The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Christine Blasey Ford’s family has been nearly silent amid outpouring of support

Christine Blasey Ford waits to deliver her opening statement before the Sentate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. (Jim Bourg/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

The letters appeared within days of Christine Blasey Ford’s name becoming public. One was from her high school classmates. One was from her colleagues at Stanford University. Her Palo Alto neighbors wrote another letter. Groups of attorneys, statisticians and teenagers wrote, too. Then came a letter that began, “As members of Christine Blasey Ford’s family . . .”

It was signed by a dozen people. But none of them were related to Ford by blood. The letter was from the relatives of her husband, Russell Ford.

Christine’s own parents and siblings — the Blaseys — have not released any similar statement of support. As their daughter and sister has become the country’s most talked-about woman for accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault while both were in high school, the Blaseys have strategically avoided the press. Voice mails, texts, emails and letters from reporters have gone unanswered. Friends have politely declined to comment on what the family is going through.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Ford’s father, Ralph Blasey Jr., offered a brief endorsement of his daughter. “I think all of the Blasey family would support her. I think her record stands for itself. Her schooling, her jobs and so on,” he said before hanging up. Moments later, after picking up the phone a second time, he added: “I think any father would have love for his daughter.”

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The Blasey family’s reticence was notable amid the outpouring of support for Ford as the 51-year-old research psychologist from California prepared to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her highly anticipated appearance came four days after another sexual misconduct accusation against Kavanaugh, from his Yale University classmate Deborah Ramirez, was published in the New Yorker. Kavanaugh has denied both accounts, telling Fox News, “I had never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not ever. I’ve always treated women with dignity and respect.”

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sat down for his first TV interview since facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Here are some highlights. (Video: Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

On Wednesday, a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, stepped forward, claiming Kavanaugh was present at a house party in 1982 where she alleges she was the victim of a gang rape. Kavanaugh issued a statement in response: “This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”

In his prepared testimony for the hearing, the judge acknowledged drinking at high school parties, but “I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes.”

Christine Blasey Ford gives Senate testimony about sexual assault allegation

But on Thursday, Ford delivered emotional testimony, describing the alleged attack.

“I believed he was going to rape me,” she said. “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming.”

As senators try to decipher what happened between two teenagers at a party decades ago, the nation is grappling with everything the allegations have come to represent: if women should be believed, if Republicans should remain in control of Congress and if it is possible to separate the personal from the political.

For the Blaseys, it is all intertwined. Ford’s parents raised their children in the same affluent Maryland suburbs as the Kavanaugh family. Her father belongs to the same exclusive all-male golf club as Kavanaugh’s father. And like the Kavanaughs, Paula and Ralph Blasey are registered Republicans. Not only is their party taking Kavanaugh’s side; many of their neighbors are, too.

Ford’s mother-in-law, Ruth Guthery, said she has “no idea” why the Blaseys have not shown public support for Christine. Guthery is also a Republican, and she voted for Trump. But she did not hesitate to sign the Ford family letter describing Christine as a woman of “impeccable character.”

“All I can tell you is that we love her,” she said. “She has been a wonderful parent and an upstanding citizen, and I’m happy to have her as a daughter-in-law.”

Ford’s team announced this week that she would be accompanied by friends from across the country at the hearing. Her husband Russell stayed in California with the couple’s children.

It was unclear whether Ralph and Paula Blasey would attend the hearing, as Anita Hill’s parents did in 1991 when she testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill has said in interviews that it was a devastating experience for her mother and father, with whom she had never shared the details of the sexual harassment she said she endured.

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“The difficult part was to watch my parents — who were elderly people, who had lived good lives and raised their children to be honest and truthful and hard-working and all of the things that we want parents to do for their children — to watch them go through it, the sense that they felt that they couldn’t protect me from it,” Hill told MSNBC in 2017.

Hill’s father, who lived in Oklahoma, had never been to Washington before. The Blaseys have deep roots in the nation’s capital. Ford’s grandfather, the first Ralph Blasey, was a graduate of the District’s McKinley High School and went on to become the president of a small-loan corporation. Ralph Jr. followed in his footsteps. As he rose in the ranks of Washington banks, his promotions were chronicled in the Washington Evening Star. Now 83, Ralph Jr. still serves as a vice president at Red Coats, a private commercial cleaning company based in Bethesda.

He and Paula ensconced the family in some of Montgomery County’s most upper-crust social institutions, including the Columbia Country Club and the all-male Burning Tree Club.

The golf club — which once counted President Gerald R. Ford and Attorney General John Mitchell as members — has been criticized for decades for its exclusion of women. Kavanaugh’s father has been a member since the 1980s, and Ford’s father served as president between 2004 and 2006. He was considered a kind of éminence grise, according to someone who once worked there.

“He was the elder statesman,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Some of the newer members looked to him for the way things had been done in the past.”

