NY Times Kavanaugh Book Slimes Ford’s Friend for Doubting Story: ‘Struggles With Alcohol’

September 22nd, 2019 8:22 PM

Earlier, NewsBusters analyzed the first part of The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, of Brett Kavanaugh’s purportedly disturbing history of blackout drinking.

The book chapter “Women Live Under a Harsh Law” (no slant there) launched the book's disparate treatment of the dueling testimonies. Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a “master class in authenticity and simplicity.” While the judge’s every action was exaggerated, the book downplayed the lack of specificity of Blasey’s account, laughably suggesting Blasey had her assault accusation narrowed down to “a conceivable location and time period.”

While Kavanaugh’s vagueness about events that may or may not have occurred in the 1980s are held against him, Ford’s memory losses are explained away: “She admitted what she did not recall.” They praised her poise before the Senate: “Her equanimity would later be contrasted with Kavanaugh’s overwrought delivery, which, ironically, was forgiven by many as understandable passion in the heat of self-defense.”

The more trusting of Ford a senator was, the more favorable and generous the reporters’ coverage. Republicans came off poorly. Even one sympathetic to Ford, like former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, was criticized for insincerity. After Kavanaugh rightly complained of the behavior of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, they harrumphed, “But Kavanaugh was disingenuous in targeting only his Democratic critics for cheapening the nation’s political dialogue.” After all, Trump “had belittled the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un” as “rocket man.” Yes, they criticized Trump for mocking a murderous dictator.

Another nasty crack that betrayed the reporters’ liberal tilt:

Kavanaugh mentioned his high school calendars...a habit he’d picked up from his father....Kavanaugh choked up at the memory – emotion that would prove rich fodder for Matt Damon’s widely watched parody of the judge on Saturday Night Live.

Never mind that Damon was a friend of Harvey Weinstein and knew of his harassing behavior, which makes him rather less than a profile in courage when it comes to blowing the whistle on sexual impropriety.

Pogrebin and Kelly are haunted by Kavanaugh’s temperament during his testimony, which they think raises doubts about his fitness for the Supreme Court (although no temper tantrums have emanated from the Court so far): “Once again, Kavanaugh resorted to his resume with a defensive retort that led many to later accuse him of impudence and entitlement....Even Kavanaugh loyalists said his testimony was a serious mistake...”

The authors also examine arcane terminology from Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook and suggest that where there’s smoke (i.e., impenetrable prep school slang) there is sexist fire. “Details became data points...it seemed to confirm the misogynistic mindset that many Kavanaugh critics suspected he held....”

Late in the book, there is a genuine bombshell -- Ford’s high-school friend Leland Keyser said she was pressured by former classmates to change her testimony to support Ford. Keyser told the Times reporters “...certain things could be spread about me if I didn’t comply.” About Ford’s story of assault, Keyser is quoted: “I just really didn’t have confidence in the story.”

Yet the reporters even went after Keyser in defense of Ford (and also did so on CNN’s Reliable Sources). “But Keyser’s skepticism was structured on some erroneous or irrelevant tent poles.” Their excuses for Ford are exceedingly lame. They even tastelessly suggest “Keyser’s memory might be affected by her struggles with alcohol and other substances.”

The reporters employ the fog of youthful drunkenness to hint Kavanaugh should have just confessed to something he doesn’t remember doing to save Ford’s feelings, and, by the way, ruin his Supreme Court chances.

They also dubiously claim neither Ford nor Ramirez had “political motivation to bring down Kavanaugh.” But both women are Democrats. And there is video showing Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz speaking at the University of Baltimore’s 11th Feminist Legal Theory Conference, bragging “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.”

They set Kavanaugh to an impossible standard: “By allowing no possibility that he had ever assaulted anyone, including Ford, or exposed his penis to Ramirez, Kavanaugh may have boxed himself into a lie.”

In an unforgiving summing up, the authors played the “judicial temperament” card hard, calling the judge’s behavior an “encompassing dilemma” after his “offensive and potentially prejudicial performance.” After painting Kavanaugh in shades of guilt, this line came off unintentionally funny: “As reporters, it’s not for us to opine on whether Kavanaugh’s youthful misdeeds or angry testimony should have blocked him from the Supreme Court.” Um, you declared him guilty of “misdeeds” in that very sentence!

Pogrebin and Kelly used a familiar, and infuriating, liberal line as an excuse for ruining a man’s life with no evidence: “Given that the hearings had technically been a job interview and not a criminal proceeding, several pundits argued that Kavanaugh blew it.” Ruining a man’s reputation for the world to see is not part of a standard “job interview.”

They also complained that a Republican summary memo “contained a number of misleading or incomplete assertions” against Ford, but don’t bother addressing them.

The reporters seem willing to believe that Kavanaugh mended his ways as an adult -- but are insistent that he is unfit to serve on the Supreme Court: “As people, our gut reaction was that the allegations of Ford and Ramirez from the past rang true.” Pogrebin and Kelly tastelessly used a saying from Kavanaugh’s mother Martha, a prosecutor, about figuring out what rings true and what rings false, against her own son.

The hard evidence contained in The Education of Brett Kavanaugh would likely convict Kavanaugh of being a college student. Everything else is unsubstantiated campus gossip from the Reagan era. Perhaps the reporters should have admitted they had nothing, given up the book deal, and preserved their journalistic reputations.