What happened to the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation battle? The claims ranged from Christine Blasey Ford’s remotely plausible if unsubstantiated allegation of a violent attempted rape to Michael Avenatti’s completely outlandish and also unsubstantiated allegation of hosting serial gang rape parties.
From September 12 to October 6, the claims absolutely dominated all major media. They ran on the front pages of all major newspapers and filled the hours on cable and network news. Magazine journalists at The New Yorker ran with the claims, despite massive corroboration problems.
The claims were taken so seriously by the media and some U.S. senators it led to serious delays of the confirmation voting process. A hearing was held during and after which all the talking heads on cable asserted Blasey Ford was completely “credible.” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, even maneuvered to reopen an FBI investigation to dig into the claims. Then they disappeared. Overnight.
The argument for delaying the confirmation process indefinitely was that everyone needed time to investigate the allegations. The argument underlying the media coverage was that these allegations were “credible” and needed to be investigated and reported on given the importance of the lifetime position for which Kavanaugh was nominated. The allegations were hitting in the midst of the Me Too movement, which claims to address sexual assault by powerful men. It should be noted that for a claim to be declared “credible,” it doesn’t need to be verified or have any substantiating evidence but merely that journalists and pundits “believe” it or find it possible.
If it was important to investigate the claims because Kavanaugh was up for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, it remains just as important to investigate it now that he’s been confirmed. This would be true even if impeachment were not an option if the allegations were ever substantiated. That impeachment is an option makes the October silence even weirder. Why did media outlets go from hourly updates on this story to dropping it like it’s hot?
Recent coverage is limited and devoted to political considerations of the allegations, but not the merit of them. If Kavanaugh had credible sexual assault allegations against him, as the media claimed, they should be fully investigated even after his confirmation, since he continues to work with and around women, and has children at home. Right? Why would his confirmation change anything about the tenacity with which the media covered this story? Is it less scandalous to have a “credibly accused” rapist on the Supreme Court than to have a “credibly accused” nominee to the court?
Many Americans did not find any of the accusations against Kavanaugh believable, but nearly every media figure and Democratic politician and seemed to swallow one or more of the claims whole. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., even read Avenatti’s client Julie Swetnick into the record. Swetnick claimed without evidence that Kavanaugh was the secret ringleader of a serial gang rape cartel in high school. She claimed that, as an adult, she attended 10 gang rape parties that he organized as a high school student. As recently as a few days ago, abortion corporation Planned Parenthood and abortion lobbying group NARAL said they “believe” Swetnick.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, by contrast, just made a criminal referral of Swetnick and Avenatti to the Department of Justice for making false claims. After each outlandish claim was made, the media would dutifully report that an “additional” claim had been made. One journalist admitted she’d reported on a story the claimant was unable to substantiate precisely because additional claims would make the first more believable.
Even leaving aside the claim of an underground serial gang rape cartel, and The New Yorker’s Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez — who a few days after his hearings ended claimed to sort of recover decades-old memories of a Kavanaugh assault, and the various anonymous and recanted claims about rapes from Colorado to Rhode Island: What happened to Blasey Ford?
Blasey Ford’s muddled claim about a violent attempted rape at an undetermined location and time in high school could not have been more generously treated by online, print, and broadcast media. It was given nothing but the most respectful hearing by the media. The Washington Post ran a very favorable version of the story to break the news. CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC all said her claims were credible and that her testimony at the reopened Kavanaugh hearing was devastating to Kavanaugh’s confirmation case.
Obviously the media coverage was misaligned from the political mood of the non-progressive portion of the country, but it was well aligned with the progressive political movement. Do they no longer care about Blasey Ford?
We’re told that she had no incentive to lie and gave up a great deal by coming forward — although one journalist has reported on the nearly $1 million she raised from progressive donors. All the media that reported she had no incentive to lie owe it to her to fully investigate her claims, don’t they?
While Blasey Ford is unclear on the precise location of the claimed assault, Maryland police said they would fully investigate any allegations brought to them. Has that been done? The argument was that the multi-week delay in September was insufficient for a proper investigation of her claims. If that’s true, what has been done in October? Why have we heard nothing?
If the media and other Democratic leaders wanted to have any credibility at all that the post-hearing release of multiple allegations wasn’t a pure political stunt for which they were willing to destroy a man, they’d continue to fight for justice every day, wouldn’t they? They would ask every Democratic candidate whether he believed Ford and supported impeaching Kavanaugh.
If the Kavanaugh confirmation circus were about justice for his alleged victims, instead of about killing his nomination by any means, we’d still be getting updates on this story, wouldn’t we?
So what does it mean that we’re not getting updates? What does it mean that Democrats are not being asked by mainstream journalists about whether they support Kavanaugh’s impeachment? Why have the media given up on investigating this story that they obsessed over for a few weeks in September and October?
Any reporter who was able to verify the claims against Kavanaugh would be an instant hero and awarded all the journalism prizes. Is anyone even attempting to do so? Democrats took the claims so seriously that they charged Kavanaugh with the crimes in Senate hearings. Did they mean what they said? If they’re telling the truth, he should be impeached and imprisoned.
Conversely, if Kavanaugh was falsely accused, had his reputation obliterated, and nearly had his life destroyed in the process, his accusers should be held accountable. If the Justice Department responds to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s criminal referral of Avenatti and Swetnick, some will be. But what about the rest? What’s going on with this story?