The past two weeks have unearthed decades of allegations of sexual misconduct against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, nominee for the Supreme Court Justice seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy, and the details are getting progressively clearer. What is not clear is how serious American senators are taking the allegations, or whether uncovering the veracity of these claims is at all important to them in the leadup to the approval hearings over Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
So far, two women have been publicly identified as accusing Kavanaugh of sexual impropriety.
The first allegation is from Christine Blasey Ford, who claims that in the Summer of 1982, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, the two were together at a small pool party of only around 4 or 5 people. Kavanaugh and friend, Mark Judge, at some point corralled her into a bedroom while “stumbling drunk,” and forced her onto a bed. Kavanaugh got on top of her with his full weight, and tried to strip off her bathing suit. When she tried to scream, he covered her mouth with his hand and continued. It was broken up when Mark Judge jumped on top of both of them, sending them onto the floor, at which point Ford escaped and hid in a bathroom until she heard them go downstairs before fleeing the party.
For his part, Judge has denies remembering the incident, and has gone silent, fleeing his home and avoiding reporters. His initial written statement said that, “Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school, but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.” Judge has written extensively about his past, especially his drinking and sexual conquests when he was a youth, referencing a passed out drunk named Bart O’Kavanaugh who once vomited in a car.
The allegation was initially presented as a letter to a California congresswoman, before being leaked to the press, beginning the public debate over the merit of the allegations.
Ford has asked the senate to compel the sole witness Mark Judge to testify under oath, but senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley have expressed little interest. Lindsey Graham publicly stated, there is “no reason” to call him as, “he’s already said what he’s going to say,” neglecting to mention the difference between the gravity of being misleading in the previous written statement to the press and the repercussions of perjury under oath in front of the US Senate. Grassley for his part said that his committee alone, “determines which witnesses to call… these are non-negotiable.”
The highschool yearbooks from the Catholic Prep he attended make several vague references to sexual exploitation, particularly of one student from a nearby Catholic highschool, Renate Schroeder Dolphin.
One photo shows Kavanaugh with eight other football players, described in the photo as Renate Alumni, presumably insinuating that they all had shared sexual experiences with her.
Another student from his graduating class listed himself as “chairman of the Bored” of the “Renate Club,” and another football player mentioned, “Renate’s Suicide Squad.”
Several of the students also made statements regarding Renate on their personal yearbook pages. Another Renate Alumnus wrote a short poem on his page, stating, “You need a date, and it’s getting late, so don’t hesitate, to call Renate.”
Shroeder-Dolphin initially signed a letter of support for Kavanaugh immediately after the allegations became public, but following the publication of the yearbooks, later made public statements that seemed to walk back her support, saying,
“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago. I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful, and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are ever treated this way.”
A lawyer for Kavanaugh later released a statement denying any sexual impropriety between them, only referencing a kiss they shared. This kiss, though, was also later disputed by Dolphin’s lawyer.
Kavanaugh’s page states, “100 kegs or bust,” perhaps referencing an incident mentioned in Judge’s book in which the class of 80 students pledged to drink 100 kegs of beer together.
Kavanaugh has also released his calendars from the Summer, to show that he did not attend the party in question. While the calendars make no specific references to Ford, they do mention visits to “Judge’s,” as well as other parties, but with people other than those mentioned by Ford. This certainly does not preclude his going to the party, it simply indicates that he made no record of it at the time in his calendar.
Kavanaugh has denied these events ever took place, and there are statements of support from many who know and knew him. Others claim there is the possibility that his behavior when intoxicated was a far cry from the innocent image put out by his supporters, and that at times, he was known to get blackout drunk.
The chief of the gynecologic oncology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and friend of Kavanaugh’s during his time at Yale stated, “Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him.” Claiming to have seen him “very drunk” on numerous occasions, she said, “I watched him drink more than a lot of people. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling… it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.”
Another classmate says that whether or not the incident occurred, or whether Brett can even recall, his dishonesty over his behavior in his youth is the more pertinent issue in this case.
A Republican former pharmaceutical executive who claims that she had an encounter with him drunk at a fraternity event, added that, “he’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy… you can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out, he’s gone too far. It’s about the integrity of that institution.”
The two women were both college roommates of the second woman to publicly allege Kavanaugh of committing sexual misconduct.
The second allegation is from Deborah Ramirez.
She was a freshman at Yale with Kavanaugh, and is known to have associated with him, with the two being photographed together at a mutual friend’s wedding. Coming from a lower income and more devoutly Catholic background, some have claimed she had little experience with sex or alcohol before she arrived.
Her claim is that during a drinking game at a dorm suite, a small group of students drank in a circle until Ramirez became drunk, her head “foggy” as she recalled. She says that at some point a male student began playing with a sex toy, pointing it around the room, and then suddenly, she saw a penis in front of her face. She initially didn’t believe it was real, and she moved to push it away, before seeing Kavanaugh standing, laughing, and pulling up his pants.
She reported this story to the New Yorker, and initially said that she was not sure that it was in fact Kavanaugh who did it, perhaps mistaking his identity for someone else, but after personally reflecting, she now says she is sure it was Kavanaugh.
There are also indications that this is a pattern of behavior.
As for Kavanaugh’s career as a federal judge, there are now a series of reports claiming that two extremely prominent professors at Yale Law School groomed young women for potential clerkships with Kavanaugh. Amy Chua, who is also well known for her book in which she popularized the concept of the “Tiger Mom,” allegedly helped cultivate a constant stream of attractive young women with “model-like” appearances from those aspiring to become Kavanaugh’s law clerks. The other professor, Jed Rubenfeld, who is also her husband, is alleged to have advised students that Kavanaugh only “hires women with a certain look.”
The Guardian quotes allegations from students in which Chua informally stated to a group of students that it was “no accident” that all of his clerks look the way they do, and that when one of the students exclaimed that Chua’s own daughter was going to clerk for Kavanaugh, Chua responded by saying that her daughter wouldn’t tolerate any inappropriate behavior on the part of Kavanaugh. Rubenfeld is also the subject of an internal Yale investigation into his own contact and communication with female students, led by attorney Jenn Davis, a Title IX investigator.
As it stands, both Kavanaugh and Ford are set to testify separately on Thursday. After Ford asked that outside counsel be the one to interview during the testimony she’ll give, Grassley initially demurred, as quoted above saying the terms were “non-negotiable.” Under significant pressure in the following days, he recently announced that instead, former Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell will handle the questioning, saying, “I promised Dr. Ford that I would do everything in my power to avoid a repeat of the ‘circus’ atmosphere in the hearing room that we saw the week of September 4… I’ve taken this additional step to have questions asked by expert staff counsel to establish the most fair and respectful treatment of the witnesses possible.”
It is absolutely transparent that the time-scale and diversity of the allegations against Kavanaugh point, perhaps not to a sinister sexual criminal, but to a man who clearly lacks both proper judgement and full candor, a gross incompatibility with being placed into a life-tenured judgeship on the highest court in the most powerful country in the world. For any with an eye towards justice, and a respect for the value and sanctity of the American legal system, it seems the only reasonable path forward is that all these allegations must be evaluated thoroughly before Brett Kavanaugh, alleged to have committed acts that indicate a severe lack of judgement, is appointed to a life term on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Staff writer: Ari B, PhD student at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat Sen University