The Washington Post has a problem. The newspaper led the massive effort against the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by publishing and relentlessly hyping a completely unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault against him.
Now, the paper is leading Democrats’ efforts to bury a similar, if stronger, allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden. To accomplish this dramatic turnabout, the paper is collectively trying to rewrite history, pretending the allegation against Kavanaugh had more basis than it did while also pretending that the allegation against Biden has less basis than it does.
The Post’s anti-Kavanaugh operation had powerful divisions in both the news and opinion departments. It’s worth looking at both.
Oppositional From The Start
The Post greeted the announcement of Kavanaugh’s nomination with trademark hostility, but their task was made difficult by the relative lack of controversy around the man. An early Post effort to derail his nomination by reporting he used his credit card to pay for expensive season tickets to see the Washington Nationals before being reimbursed by his buddies led to mockery. Twitter users imagined other Kavanaugh “scandals” such as “He neglected to add the plus 4 zip codes on all his Christmas cards,” “Didn’t rewind a VHS before taking it back to Blockbuster,” and “Sources say that Kavanaugh once failed to turn off his brights for an oncoming vehicle.”
The Post’s reflexive and over-the-top hostility was even mocked by The Onion in their story, “Kavanaugh Nomination Falters after Washington Post Publishes Shocking Editorial Claiming He Forgot His Daughter’s Piano Recital.”
As Kavanaugh’s nomination seemed inevitable, the desperate paper dramatically rolled out and sympathetically handled an unsubstantiated allegation against Kavanaugh from Christine Blasey Ford. Although she never had any evidence in support of her allegation — in fact she didn’t even have evidence she had ever met Kavanaugh, much less that he had tried to rape her — the Post’s legitimizing of the claim set off one of American journalism’s most devastating feeding frenzies. Millions of Americans watched in horror as nearly every media outlet joined the Post in the effort not just to keep Kavanaugh off of the Supreme Court but to destroy the life and reputation of the married father of two young girls.
While the Post’s Emma Brown had been working with Blasey Ford since early July to help her craft a sympathetic telling of her allegation, she gave Kavanaugh just a couple of hours’ notice one Sunday morning that she was about to accuse him of being an attempted rapist when he was in high school.
The several-thousand-word story could not have been more sympathetic to Blasey Ford. It accepted Blasey Ford’s claims at face value, allowing the story to be spun as if it were true even though Blasey Ford had no evidence in support of it. All of the many problems with the story, such as that it kept changing and lacked evidence, were papered over by Brown and her editors.
A second story spun the fact that her family didn’t believe her as further evidence of her victimization. The resulting hagiographic profile was something any individual making unsubstantiated allegations could only dream of.
The Post Reverses Course For Biden
Compare the approach the Post took for Tara Reade’s allegation against her former employer, Biden. Far from breaking the story, the Post was finally forced to cover the allegation against Biden after a 19-day blackout when The New York Times ended their own blackout by finally covering it on Easter Sunday. (Easter Sunday is not known as a major news day, even when it doesn’t occur in the middle of a global pandemic.)
During the 19-day blackout, the Democratic nomination battle remained in full swing. Those who worry about collusion between the media and official Democratic leaders will not be comforted by the fact that The New York Times removed one of its only critical lines and tweets about Biden — the data point that many women have accused him of unwanted touching — at the request of the Biden campaign.
The Post’s Alice Crites was given the duty of burying the Reade story by conveying the information in as dry a manner as possible — the complete opposite of the riveting, sympathetic approach taken by Brown and her editors against Kavanaugh. The downplaying was so extreme, some of it had to be corrected.
From her first line to her last, Crites’s skepticism of Reade’s account is the main takeaway. Blasey Ford’s story changed significantly in the six or so years she told it, from saying it was a physical assault to saying it was a sexual assault, from not mentioning Kavanaugh at all to mentioning him explicitly, and from saying she was assaulted by a gang of four boys to saying that it was only four boys at the party but two in the room (she continued to give inconsistent accounts of how many people were at the party throughout 2018).
If they paid any attention to the inconsistencies, the Post gently attributed the shifting details, however implausibly, to a problem with therapist’s notes. When Reade’s story went from a claim of unwanted touching of the head and shoulders by Biden to an added claim that he also engaged in unwanted digital penetration of the vagina, that was presented in literally the first line of the story, the suggestion being that she was untrustworthy.
