Senate Republican leaders want Ford to be heard — just not believed.
Republican leaders say the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are part of a Democratic “smear campaign.” The claims are “unsubstantiated,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday, citing a “complete lack of evidence.”
“No location, no date, and no witnesses,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said Tuesday to sum up Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school — seemingly minimizing her firsthand account.
Senate Republicans want it both ways; they’re already claiming the accusations are not credible, but many, like McConnell, have stopped short of calling the accusers liars — a window into the high-stakes political calculations around #MeToo allegations.
“It should be clear now to all Americans that Democrats are engaged in a coordinated effort to stop Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation by any means possible,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a lengthy statement Monday. “As I have said before, every accuser deserves to be heard. Moreover, a person who has committed sexual assault should not serve on the Supreme Court.”
Two women have come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, dating to his high school and college days. Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, said Kavanaugh pinned her down at a party in high school and tried to take off her clothes and force himself on her. Deborah Ramirez, who went to Yale with Kavanaugh, said he exposed himself to her at a party, thrusting his penis in her face. Kavanaugh has denied both allegations aggressively. Hatch has said he thinks Ford is “mistaken” but went on to call Ramirez a “phony.”
This week, Ford will testify to her account in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh will do the same, likely resulting in nothing more than the he-said, she-said debate that’s already unfurled in a week of media reports. Soon after, McConnell has said, there will be a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. The strategy is becoming clear: Republicans are giving the accusers a chance to be “heard” — but denying them the opportunity to be believed.
Republicans keep saying there are “no witnesses” to these allegations
Republican leaders have been questioning the validity of these sexual misconduct allegations since they were first made public, calling them a partisan attack against Kavanaugh.
“Senate Democrats and their allies are trying to destroy a man’s personal and professional life on the basis of decades-old allegations that are unsubstantiated and uncorroborated,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday. “This is what the so-called resistance has become: a smear campaign, pure and simple, aided and abetted by members of the United States Senate.”
On the latest allegations from Ramirez, Majority Whip John Cornyn tweeted that “only a partisan would claim these credible without evidence.”
To be clear: There is evidence — for both accusers’ accounts, and in Kavanaugh’s defense.
Ramirez went public in an article reported by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow. After the New Yorker’s story was published, the New York Times said its reporters interviewed several dozen people to corroborate the allegations but could not find someone with firsthand knowledge of Ramirez’s claim. The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, said that he did not, however, question the New Yorker’s account of the allegations.
“I gather some people thought we were trying to knock down her [Ramirez’s] account, but that’s not what we were doing. I’m not questioning their story,” Baquet said in a statement. Farrow also commented on Baquet’s statement, saying he had exclusive access to Ramirez.
The NYT reiterating that they did not “decline” or “pass” on the Ramirez story as claimed by several conservative politicians. They were simply unable to secure the central interview with her (or with the contemporaneous corroborators who spoke to NYer): https://t.co/EofWO9ZE9G pic.twitter.com/GSyqSXyZm1
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) September 25, 2018
Nevertheless, McConnell said that the allegations are “so dubious” that the New York Times didn’t find the story “fit to publish.”
The New Yorker’s story was clear that Ramirez said she had holes in her memory and that she was originally reluctant to come forward with the account, only doing so after six days of reflection.
One classmate of Ramirez said he was “one-hundred-per-cent sure” that another student told him about the incident after it happened, independently recalling several of the same details. The New Yorker, however, couldn’t corroborate the story with anyone Ramirez remembered to be at the party. Another former student, Richard Oh, now a doctor in California, also recalled hearing about the incident.
In Ford’s case, her allegations were documented by her therapist in notes from sessions in 2012 and 2013, in which Ford talked about a “rape attempt” and being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school.” She also took and passed a polygraph test, which of course isn’t a fully reliable method of fact-seeking.
Republicans however, insist there is no evidence to her claims. They cite a denial from Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s classmate who was allegedly present at the time of the incident, as well as from Patrick J. Smyth, whom Ford named as being at the party but who has denied attending. A woman Ford said was at the event, Leland Keyser, said she doesn’t know Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh said Monday night that it’s completely possible these women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives — just not by him, a level of carefulness many Republicans are following. (Hatch, who of course did call Ramirez a “phony,” said he thought Ford was “mistaken,” raising questions about her memory.)
Republicans’ message is clear: There’s no reason to believe these allegations.
Republicans are making this a he-said, she-said debate. They already said whom they trust more.
Kavanaugh is a well-established name in conservative circles. Republican senators are quick to tell you that they know him and, more importantly, don’t know the accusers.
“I have no reason not to believe him,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said last week of Kavanaugh in the wake of Ford’s allegations. “We have never seen this person. It just happened five days before a vote and 35 years ago. I do think Kavanaugh has handled himself well. We didn’t know who she was until yesterday.”
Hatch said the same: “I think she’s mistaking something, but I don’t know; I mean, I don’t know her,” Hatch said.
The descriptions of Ford from her acquaintances and colleagues, in fact, bear a close resemblance to how Republicans have described Kavanaugh. It raises an important factor: Who seems credible will be crucial if Ford and Kavanaugh both testify before the Senate committee.
Republicans have not currently scheduled any additional witnesses to testify to the Senate. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Grassley said he did not think it was necessary to question more than Kavanaugh and Ford. With Ramirez’s most recent allegations, Cornyn said the Senate was in talks with her lawyer, but it’s not clear if that will lead to any formal testimony.
As scheduled, the hearing Thursday will be nothing more than a he-said, she-said back-and-forth. And Republicans have already said where they stand on that debate.
Ford should be heard, they have said — just not believed.
Author: Tara Golshan