Even Liberal Media Highly Skeptical of New Yorker's Kavanaugh Hit Piece

On Monday’s network morning shows, the co-authors of The New Yorker’s questionable hit piece against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were surprisingly grilled by anchors on the NBC, ABC, and CBS broadcasts. Both Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow were peppered with challenging questions about the veracity of Deborah Ramirez’s sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh and even asked to defend their own journalistic standards.

Talking to Mayer on NBC’s Today show, co-host Savannah Guthrie pointed out how other news outlets, like The New York Times, were unable to corroborate Ramirez’s claims: “Deborah Ramirez was rather candid about her own – questions about her own memory, obviously her own sobriety, at this college party....what The New York Times story says, ‘The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge.’”

 

 

NBC News and The Washington Post were reportedly also pursuing the story and ran into the same lack of evidence.

Guthrie continued: “Now, reading the tea leaves of your own story, it doesn’t seem to me that The New Yorker found anyone with firsthand knowledge either. Is there corroboration?” Mayer admitted: “I mean, you don’t have to read the tea leaves, we’re right out front about it in there, saying we found no eyewitnesses who would confirm it.”

Following up, Guthrie wondered about Ramirez’s politics:

And lastly, Jane, in the world we live in, a lot of people always suspect there could be a political hit job going on. What do you know about Deborah Ramirez’s political motivations? And is – what did she say about whether or not this was motivated by not wanting to see a conservative justice on the Supreme Court?

Mayer acknowledged that she was “a registered Democrat,” but argued that “nobody is really alleging that politics was the motivation here.”

“But by your own admission, no eyewitnesses of the incident?,” co-host George Stephanopoulos pressed Farrow on ABC’s Good Morning America. Farrow responded: “Absolutely, and we disclosed that up front. And we also disclosed that she was inebriated at the time.”

He then bizarrely argued that Ramirez taking nearly a full week to remember if the person who assaulted her was actually Kavanaugh somehow made her more credible: “And I think the fact that she took several days to consider and really carefully make sure that she had an evidentiary basis for this, and other people were backing her account who had heard at the time, had been told, speaks well of her level of caution. This is not the behavior of someone who is fabricating something.”

Stephanopoulos wasn’t buying it:

Let me press you on that, though. Because that sentence really did jump out at me when I read the article. She says that after six – at first she wasn’t sure this was Kavanaugh, when you first came to her last week. And then you write, “After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorneys, she did become confident that it was him.” You know, a lot of people would look at that and say –  

Farrow cut him off, insisting: “And George, I would say that, that’s extremely typical of these stories when you are dealing with trauma, alcohol, many years in between....in the face of what she knew would be a crucible of partisan push-back. Which is what she’s receiving now.”
                        
Stephanopoulos then posed this question: “Why did she come forward?” Farrow’s answer revealed the partisan push to make her accusation public:

She came forward because Senate Democrats began looking at this claim. She did not flag this for those Democrats. This came to the attention of people on the Hill independently, and it’s really cornered her into an awkward position....You know, she considers her own memories credible and she felt it was important that she tell her story before others did without her consent because so many people on the Hill were looking at this story.

Stephanopoulos demanded that Farrow defend the decision to publish the story:

You pointed out the witnesses, the students at the time who back up her story, who back up her claims about Kavanaugh’s behavior at the time. Several others in the article say that they never heard anything like this at all, even someone who professed to be her best friend at the time. At any moment as you were writing this story this close to the nomination did you sort of want to push the pause button and say, “Are we sure this is the right thing to do?”

In part, Farrow declared: “George, I just want to stress very clearly. We take reporting of this type extremely seriously.”

Moments later, Stephanopoulos observed: “Yeah, as you know, Republicans are saying this is another Democratic hit job because it started out with Senate Democratic staffers.”