You may note that Blasey Ford’s lack of veracity was never a major story in the media, even when it was on national display. Blasey Ford’s claim to be afraid of flying was major news in the Democrats’ campaign to delay her testimony. During the televised hearing, it came out that she personally listed one of her hobbies as flying to remote islands over large expanses of water to surf. That changed story didn’t result in even a mention at the Post, much less the lead to a story. In fact, the media attacked people who merely noticed the false statement.
The bottom line is that after every major news outlet in America worked hard to validate Blasey Ford’s story, they were unable to. They found evidence that Kavanaugh was once a teenager, but nothing that supported her claim of attempted rape. Ever-more-ridiculous claims were put forth and accepted by the activist media, such as a client of Michael Avenatti’s allegation that Kavanaugh was the secret leader of a serial gang rape cartel that roamed the streets of suburban Maryland, a criminal mastermind so brilliant that he somehow evaded accountability even after six FBI checks.
Media like to pretend that they were at least skeptical of that claim, but don’t believe them. The Post, for example, didn’t just run with the claim from Avenatti’s client Julie Swetnick, they suggested the client had strong credibility. “The 55-year-old Web developer has held multiple security clearances for work on government-related networks,” was the subhed to their article. Those skeptical and critical of Swetnick’s patently ridiculous account were accused of “slut-shaming” by the Post.
While Blasey Ford’s claim was the least insane one put forth by activists and other Kavanaugh opponents, there were other problems with it beyond her failure to produce evidence she had ever met him. Her four named witnesses to the event all denied knowledge of it, some vociferously so.
Even her lifelong friend Leland Keyser, who worked very hard to come up with anything, came to doubt her friend’s story entirely. And when she refused to say otherwise, mutual acquaintances tried to get her to change her story. Some U.S. senators thought the witness tampering so egregious that it should be prosecuted.
Compare that situation to Reade’s. Whatever else you might say of her allegation, Reade at least has evidence that she met Biden, having worked for him in 1993. And she has evidence that she told three people about the alleged attack at the time she claims it happened in 1993. Blasey Ford was believed even though she never said a word of any attack for 30 years, never mentioned Kavanaugh for several more years, and couldn’t get any of her named witnesses to corroborate her account.
Ruth Marcus’ Special Problem
Some media outlets, such as CNN, have instituted a strict ban on even mentioning the sexual assault allegation against Biden, even though they published 705 stories about Blasey Ford.
But some of the biggest anti-Kavanaugh partisans can’t quite get away with that level of hypocrisy on account of how public their support was of the “Believe All Women” mantra that was deployed against Kavanaugh despite the lack of evidence. Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times admitted the lack of evidence against Kavanaugh but nevertheless wrote articles about how “this scandal has given us an X-ray view of the rotten foundations of elite male power.”
She assured her liberal readers that there was no need to believe Reade because Reade, a Bernie Sanders supporter, had political views she disagreed with. No mention was made of the videotaped admission from Debra Katz, Blasey Ford’s attorney, that her client’s motivation was political and revolved around her extreme support of abortion. That political motivation was no barrier for those who shared it when defaming Kavanaugh.
Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus fits into this general category. She led the Post’s opinion page attacks on Kavanaugh. Marcus wrote a book on the Kavanaugh confirmation and I co-wrote a book with Carrie Severino on the confirmation.
Our book, “Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court,” was a No. 1 national best-seller based on interviews of more than 100 of the key players — at the White House, Senate, Court, and outside groups — in the confirmation battle. Many of our sources told us in lengthy interviews they refused to speak with Marcus on account of how unfairly they believed the Post editorial page treated Kavanaugh supporters during the confirmation battle.
Marcus is an unabashed liberal. She writes articles asserting that Trump staffers should quit to “save their souls.” Speaking of souls, not only does she believe that unborn children with Down syndrome should be killed, she has publicly said she would have done so herself if given the opportunity. It is an extreme understatement to say she shares — if not exceeds — Blasey Ford’s abortion motivation.
Around the time her book came out last December, she wrote, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If, like me, all you’ve done for the past year is research and write a book about Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, everything has a tendency to look like a Kavanaugh replay.” Four months have done wonders on Marcus, as now that a nominee for a prominent position has been accused of sexual assault, it doesn’t look to her like a Kavanaugh replay at all. Fancy that!
