Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been delayed by Dr. Christine Blasely Ford’s testimony that he attempted to sexually assault her when they were in high school. Other women have also spoken out against Kavanaugh, but this is the most relevant accusation in his case. As he is in a Senate judiciary confirmation rather than a trial, Kavanaugh will not face charges for his actions, but this accusation may jeopardize his nomination regardless of whether it is verifiable.
Ford alleged that in one summer in the 1980s, in a Beach Week condo rental, Kavanaugh, a “stumbling drunk,” groped her over her clothes and attempted to pull her bathing suit off; when she tried to scream, he covered her mouth with his hand. Eventually, his friend jumped on both of them, allowing Ford to escape. She did not mention the assault to anyone until a therapy session in 2012, where she did not mention Kavanaugh’s name.
She contacted the Washington Post in July, when it was clear that Kavanaugh was being considered for a Supreme Court nomination, and sent a confidential letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. In her letter to WP, Ford described that she did not want to go public about the case as she did not want it to affect her family.
Ford then consulted Debra Katz, a sexual harassment lawyer. Katz said Ford would be attacked as a liar if she publicly came forward and recommended that Ford take a polygraph test. Ford did, under the oversight of a former FBI agent, and the test concluded that her statements were accurate.
However, conservatives still doubt her claim. 65 women who knew Kavanaugh when he attended high school said that he “has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.” As the story leaked and grew traction, Ford said that people were repeating inaccuracies about her and that her privacy was being chipped away.
Fox News Smear
The arguments perpetuated by conservatives now are often unsubstantiated. For example, Fox News launched a smear campaign in which they pinned sexual assault survivors against Dr. Ford. It featured a number of calls:
When I was 19, I was sexually abused,” one caller said. “I know that I have never forgotten the situation, and I cannot believe that this woman suddenly remembered now.” The misleading part of this quote is “this woman suddenly remembered now.” Ford has never forgotten about this event, and she told her therapist about it six years ago—not simply before Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She simply did not want to go public about what happened. She never did.
The second caller said, “I was raped 40 years ago, and I’m absolutely furious, and I know that this is a last-minute ploy again by the left.” This is an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory. Even if the left would be interested in making such a ploy, this does not put forward any evidence that the left necessarily did so.
The third caller said, “Having background myself of being a rape victim, you do not go about this the way this is coming out. This is for attention. And that does a horrible service to people that have actually had everything taken from them. I used to be a Democrat — I will never vote Democratic again.” However, the way Ford went about coming out was on her own accord. It does not degrade the claims of verified sexual assault survivors. Additionally, attacking survivors in this way only makes women fear coming forward about claims of sexual assault.
Conservative pundits called attention to negative reviews of Ford on RateMyProfessors.com. These reviews degraded Ford’s credibility, even though they were about a completely different professor also named Christine Ford. Even if she were a bad professor, though, it should not have any effect on the validity of her testimony.
These two posts received over seven thousand votes on a popular Trump subreddit.
The first is a claim that GoFundMe accounts for Ford raised over $700,000, and the title implies that Ford may be doing it for the money. However, this money, as stated in the GoFundMe campaign, is for Ford’s self-defense. She has received numerous threats and requires security.
The second includes nine pictures of Ford smiling at the hearing, and it claims that Ford did not seem upset. These were cherry-picked; by taking pictures at the right time, one can demonstrate that anyone had false feelings. These personal attacks are irrelevant to the validity of the evidence, yet Trump supporters substantiate them.
Who should we believe?
Kavanaugh was a typical teenager in the 80’s, getting overly drunk—a common occurrence then. As such, he may have had no recollection of the events. Alternatively, Ford may have remembered the events incorrectly, or may have mistaken someone else for Kavanaugh. Given that an investigation is being conducted 20 years after the event occurred, no groundbreaking evidence will probably be found; Kavanaugh has undergone six FBI background investigations, which have unearthed no similar claims. Thus, the investigation on whether he in fact sexually assaulted Ford is dead and should not be considered when judging whether Kavanaugh should be nominated.
Nevertheless, the right’s response to Ford’s accusations has been unsettling. Sexual assault survivors should not instantly