While Guthrie challenged Mayer with a couple skeptical questions and Stephanopoulos hit Farrow with several, the entirety of the CBS This Morning interview with Mayer focused on the credibility of The New Yorker article. Right from the start, co-host Norah O’Donnell expressed doubt at its validity: “Read through your entire story. The New Yorker admits that they were unable to confirm with other eyewitness’s that Kavanaugh was even present at this party. Why did you print this story?”

Minutes later, fellow co-host Gayle King kept up the heat: “And she says, Jane, that there are gaps in her memory. Are you okay with her story knowing she said that, ‘I was very drunk that night and there are big gaps in my memory’?” Mayer defended the story: “You know, the story is very transparent about what she does and doesn’t remember. But – so, yes, I’m absolutely 100% comfortable with the story.”

King followed up: “Kellyanne Conway as on our program earlier this morning. She says this a left-wing conspiracy, plain and simple. How do you respond to that? A smear campaign, he says.” Mayer, someone known for smearing conservatives, dismissed the criticism: “It sounds like what she always says.”

Co-host John Dickerson tried to nail her down on some of the specifics in the article:

DICKERSON: Jane, the corroborating witness which you said has all the details, including Kavanaugh’s name, where did that witness come from and where did that witness get the information about this from, if that person doesn’t know Ramirez?

MAYER: He remembers it from – he was in the same dorm, same little building on Yale’s old campus. And he remembers it clearly. I asked him, “You know, of the course we’re going to be very careful – ”

DICKERSON: But did he see it?

MAYER: No, as I’ve said, he heard it from someone who was there. And as I’ve said, we interviewed him and I said to him, “Are you sure that it was Brett Kavanaugh?” He said, “I am a hundred percent sure.”

O’Donnell concluded: “But as you admit, he was not at the party.”

When even major liberal newspapers and the network news are worried that an unflattering story about a conservative is not credible enough to be published or put on the air, perhaps The New Yorker should reevaluate its judgment.

Here is an excerpt of Guthrie’s exchange with Mayer on the September 24 Today show:

7:08 AM ET

(...)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: What’s clear, Jane, from your reporting, is that Deborah Ramirez was rather candid about her own – questions about her own memory, obviously her own sobriety, at this college party. And she was very straightforward about that. The White House has zeroed in on a story, actually in The New York Times, about this same matter. It says the Times had – this is what The New York Times story says, “The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge.” Now, reading the tea leaves of your own story, it doesn’t seem to me that The New Yorker found anyone with firsthand knowledge either. Is there corroboration?

JANE MAYER [THE NEW YORKER]: I mean, you don’t have to read the tea leaves, we’re right out front about it in there, saying we found no eyewitnesses who would confirm it. We found somebody who remembers hearing about it that night or the next day. Unlike the people at the party, he was very sober and remains a very distinguished person. He’s on background. I asked him myself, “Are you sure this was Brett Kavanaugh that you heard about?” He said, “I am 100% sure.”

GUTHRIE: And lastly, Jane, in the world we live in, a lot of people always suspect there could be a political hit job going on. What do you know about Deborah Ramirez’s political motivations? And is – what did she say about whether or not this was motivated by not wanting to see a conservative justice on the Supreme Court?

MAYER: Well, she says she’s not. She’s a registered Democrat, which we put in the story as well. But I also interviewed a woman who Judge Kavanaugh wanted us to talk to, who wanted –  as someone who would defend him. And I asked her outright, she knows Deborah Ramirez, and I said, “Do you think that politics was a motivation? And she said to me, “No.” And she’s Kavanaugh’s defender. So nobody is really alleging that politics was the motivation here.

(...)

Here is a transcript of Stephanopoulos’s exchange with Farrow on GMA:

7:05 AM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Ronan Farrow, who wrote The New Yorker story along with Jane Mayer, joins us now. Ronan, thanks for joining us this morning. Want to start off by putting Brett Kavanaugh’s denial back up on the screen right now. “The alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen, the people who knew me then know that this did not happen and have said so. This is a smear plain and simple.” That denial is blunt, it is unequivocal. Your response?