Even before the accusations against Kavanaugh were public, Marcus was so invested in battling him that she was coaching Democratic senators on how to fight him. After the testimony was reopened, she was pushing Democratic messaging about the need to delay the confirmation vote at least another week.
Between those articles, she argued that even though Blasey Ford had no evidence in support of her allegation, a full FBI investigation must be launched. (She does not believe an investigation of Reade’s accusation of a more recent event is necessary.)
One of her reasons was that the allegations against Kavanaugh — attempted rape — were more serious than those against Clarence Thomas, who was accused without evidence of sexual harassment. (She does not seem particularly concerned that the allegation against Biden — penetration of the vagina with fingers — is more serious than those against Kavanaugh or Thomas.) Admitting there was no corroboration for Ford’s story, although she believed it in any case, she thought that forcing Kavanaugh to answer questions about it would help clarify some issues. (She does not think any such abasement is necessary for Biden.)
“We need the fullest possible airing of the accusation against Brett Kavanaugh,” Marcus argued on September 15, 2018. In this article, Marcus regurgitated every unsubstantiated claim made against Kavanaugh, despite the complete lack of evidence. She also revealed that she also believed Anita Hill, who also argued without evidence that Thomas had harassed her.
In Hill’s claim, also levied against an employer, her testimony was contradicted by evidence and testimony. Her colleagues said that if anyone harassed another, the direction was the opposite from what Hill had claimed. She claimed that Thomas relentlessly called her. Phone records showed the opposite. FBI agents reported that her story kept changing. That Marcus found herself on Hill’s side of the Thomas dispute, but not on Reade’s side in the Biden’s dispute, is telling.
Once Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford had testified, Marcus was even more convinced, despite the lack of any evidence in support of Blasey Ford’s claim and the new evidence in support of Kavanaugh’s denial in the form of contemporaneous calendars he kept of the summer in question. “Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was devastating,” Marcus opined. In this article, she conceded the faulty memory and other problems displayed by Blasey Ford, but nevertheless Marcus had an emotional reaction to the testimony in her favor.
Marcus also wrote the Washington Post classic, “Does it matter what Kavanaugh did in high school? Well, yes.” In this article she attempted to justify the unseemly poring over of teenage jokes in yearbooks and other invasions of a former high schooler’s adolescence. Yet with Biden, who was accused of sexual assault dating to his time as a U.S. Senator when he was in his 50s, Marcus sees no benefit from investigating the matter.
Disposing Of Reade
This brings us, finally, to Marcus’s public disposal of the Reade allegation. It is absolutely stunning. It would be hilarious, if it weren’t so despicable what she and her colleagues did to Kavanaugh’s life.
She concedes that Reade’s allegation of sexual assault is “difficult and important,” particularly for those who believed Blasey Ford. She says she “concluded” in her book that Blasey Ford was telling the truth that Kavanaugh was an attempted rapist. She echoes Blasey Ford and Katz’s demand that Kavanaugh must forever defamed with an “asterisk” next to his name.
Nevertheless, she says she’s going to make a “good-faith effort to grapple with the seriousness of, and flaws in, the Reade allegations.” She asserts, without evidence and in contradiction of evidence, that Ford’s allegations are “on balance stronger” and simply doesn’t believe that what Reade claimed happened, happened.
Marcus, who supported Hill, Blasey Ford, and Swetnick — but not former Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s accusers — says that it’s important to note that everyone suffers from biases, that outrage only over misbehavior by those with ideological differences is hypocritical, and skepticism about accusations only when made against those whose politics you share is intellectually dishonest.
With that performative throat clearing out of the way, Marcus sets out to defend Biden and disparage Reade. It turns out #BelieveAllWomen, the metric the Post and other media outlets used to convict Kavanaugh with no evidence, is now “a dumb hashtag and a dumber approach to inevitably complex, fact-bound situations.”
Marcus admits Reade has support for her claim that Blasey Ford never had. Reade told her mother, her brother, and a friend. Reade says she filed a complaint with Senate officials and complained to Biden’s staff, but Marcus doubts that. Nevertheless, she admits, “the contemporaneous evidence is inconclusive but stronger than that in the Kavanaugh case.” She quickly explains that this is no surprise, since Blasey Ford already admitted she never told anyone anything for several decades.
Marcus says Reade’s failure to share therapist notes with the Post is sketchy since Ford made her therapist notes available “to reporters.” That’s not quite right. Even with the friendliest reporters imaginable, Blasey Ford allowed only a select portion of the relevant notes, according to the friendly reporters themselves.
