In defending Brett Kavanaugh, many Republicans have insisted that decades-old misbehavior should not be disqualifying in a Supreme Court nominee. Which most people would agree with, depending on the severity of the misbehavior.
But at this point, we have to ask another question: Just how much dishonesty would it take to disqualify someone?
It’s not a simple question; we might decide that if a candidate shaded the truth a time or two in his or her confirmation hearings without lying outright, we’d let it go. But Kavanaugh has piled up an extraordinary number of falsehoods, misleading characterizations, and statements that are, though perhaps not provably false, utterly impossible to believe.
Since each day seems to bring more people saying he isn’t telling the truth about one matter or another, I’ve assembled a list of Kavanaugh’s false and questionable statements. Considerations of space prevent me from going into too much detail; instead this is intended as a concise but reasonably thorough accounting. I have drawn from many sources, but I’d recommend Nathan J. Robinson’s opus on this topic for more. I’ll start with the most recent.
In a Sept. 25 interview with Senate Judiciary Committee staff, Kavanaugh was asked about the allegation by Deborah Ramirez, a classmate at Yale, that he exposed himself to her when they were freshmen, which was reported by the New Yorker. The staffer asked, “since you graduated from college, but before the New Yorker article publication on September 23rd, have you ever discussed or heard discussion about the incident matching the description given by Ms. Ramirez to the New Yorker?” Kavanaugh answered with one word: “No.”
In his public testimony two days later, he was asked when he first heard about Ramirez’s allegations, and he said, “In the last — in the period since then, the New Yorker story.” That answer is less clear, but if he knew about the allegation prior to the publication of the story on Sept. 23, it would mean he had lied in his Sept. 25 interview.
Yet according to an NBC News story published last night, Kavanaugh and people working with him were coordinating a defense to Ramirez’s story before it was published with some friends of his from Yale: “In a series of texts before the publication of the New Yorker story, [Karen] Yarasavage wrote that she had been in contact with ‘Brett’s guy,’ and also with ‘Brett,’ who wanted her to go on the record to refute Ramirez.”
In fairness, the New Yorker story itself contains a denial from Kavanaugh, which alone suggests he knew it was coming before publication. So maybe in his testimony Kavanaugh actually meant he didn’t know about it until alerted to it by the reporters’ request for comment, and his point was that he was unfairly blindsided by the piece. But we can’t be sure.
Still, let’s look at some of the other things he has said, many of which concern Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her:
- “I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation,” Kavanaugh said in his testimony. Ford described a small gathering of fewer than 10 teenagers at which beer was consumed. But his own calendars reference such gatherings.
- “Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a long-time friend of hers. Refuted.” This is false. The people in question said they have no memory of the event, which is very, very different from refuting the idea that the event ever took place. Since nothing of note happened to them at the gathering, there’s little reason to think they would recall it all these years later.
- Kavanaugh repeatedly characterized his drinking as regular but moderate, insisting that he has never been so drunk that he couldn’t remember what happened the next day. “Like most people in college I went to parties and had beers,” he said to Judiciary Committee staff. Yet multiple people have now described him as being frequently stumbling drunk in high school and college. “He frequently drank to excess,” one classmate said. “I know because I frequently drank to excess with him.” Another said, “I definitely saw him on multiple occasions stumbling drunk where he could not have rational control over his actions or clear recollection of them.”
- “And yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there,” he said in his interview with Fox News. In his testimony, he repeated the same idea: “My friends and I sometimes got together and had parties on weekends. The drinking age was 18 in Maryland for most of my time in high school, and was 18 in D.C. for all of my time in high school. I drank beer with my friends.” This is false. The drinking age in Maryland was raised to 21 in 1982, when Kavanaugh was 17. There was not a single day during his entire time in high school when it was legal for him to drink.
- In one of his friend Mark Judge’s books, a memoir of his time in high school, Judge uses pseudonyms for other people he describes. At one point he refers to a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” throwing up in a car. Sen. Pat Leahy asked, “Is that you that he’s talking about?” to which Kavanaugh got indignant and accused Leahy of trying to “make fun of some guy who has an addiction,” meaning Judge. Pressed on whether “O’Kavanaugh” was him, Kavanaugh finally said, “You’d have to ask him.”
- His yearbook refers to him as “Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor.” Beach Week is a yearly bacchanal of drinking, drugs, and sex that D.C.-area prep school kids engage in with little or no adult supervision, but Kavanaugh claims that all that was being memorialized was the fact that “I’m known to have a weak stomach and I always have … whether it’s with beer or with spicy food or anything.”
- Kavanaugh claimed that a series of sexual references in his yearbook actually amounted to a vernacular unique to him, in which commonly understood slang terms took on meanings different from what every other person anyone can find understood them to mean. He said the “Devil’s Triangle,” which refers to a threesome with two men and one woman, was actually a drinking game similar to quarters, despite the fact that there is no reference anywhere on the Internet to such a drinking game, and claimed that “boofing” referred not to one of its two common meanings (anal sex or the practice of taking drugs as suppositories) but to flatulence. A reference to “FFFFFFFourth of July” was not a sexual one, but mocking a classmate who stuttered.
- He claimed that multiple references to him and his friends being “Renate alumni,” referring to a young woman from a nearby school, were not sexual boasting and slut-shaming, but were merely included on their yearbook pages to show their affection and admiration for her. “That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us,” he said. That must have been why one of his classmates, joining in the show of “affection,” included a poem: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.” When Sen. Richard Blumenthal raised it, Kavanaugh affected deep umbrage, claiming he actually thinks “she’s a great person.” If there’s a single person in America who believes that yearbook reference was meant to show affection, they have yet to make themselves known.
- “I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.” This picture of Kavanaugh is absurd. He went to an elite prep school with other children of wealth and influence, he got into Yale as a legacy (his grandfather went there), and one suspects that being a Yale undergrad didn’t harm his chances of getting into Yale Law School.
- “I grew up in a city plagued by gun violence and gang violence and drug violence,” he said in his first round of hearings. Kavanaugh grew up in Bethesda, Md., a wealthy suburb where there is almost no gun violence or gang violence. Though there is plenty of drug use, since the drugs are taken by wealthy white people, the police don’t get involved and there isn’t much violence around it.
- When Kavanaugh was working in the Bush White House on judicial confirmations, a Republican Senate staffer stole Democratic documents and shared what they contained with Kavanaugh, among others. In his hearings, Kavanaugh claimed “I never suspected anything untoward” in the information he was given, despite the fact that it contained references to confidential information about Democrats’ internal discussions and strategy that they had no legitimate access to.
- He claimed to have no knowledge of the sexually explicit jokes, comments and emails by Alex Kozinski, a judge for whom he clerked and to whom he remained close afterward, and who was recently forced from the bench when his history became public. Another of Kozinski’s former clerks wrote, “I do not know how it would be possible to forget something as pervasive as Kozinski’s famously sexual sense of humor or his gag list, as Kavanaugh has professed to in his hearings.”
Taken in total, what we have here are some apparent outright lies, some deceptions, some mischaracterizations, some evasions and a general picture of someone who decided that giving truthful answers to all these admittedly personal questions would only get him into more trouble. Does that mean Kavanaugh shouldn’t serve on the Supreme Court? Sen. Jeff Flake told “60 Minutes” that if it became clear that Kavanaugh had not been truthful in his testimony, then he should be rejected.
Whether you think any particular falsehood is a big deal or not, there’s no doubt that he hasn’t been honest or truthful. Now the senators just have to decide whether they care.