RONAN FARROW [THE NEW YORKER]: And obviously we include that in The New Yorker piece and gave him a very full and fair window for comment. And we include rebuttals and push-back at every point. Those rebuttals are significant. The White House has a huge megaphone on this, there is a coalition of former Yale students working with Brett Kavanaugh’s office. A number of them, who signed onto a statement in this article pushing back against Ms. Ramirez’s claim, are individuals she alleged to be participants in this attack on her. Which Brett Kavanaugh’s office seemed surprised by. And we then redacted the names of those individuals, at their request, because they were alleged to be involved.

The point I want to make here is this, it is not accurate to say that those who knew him at the time dispute this. We talked to a roommate from the time, that was living with him when this alleged incident took place, who said he was indeed frequently drunk, that he took part in activity that made him unsurprised by this claim, and that he found this woman credible. He’s one of several people in this story who back Ms. Ramirez.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But –

FARROW: And we wouldn’t have run this if we didn’t have a careful basis of people who had heard at the time and found her credible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But by your own admission, no eyewitnesses of the incident?

FARROW: Absolutely, and we disclosed that up front. And we also disclosed that she was inebriated at the time. And I think the fact that she took several days to consider and really carefully make sure that she had an evidentiary basis for this, and other people were backing her account who had heard at the time, had been told, speaks well of her level of caution.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, but let me –

FARROW: This is not the behavior of someone who is fabricating something.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on that, though. Because that sentence really did jump out at me when I read the article. She says that after six – at first she wasn’t sure this was Kavanaugh, when you first came to her last week. And then you write, “After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorneys, she did become confident that it was him.” You know, a lot of people would look at that and say –  

FARROW: And George, I would say that, that’s extremely typical of these stories when you are dealing with trauma, alcohol, many years in between. I think that the more cautious witnesses that I’ve dealt with in cases like this, very frequently say, “I want to take time to decide, I want to talk to other people involved, I want to search myself and make sure that I can affirmatively stand by these claims,” in the face of what she knew would be a crucible of partisan push-back. Which is what she’s receiving now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did she come forward?

FARROW: She came forward because Senate Democrats began looking at this claim. She did not flag this for those Democrats. This came to the attention of people on the Hill independently, and it’s really cornered her into an awkward position. That’s what she took time to this about this carefully. You know, she said point-blank, “I don’t want to ruin anyone’s life,” but she feels this is a serious claim. You know, she considers her own memories credible and she felt it was important that she tell her story before others did without her consent because so many people on the Hill were looking at this story.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You pointed out the witnesses, the students at the time who back up her story, who back up her claims about Kavanaugh’s behavior at the time. Several others in the article say that they never heard anything like this at all, even someone who professed to be her best friend at the time. At any moment as you were writing this story this close to the nomination did you sort of want to push the pause button and say, “Are we sure this is the right thing to do?”

FARROW: George, I just want to stress very clearly. We take reporting of this type extremely seriously. The evidentiary basis for this, and the number of witnesses who were told at the time, is strong. It’s in excess of what we typically see in this kind of investigative reporting. The deal with sexual assault claims is very often that there aren’t multiple people willing to say they witnessed it in the room. And the individuals who were most primary to this are people she alleged we are egging Brett Kavanaugh on. And those are the ones that signed that statement that you talked about.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, as you know, Republicans are saying this is another Democratic hit job because it started out with Senate Democratic staffers.

(...)

Here is a full transcript of the interview with Mayer on CBS This Morning:

8:03 AM ET

NORAH O’DONNELL: The New Yorker’s Chief Washington Correspondent Jane Mayer co-wrote yesterday’s article about Kavanaugh’s new accuser with Ronan Farrow. She joins us now from Washington. Good morning, Jane.

JANE MAYER: Hi, how are you?

O’DONNELL: Good. Read through your entire story. The New Yorker admits that they were unable to confirm with other eyewitness’s that Kavanaugh was even present at this party. Why did you print this story?

