For reasons we outlined here and here, there are legitimate reasons to doubt the credibility of the allegation that Brett Kavanaugh attacked a fellow high schooler at a party when he was 17. That does not mean that his accuser is deliberately lying. She could be telling the truth. She could be telling what she believes to be the truth. But there is no compelling evidence, to put it charitably, to corroborate her claim. In the midst of the firestorm over Prof. Ford's allegation and forthcoming testimony, the New Yorker published a story last night in which a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's says she believes Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were both drunk at a party in 1983. The details, by her own admission, are hazy and incomplete:
The allegation was conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer. For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident.
After 35 years, she was "reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh's role in the alleged incident with certainty," but then did so anyway after six extra days of "assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney." That attorney -- as well as Ramirez's new attorney -- are both fierce partisan Democrats, according to sources familiar with Colorado politics (where they're both from). It is impossible not to be skeptical of this. The piece goes on to include a categorical denial from Kavanaugh ("this is a smear, plain and simple"), but more importantly, it quotes several people who were either alleged to have been at this Yale party, or who were very close with both Ms. Ramirez and Kavanaugh, who dispute her charge:
The New Yorker has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party. The magazine contacted several dozen classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh regarding the incident...In a statement, two of those male classmates who Ramirez alleged were involved in the incident, the wife of a third male student she said was involved, and three other classmates, Dino Ewing, Louisa Garry, and Dan Murphy, disputed Ramirez’s account of events: “We were the people closest to Brett Kavanaugh during his first year at Yale. He was a roommate to some of us, and we spent a great deal of time with him, including in the dorm where this incident allegedly took place. Some of us were also friends with Debbie Ramirez during and after her time at Yale. We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it—and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett.
In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending...The former friend who was married to the male classmate alleged to be involved, and who signed the statement, said of Ramirez, “This is a woman I was best friends with. We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening.” She said she hadn’t spoken with Ramirez for about ten years, but that the two women had been close all through college, and Kavanaugh had remained part of what she called their “larger social circle.”...A third classmate, who Ramirez thought had attended the party, said that she was not present at the incident.
That first bolded sentence is really a stunner. Despite dozens of contacts, the New Yorker couldn't even confirm Kavanaugh was in the room. All of the former students who are quoted backing up Ramirez, the most significant of whom is anonymous, say their knowledge of the supposed incident was secondhand, at best. Those with firsthand knowledge all contradict her, as does her own best friend. But the most devastating paragraph of reportage on this front does not appear in the New Yorker piece; it appears in the New York Times, which was one of several major news outlets who dug into this story and declined to run it. Buried deep within a Times article that primarily focused on the Ford allegation is this crucial detail:
After quite a lot of shoe leather reporting, including interviews of dozens of people, the Times could not dig up one shred of firsthand corroboration. What they did unearth, however, is the fact that in the process of seeking to crowd-source her memories of an evening from 35 years ago, Ramirez told a number of friends that she still isn't sure Kavanaugh did it. No wonder the Times declined to publish. As I've written in my commentaries about Prof. Ford's accusation, I have no idea what did or did not happen at a high school party in 1982 (if it took place at all); the same applies to a Yale dorm room in 1983. But credible allegations require some semblance of evidence and corroboration. That threshold has not been met here. Not even close.
I'll leave you with three pieces of reporting from the New Yorker story that will likely serve as bases for questions for Kavanaugh at this week's hearing, and will intensify calls for his high school classmate Mark Judge to answer direct inquiries. First, Kavanaugh is said to have become much wilder and more aggressive than his typically-reserved sober self when drinking heavily, which was allegedly a relatively frequent occurrence. Second, this goes to Mr. Judge's credibility and truthfulness:
Buried low in the new allegations against Brett Kavanaugh from his time at Yale is an on the record quote from Mark Judge’s college girlfriend of three years accusing him of lying about what the culture at Georgetown Prep was like. pic.twitter.com/BTo3CSpyci— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) September 24, 2018
Judge isn't the only named witness who contradicts or casts doubt on Ford's memory, mind you, but this does seem worthy of further exploration -- especially if astonishingly lurid insinuations from Stormy Daniels' lawyer end up shining a further spotlight on Judge. And finally, the article quotes Kavanaugh's former college roommate calling the scenario Ramirez describes as "believable." That isn't a firsthand account and it's certainly not dispositive, but it does run counter to the pushback from many Kavanaugh friends who've insisted it's inconceivable that the guy they knew would ever get mixed up in anything like this. His ex-roommate apparently doesn't think it's so far-fetched. Circling back, just so this point doesn't get lost, here is the co-author of the New Yorker story confirming that the strongest "corroboration" they have is hearsay:
Where did the corroborating witness get the information from? -@JDickerson— Norah O'Donnell???? (@NorahODonnell) September 24, 2018
“He remembers it from–he was in the same dorm .. and he remembers it clearly” -@JaneMayerNYer
But did he see it? -@JDickerson
“No. As I’ve said, he heard it from someone who was there.” -@JaneMayerNYer pic.twitter.com/h9dxDiPJeX