post at a Washington, D.C. nonprofit) as the source of the claim. Yet Stier, too, had refused to meet with the authors, who learned about his report secondhand.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post said it had learned of the “previously unreported” claim a year earlier and passed on it after its reporters couldn’t directly verify details, and other news outlets piled on.
3. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee challenged the authors’ complaint that his committee and the FBI had failed to thoroughly investigate Ramirez’s allegation of sexual misconduct, in the second probe prompted by Ford’s allegations.
“Anyone can review the 414-page investigation summary report that I released last November,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in a Sept. 16 speech from the Senate floor.
“We laid out the information we received, including some of the ugliest claims. In the end, there was no credible evidence to support any of the allegations.” Grassley contended that Stier had never contacted his investigators to file an accusation, nor had the lawyer’s name surfaced in interviews with the eight people linked to the Ramirez allegation.
4. The book raises questions about Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh, noting that Leland Keyser, the high school friend who purportedly accompanied Ford to the party where the alleged sexual assault took place, told the authors she didn’t buy it.
Last year, Keyser told investigators that she “couldn’t recall the night in question, while adding that she believed Ford,” as the Washington Post noted in its own reporting on the new book.
Ford had testified that she fled the party after the alleged assault, but she couldn’t say how she got home. She also said that perhaps four boys were at the gathering in question.
Those details just didn’t make sense to Keyser.
“It would be impossible for me to be the only girl at a get-together with three guys, have her leave and then not figure out how she’s going to get home,” she told the authors.
Keyser also said she had been under pressure from partisan groups and friends to support Ford’s account — information first reported in Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino’s new bestseller, Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court, which defends Kavanaugh and offers additional political context for the confirmation battle. Read more about their book here.
5. Search and Destroy: Inside the Campaign Against Brett Kavanaugh, by Ryan Lovelace, a writer with the National Law Journal, reports that Debra Katz (Ford’s lawyer) has shed new light on her client’s decision to go public with the allegation against Kavanaugh.
In an April speech at the University of Baltimore’s 11th Feminist Legal Theory Conference, titled “Applied Feminism and #MeToo,” Katz told the audience that Ford’s decision to step forward means that Kavanaugh “will always have an asterisk next to his name. When he takes a scalpel to Roe v. Wade, we will know who he is, we know his character, and we know what motivates him, and that is important. It is important that we know, and that is part of what motivated Christine.”
Lovelace made a related point: “Ford’s audience was not the Senate, as Katz had previously suggested, but the American people. If they could be persuaded that Justice Kavanaugh was a predator, then they might not accept a future ruling by the five Republican-appointed justices altering the right to obtain an abortion established by Roe v. Wade.” Read more about the book here.
6. Indeed, critics of The Education of Brett Kavanaugh have linked the ongoing attacks on Kavanaugh to abortion politics. The Wall Street Journal editorial board said the New York Times’ widely-criticized handling of the new allegations against the justice was “an attempt at intimidation to influence [Kavanaugh’s] opinions,” in a Sept. 16 editorial.
“But if Democrats fail in that, they want to portray conservative opinions of the current Court as illegitimate.”
Bill McGurn, the WSJ opinion columnist, underscored this point in a Sept. 16 article: “It’s good that folks are exposing the flimsiness of the latest allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. But those making and propagating these charges aren’t interested in getting to the truth. And they ought to be called out as the smear merchants they are.”