MAYER: We’ve got a woman who was a classmate of his at Yale who went on the record to describe her own experience here. And when we started to do more reporting on it, we found another classmate who remembers hearing about it that night or the next day. We compared the accounts of these two people, who’ve never spoken to each other, Deborah Ramirez and the person who heard about it that night, they were identical. They have all the same details, same location, it seemed that there was something to this.

We started checking further, and we found classmates had been talking about this for weeks and months, since July. There had been an e-mail chain of Yale classmates of Kavanaugh talking about, “Will this thing come out?” Long before Christine Blasey Ford came forward. So we felt, you know, the public ought to know about this. The woman wants to talk. We felt this was important.

O’DONNELL: Did she want to talk or she only talked after being contacted by The New Yorker?

MAYER: She spoke – she didn’t initiate this, we got in touch with her. She thought it over for six days as she sort of searched her memories to try to make sure she was confident of it. And when she felt she was and she retained an attorney, she said she wanted to talk to us and tell her story. And what she’s saying is quite forthright. That she was inebriated that night, as she says was Kavanaugh and the other kids, they were freshman at Yale. And she’s saying that she thinks the FBI needs to come in and investigate this. That’s –  

GAYLE KING: And she says, Jane, that there are gaps in her memory. Are you okay with her story knowing she said that, “I was very drunk that night and there are big gaps in my memory”?

MAYER: You know, the story is very transparent about what she does and doesn’t remember. But – so, yes, I’m absolutely 100% comfortable with the story. I’ve done a lot of reporting on it, talked to numerous other people. And the fact that Kavanaugh’s friends who’ve signed a letter for him are also the people that she identifies as being in the party, it’s not surprising if they don’t want to say more. They’re basically saying they don’t remember. So it’s –  

KING: Kellyanne Conway. Sorry, Jane, I'm concerned about time.

MAYER: I was just going to say, I think at a certain point what’s required, there are things that people won’t say to a reporter that they might feel they need to say to the FBI. That’s why everybody thinks, “Okay, let’s get to the bottom of this, let’s figure it out.”

KING: Okay, I hear you on that. Kellyanne Conway as on our program earlier this morning. She says this a left-wing conspiracy, plain and simple. How do you respond to that? A smear campaign, he says. She says –

MAYER: It sounds like what she always says. I don’t know. I mean, you know, there’s nobody who says, including Brett Kavanaugh’s own – the witnesses that the White House and he sent for us to interview, I talked to them. And I said, “Is politics motivating her?” These were Kavanaugh’s witnesses, and they said, “No.” So maybe, you know, what can you say?  

JOHN DICKERSON: Jane, the corroborating witness which you said has all the details, including Kavanaugh’s name, where did that witness come from and where did that witness get the information about this from, if that person doesn’t know Ramirez?

MAYER: He remembers it from – he was in the same dorm, same little building on Yale’s old campus. And he remembers it clearly. I asked him, “You know, of the course we’re going to be very careful – ”

DICKERSON: But did he see it?

MAYER: No, as I’ve said, he heard it from someone who was there. And as I’ve said, we interviewed him and I said to him, “Are you sure that it was Brett Kavanaugh?” He said, “I am a hundred percent sure.”

O’DONNELL: But as you admit, he was not at the party. Jane, let me ask you this.

MAYER: But he’s not – yeah, okay.

O’DONNELL: Since your piece was published yesterday, have other women contacted you?

MAYER: I’ve barely had a minute to – no, no, I haven’t heard from anybody else. I’ve heard from somebody else at Yale who’s identified the other people at the party and says that they were there. But I haven’t had a chance to follow up yet.

DICKERSON: Okay, alright.

MAYER: I don’t think it’s a woman.

O’DONNELL: Got it.

DICKERSON: Okay, thanks so much, Jane Mayer.

MAYER: Great to be with you.


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