As for Blasey Ford, under oath she testified that she didn’t remember whether she showed Brown the therapist’s notes or her own summary of the notes. In either case, she flat-out refused to provide those notes to Senate investigators, even while claiming she wanted a full investigation.
Telling Lies to Help Blasey Ford’s Claim
Marcus notes that Reade’s account shifted from a claim of unwanted touching to extremely unwanted penetration. She falsely states that Blasey Ford’s story “did not change over time.” As mentioned above, it did.
From Rachel Mitchell’s report to senators of Blasey Ford’s own testimony, we also are reminded that, “Dr. Ford has not offered a consistent account of when the alleged assault happened.” First she said “mid 1980s,” then “early 80s,” then “high school summer in early 80s,” then she crossed out the word “early,” then summer of 1982, then in her “late teens,” then when she was 15. She failed to explain how she was suddenly able to narrow the timeframe.
We are also reminded in that Senate report that “Dr. Ford has struggled to identify Judge Kavanaugh as the assailant by name,” according to marriage therapy notes and individual therapy notes, and never before Kavanaugh was a nationally known figure. The Senate report notes that Blasey Ford “changed her description of the incident to become less specific,” “has no memory of key details of the night in question” that could help corroborate her account, “has not been corroborated by anyone she identified as having attended—including her lifelong friend,” “has not offered a consistent account of the alleged assault,” “has struggled to recall important recent events relating to her allegations, and her testimony regarding recent events raises further questions about her memory,” her “explanation of why she disclosed her allegations the way she did raises questions,” her “description of the psychological impact of the event raises questions,” “Her account of who was at the party has been inconsistent,” and many other problems.
Whereas Blasey Ford’s delayed disclosures and changing details were not a problem for Marcus, Reade’s “shifting account introduces a confusing element.” She wonders — but only of Reade — why her story shifted and why she hasn’t explained that shift.
Marcus questions Reade’s motivation on account of her support of Sanders’ candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president. Blasey Ford’s liberal political motivation was well known by those we interviewed for our book. They told us how she scrubbed her “crazy liberal” social media posts before going public. The one public item about her related to participation in a pussy-hat protest of some kind. Her family talked with friends about her political motivation and strong support of abortion. Her attorney admitted that motivation on videotape.
Of this well-known and obvious political agenda from Blasey Ford, Marcus writes, “The credibility question is the biggest hurdle for me with Reade. Ford did not strike me as a person who was coming forward because of political motivations or because she wanted publicity — anything but. Reade seems a much different and less reliable figure.” It would be hilarious if it were not so dangerous.
Marcus admits that Biden has had many women accuse him of unwanted touching but suggests, again without evidence, that Kavanaugh had problematic behavior toward women. As someone who interviewed ex-girlfriends and acquaintances of him, I know that’s simply not true.
It is true that Blasey Ford accused him of attempted rape. It is also true she has no evidence she ever met him. It is true that a classmate at Yale began to think, but can’t be sure, that Kavanaugh may have been at a party where something — she’s not sure what, exactly — happened. Such a charge doesn’t deserve comment, although other liberal reporters wrote an entire book about it.
Like Marcus, their “gut feeling” about Kavanaugh was that he was an attempted rapist. Like Marcus, they’re not concerned by Reade’s allegation. And it is true that Trump critics put forth Swetnick to allege Kavanaugh was the leader of a serial gang rape cartel and various other similarly unsubstantiated claims about a nationwide rape spree. As for those false claims, Marcus thought he reacted too negatively to the charges.
Finally, Marcus ends her unconvincing tap dance with a claim that other people are the real hypocrites. “Those who disbelieved and diminished Christine Blasey Ford face the challenge of explaining why they seem so much more eager to credit Tara Reade’s account.”
Well, whether it’s Joe Biden or Brett Kavanaugh, both men deserve due process. Noting that Tara Reade at least has benefit of evidence that she has met the accused and contemporaneous corroboration of her claim makes her allegation stronger, but stronger than nothing is admittedly a low bar.
Ruth Marcus and others at the Washington Post who led the effort to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s life based on unsubstantiated allegations know that what they did was evil. They may try to rewrite history to make it seem that Blasey Ford had evidence in support of her claim. They may try to rewrite history to make themselves feel better. They can dig as furiously as they want, but there is no memory hole deep enough to forget their behavior.