Ford’s mother, Paula, 80, spends her time at St. David’s, a quaint stone Episcopal church in Washington’s Palisades neighborhood. She has volunteered as an altar guild and delegate to the diocese, and is often seen socializing at coffee hours in the church’s basement.

Both Ford’s brothers, Tom Blasey and Ralph Blasey III, are Washington-area lawyers.

Besides Burning Tree, the Blaseys have crossed paths with the Kavanaughs in court, although briefly. Court records show a foreclosure case involving the Blasey home that was presided over by at least two Montgomery County judges, one of whom was Brett Kavanaugh’s mother. Judge Martha Kavanaugh ruled in the Blaseys’ favor, dismissing a foreclosure action on their house. She was also one of several judges who presided over a 1998 case handled by Ralph Blasey III. She ruled in his client’s favor.

Like the Kavanaughs, the Blaseys sent their children to the area’s elite single-gender prep schools: Ford to Holton-Arms, her older brothers to the Landon School. While Ford moved across the country to pursue advanced degrees, teach and become an avid surfer, her siblings stayed in the area, sending their children to the same prep schools and competing in father-son golf tournaments at the country club.

Prep school alumni hear echoes in assault claim

Ford’s parents are registered as Republicans in Maryland, but they did not make donations to candidates, Federal Election Commission records show.

“Honestly, I don’t even know what their politics are,” said Hale Boggs III, a former classmate of Ralph III at the Landon School, where both played football in the late 1970s.

Boggs himself has a stellar Democratic Party pedigree as the grandson of two former members of Congress, Reps. Hale and Lindy Boggs (D-La.), and son of super lobbyist Tommy Boggs. But the chatter he’s hearing is more personal than political as longtime friends feel pressure to pick sides.

“It’s got to be such a difficult situation for that family,” Boggs said. “It’s a very close-knit community where a lot of families know each other.”

Ford’s husband, Russell, explained in an interview with The Washington Post last week that Christine moved to California in part to get away from “the D.C. scene.”

“She didn’t always get along with her parents because of differing political views,” Russell Ford said. “It was a very male-dominated environment. Everyone was interested in what’s going on with the men, and the women are sidelined, and she didn’t get the attention or respect she felt she deserved.”

The Fords took Christine in as one of their own. In their letter, they said she spends time teaching their children how to surf, attending their soccer matches and school plays, and even brainstorming about where they should consider going to college.

Still, she has maintained a meaningful relationship with her family back east. She donated to Holton-Arms on behalf of a niece who attended her alma mater. Every summer, she brings her sons back to the Washington region to swim at the country club pool, go crabbing at Rehoboth Beach and relive her best childhood memories.

“It was important to her that her parents have a relationship and a bond with her children,” said Catherine Piwowarski, Ford’s college roommate and matron of honor.

Ford said she was thinking of her relatives when she first put forth her allegation about Kavanaugh. In a Saturday letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Ford wrote that she felt a “civic duty” for lawmakers to know about Kavanaugh’s alleged behavior but wanted to do so in confidence to “minimize collateral damage to all families and friends involved.”

On Sept. 27 in Washington, D.C., protesters and counterprotesters gathered as Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate. (Video: Blair Guild, Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Now, both her immediate family and the Kavanaugh family have received death threats. Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, told Fox News in a Monday interview, “It’s harder than we imagined, and we imagined it might be hard.”

Fear of retribution might be a reason for the Blasey family’s silence, Ford’s sister-in-law said.

“I don’t even know how they’re processing all this,” said Deborah Peters, who is Russell Ford’s sister. “The reasons that survivors don’t report are the same reasons people might be reticent to come out in the public to support a survivor — you’re subject to the same disbelief. I don’t know if Chrissy’s parents are afraid of being disbelieved or are afraid of being attacked verbally.”

In their absence, the Fords have made TV appearances and given interviews about Christine.

“It’s important to stand up for a family member,” said Charles Mendler, who is married to one of Russell Ford’s sisters. “In terms of her credibility and honesty, there’s no question on that front.”

On Thursday, senators will question just that when Christine Blasey Ford appears before the committee as millions of viewers watch live on C-SPAN and cable news channels. The hearing will take place in a walnut-paneled committee room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building — a space much smaller than the grand chamber where Hill testified against Thomas.

There, the room was so packed with spectators that when the Hill family arrived a bit late — just after Hill gave her opening statement — then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), the committee’s chairman, paused the hearing to find them seats. When he saw how many family members there were to fit, he remarked, “My Lord.”

“Is staff trying to get some [more] chairs, for Christ’s sake?” Biden said.“Let’s have every able-bodied person grab a chair and bring it out.”

As aides scrambled, the family seized the opportunity to greet Hill. One by one, they offered hugs, handshakes and shoulder squeezes, each doing what little they could to steady her for what was about to begin.

Steve Hendrix, Alice Crites, Julie Tate, Emma Brown and Aaron Davis contributed to this report.

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