Congratulations to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, I guess.
No, no, wait. The offense alleged here is serious, much more than Kavanaugh and a pal locking a female classmate in a room or whatever, as was claimed yesterday. And Farrow’s track record (he co-wrote the piece with Obama apologist Jane Mayer) will lend it a patina of credibility to readers.
But the evidence is thin as can be.
The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first approached Democratic lawmakers in July, shortly after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.
In a statement, Kavanaugh said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
Kavanaugh’s classmate said of the woman’s allegation, “I have no recollection of that.”
He’s not the only classmate who has no recollection of it:
I knew Brett Kavanaugh in high school. We graduated same year. I never heard anything untoward about him.
— virginiahume (@virginiahume) September 13, 2018
One of the most powerful aspects of Farrow’s previous #MeToo reporting is the contemporaneous corroboration he cites from friends and family of the alleged victim. In nearly every case he’s covered (maybe every single one, in fact), a woman who was assaulted or harassed ended up confiding in others about it years ago, sometimes on the very day of the incident. That’s a strong defense to the inevitable claims that the accusation has been concocted belatedly because the “victim” wants attention or money or, in this case, maybe to take down a public official whose politics she abhors. It’s hard to accuse someone of making up a story to shake down Harvey Weinstein in 2018, when he’s an easy target, if they were telling the very same story in 1988.
All of that is missing here. There’s a not a single mention of a friend, family member, doctor, or cop whom the woman allegedly told about the incident with Kavanaugh. If she sought psychological help to deal with her distress, there should be evidence of that somewhere. No doubt Farrow and Mayer desperately want it. But they don’t have it. (Yet?) Farrow seems to know the identity of the woman — so does BuzzFeed, per its own story about the Feinstein letter yesterday — but she declined a request for an interview. Which leaves us with a nagging mystery: Why would the accuser come forward with a sensational allegation that would kill Kavanaugh’s nomination if substantiated, and then … refuse to provide substantiation? She won’t talk to reporters. She won’t provide evidence of the distress she supposedly felt after the incident. What exactly is Feinstein supposed to do with this accusation with nothing at all to support it? It doesn’t make sense even as fabrication to try to take Kavanaugh down. Surely the accuser doesn’t think Republicans in the Senate are going to tank this guy’s nomination based on a bare allegation with nothing backing it up.
Another hallmark of Farrow’s reporting is stockpiling allegations by multiple women, recognizing that credibility lies in numbers. You can’t ruin someone over a true “he said, she said,” but if it’s “he said, she said, she said, she said, she said”? That reeks of a pattern of predatory behavior. Farrow and Mayer don’t have that here either. It’s a true “he said, she said.” (Actually, there are two “he’s” in this case denying anything happened.) That doesn’t mean Kavanaugh’s innocent — a lot of men are in prison for attempting to rape “only” one woman — but again, what is Feinstein supposed to do with this? A single individual accuses the SCOTUS nominee of attempted sexual assault but she doesn’t want to talk further about it and won’t provide corroboration. Okay. What now?
Farrow and Mayer try to pad out their piece by turning it into a story about how Feinstein handled the allegation. Various reasons are offered for why she played it close to the vest: She wanted to respect the accuser’s privacy, she felt Democrats would be better off focusing on legal issues in the battle against Kavanaugh (huh?), and she felt “the incident was too distant in the past to merit public discussion.” She herself may have thought it was too thin to use to try to smear the nominee, in other words — and she’ll pay for it among the left, who surely prefer the Avenatti-style outlook of fighting Republican monsters with any weapon to hand. (Feinstein has an election coming up in California against a left-wing challenger, who may benefit richly from her show of prudence towards Kavanaugh smears.) But Farrow and Mayer are no doubt using today’s story as bait too. If they can’t substantiate the accuser’s claims and can’t find any other accusers, they’re going to throw out a line here in the pages of the New Yorker and see if any new accusers/evidence will see it and come to them.
Oh, by the way:
65 women of bipartisan backgrounds who knew Judge Kavanaugh in high school: “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect” & has “stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity” #SCOTUS https://t.co/9dT54BC2qM pic.twitter.com/5QtcPfwjX5
— Senate Judiciary (@senjudiciary) September 14, 2018
That’s interesting, but Weinstein has produced testimonies like that from women colleagues too in his defense. “He never tried to rape me.” What does it prove? If you don’t try to sexually assault everyone you can’t be plausibly accused of having tried to sexually assault anyone? Still, testimonies like this do have a certain gut persuasiveness. We assume, rightly or wrongly, that any degenerate who’d attempt to rape one woman would try, and probably has tried, to rape others. Does this letter prove that Kavanaugh was innocent in high school? No way. Does it suggest that there’s no pattern of behavior? Sure, somewhat. Especially when he’s facing a lone anonymous accuser. And if there’s no pattern, it makes the high-school incident that much harder to believe.
Exit question: If there’s anything to this accusation, how can it be that Democrats have turned up nothing to flesh it out? Even though it’s been closely held, at least a few people have known about it since July and have had every incentive to dig around to substantiate it. Whoever produced evidence that sank Kavanaugh would be an instant hero to the left. After two months, though, they’ve got nothing. How likely is it that this is anything other than a smear?
Update: Wisdom from a Scalia about the Avenatti style in ascendance:
With the handling of this mysterious letter, along with Harris’s coy questions about Kavanaugh’s conversations, Democrats are embracing the Trumpian technique of character assassination by insinuation.
— Christopher J. Scalia (@cjscalia) September 14, 2018
Update: Three sources tell the NYT that Farrow’s report of what the Feinstein letter says is accurate. But they have no evidence that it happened either. There’s just a letter and the accuser doesn’t want to talk. All I can think of to explain her decision to come forward and then clam up is that (1) it’s not just a smear, it’s a lazy smear, or (2) she thought that Kavanaugh must have behaved inappropriately with other women if he behaved inappropriately with her and was trying to encourage Democrats to talk to women who’ve worked closely with him. No doubt Dems did just that. What’d they find? Nothing, apparently.
Update: Annnnd media people and Democrats are all-in on the allegations, of course. The accusation against Kavanaugh won’t undermine #MeToo. People rushing to believe it for naked partisan reasons with zero evidence to support it probably will, though.
Makes the whole “bring in the daughter’s basketball team and talk about how great of a coach he was” look even more transparent https://t.co/4McIjuhvxc
— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) September 14, 2018
And his emphasis on hiring women clerks.https://t.co/r6pG9LWMt6
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) September 14, 2018
Update: The accusation worked for its intended audience.
YOU CANNOT SERIOUSLY TELL ME THAT ANY SENATOR WILL STAND BEHIND A MAN WHO ATTEMPTED RAPE TO BE ON THE HIGHEST COURT IN OUR LAND! FULL STOP NO!!!!
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) September 14, 2018