Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh is on record as disliking this New York Times article: “Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Page Is ‘Horrible, Hurtful’ to a Woman It Named.” Reporters Kate Kelly and David Enrich did some reporting on the meaning of a couple of words in Kavanaugh’s 1983 Georgetown Prep yearbook: “Renate Alumnius.” That name — “Renate” — appears at least 14 times in the yearbook, according to the newspaper.
In Thursday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee — convened to hear sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh himself — Democratic senators pursued the nominee over various matters surfacing in that yearbook, including “Renate Alumnius.” Asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) about the two words, Kavanaugh responded: “She was a great friend of ours, a bunch of us went to dances with her. She hung out with us as a group. The media circus that has been generated by this thought and reported that it referred to sex. It did not, as she said on the record, never had any kind of sexual interaction with her. And I’m sorry how that’s been misinterpreted and sorry about that, as I said in my opening statement, because she’s a good person and to have her name dragged through this hearing is a joke and really an embarrassment.”
Here’s what that opening statement said in that respect: “One thing in particular we were sad about, one of our good—one of our good female friends who we would admire and went to dances with had her name used on on the yearbook page with the term alumnus. That term was clumsily used to show affection, to show she was one of us.”
Now there’s a contrast for you. No wonder he was upset with the “media circus.” Because this “great friend” — Renate Schroeder Dolphin — was horrified to have discovered that her name was cited so many times in the yearbook of Georgetown Prep. Via the New York Times:
“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” Ms. Dolphin said in a statement to The New York Times. “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 never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”
Before she learned of the yearbook mentions, Dolphin had signed a letter along with 64 other women attesting to Kavanaugh’s character and saying that he behaved “honorably and treated women with respect.” That’s not all, however. The New York Times story quotes a Georgetown Prep alumnus on the record as contextualizing the “Renate” yearbook references. “They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” Sean Hagan is quoted in the story. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”
A lawyer for Kavanaugh, Alexandra Walsh, was quoted in the story saying this, in part, about the yearbook reference: “Judge Kavanaugh and Ms. Dolphin attended one high school event together and shared a brief kiss good night following that event. They had no other such encounter. The language from Judge Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook refers to the fact that he and Ms. Dolphin attended that one high school event together and nothing else.”
So the on-the-record material in the New York Times lines up against Kavanaugh’s characterization of the “media circus” surrounding the “Renate” question. But let’s suppose for a moment that Kavanaugh has a valid point about spin and misrepresentation. Let’s suspend critical thinking, and give him a great benefit of the doubt. If Kavanaugh really had a case here, you might suppose that he or someone on his legal team or his White House prep team would contact the Times with indignation and an insistence on an immediate correction, and perhaps even a retraction.
Has that happened? “We have received zero pushback from anyone regarding the story,” said Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha.