CNN Media Panel Feels the Pain of 'Very Credible' Kavanaugh Accusers

January 1st, 2019 9:07 AM

On Sunday's edition of Reliable Sources, CNN host Brian Stelter brought on three reporters who broke big stories in the #MeToo movement about sexual harassment and assault by powerful people, especially the accusations against CBS CEO Les Moonves, who was dismissed without the massive severance package he expected.

Unfortunately, when it came to the unproven allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, they could only feel pain for Kavanaugh's "very credible" accusers. No one was invited on CNN to express the view that Kavanaugh's accusers weren't convincing in their tales of teenage debauchery, and that Kavanaugh was smeared with false charges. The "Facts First" network wasn't really nailing down the facts on this one.



BRIAN STELTER: It's also notable the way that these issues have permeated the culture beyond reporting about CBS or any other company. When you think back a few months to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and how so much of what we're talking about was on the table during those confirmation hearings. You, of course, were doing reporting about this as well. Are there lessons to be learned from the Kavanaugh experience? 

RONAN FARROW: Well, I would say that was a case where there were a number of women with very credible allegations and then there was a separate circus playing out in the media where there was an immense amount of partisan sniping happening. And all of this went into a cauldron of mistrust and entrenched enmities on the Hill and in the American public. And to me as a reporter who has a track record if you look at tough stories about Democrats and Republicans, that was immensely frustrating. Because the fact patterns themselves were compelling and were important and deserved to be heard. 

And you know, obviously, there were the two on-the-record stories that we broke the first details of Christine Blasey Ford and then Deborah Ramirez. Both of whom I think were very credible. But then there were other leads out there that were foreclosed because of that partisan race to confirm and because of the incredible rancor around it. 

Neither Ford nor Ramirez could ever prove they were in the same room with Kavanaugh, and he categorically denied their allegations. But what's bizarre here is how Farrow places himself outside the "partisan sniping" and the "partisan race to confirm," when clearly Farrow's patrons at The New Yorker were partisan players. Ford delayed any release of her allegations in cooperation with Senate Democrats. She didn't leap forward when Kavanaugh was nominated.

It's bad enough that the Democrats threw these allegations, but Farrow regretted that more unproven allegations weren't aired:

STELTER: So you're saying there are women who had allegations against Kavanaugh who never came forward?

FARROW: I'm not going to talk in specific terms except to say that beyond what we reported more opportunities for reporting were foreclosed by the fact that there was this incredibly vicious partisan atmosphere around it. And that that is at odds with anyone seeking the facts. 

CNN contributor Irin Carmon -- a feminist writer who helped expose Charlie Rose's indecent-exposure episodes at CBS for The Washington Post -- underlined Ford's suffering in the aftermath of her allegations:

IRIN CARMON: I think any reporter who's talking to a potential source who wants to talk about serious harm has to be honest about the fact that they can experience some version of what Christine Blasey Ford experienced. I mean, it was reported that she has had to move several times, that she hasn't been home. And so I think you know, the transparency and ethics as a -- as a reporter involve acknowledging the fact that there are real risks to speaking up. Yes, you are going to contribute to the truth but it is possible that your life will never be the same again and I think we should be honest about that. 

STELTER: Troubling.

Part of what made Farrow's (and Carmon's) reporting on CBS more compelling was that these liberals were not ideologically opposed to CBS. Partisanship can much more easily be considered in the Kavanaugh case, when The New Yorker and CNN oppose Trump with a white-hot passion.