In one of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s responses to allegations that he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl when he was in high school, a charge he has denied “categorically and unequivocally,” he suggested that, perhaps, this was a case of mistaken identity.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Judiciary Committee, reiterated this notion, saying that perhaps the accuser was “mixed up.” And on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board also floated the possibility of mistaken identity.
As crazy as that sounds, it wouldn’t be unheard of. And, given the high regard in which Kavanaugh has been held throughout his life, including during high school, it would make the most sense. Could there be a Kavanaugh doppelganger?
His accuser, California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, alleges that, while partying in a house with other teens, she was pushed into a bedroom and found herself alone with a drunk Kavanaugh, then 17, and another boy, Mark Judge. While Judge allegedly watched and laughed, Ford says Kavanaugh pinned her down on the bed and tried to remove her clothes.
When Judge allegedly jumped on top of both of them, she was able to escape and hid in a bathroom until the two boys left. Despite the trauma she experienced, including a fear that her attacker might inadvertently kill her, she did not mention the episode to anyone until 2012 during couples therapy with her husband.
Following several days of speculation and crossfire between the two opposing camps, Kavanaugh and Ford are slated to testify Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, although Ford has not confirmed that she will attend.
Could there have been another, Kavanaugh-ish-looking teen at the house that night, who might have attacked Ford? (For his part, Judge has written in a memoir that he was an ubiquitous presence at alcohol-drenched parties during high school.)
Cases of mistaken identity are far from rare. People with the same name are often confused, as was the case with Ford herself. On Monday, Drudge Report tweeted a link to an article on another site that seemed intended to discredit her with negative comments by her former students. But it turned out that the reviews pertained to another California professor named Christine Ford.
Mix-ups owing to physical similarities are less common but weirder — and potentially deadly. If he were still alive, one would need only ask John Dillinger’s doppelganger, a poor fellow by the name of Ralph Alsman. Dillinger and Alsman shared an incredible physical resemblance, including similar moles next to one eye and matching scars on their left wrists.
Thanks to their mirror images, Alsman was arrested 17 times — and shot 11 times. Although he was released after each arrest, he endured repeated interrogations and lived in constant fear that he would eventually be killed. Dillinger was fatally shot on July 22, 1934, ending Alsman’s horror story of the absurd. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings had been freighted enough with political posturing without the 11th-hour revelation of a sexual-assault allegation. Democrats have taken full advantage, displaying their #MeToo bona fides and repeatedly demanding an FBI investigation.
Surely, many of these senators know that (1) the FBI has conducted six investigations of Kavanaugh during a career that has included other judgeships, as well as a stint in the George W. Bush White House; (2) there’s no federal crime to prompt an investigation; and, (3) Monday’s hearing in effect will constitute an investigation, if Ford does testify on her own behalf.
Meanwhile, the facts we know: There are no apparent witnesses other than Judge, who has denied Ford’s allegations. Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has not subpoenaed Judge to testify. The alleged event happened about 35 years ago. Memories are notoriously unreliable after so much time, which is why statutes of limitation exist. There is no corroborating data.
In advance of the scheduled hearing, character references have been stacking up on both sides, with two of Kavanaugh’s former girlfriends and others saying he has always been a consummate gentleman. A separate letter signed by 65 women who have known him over the years affirms the same. Ford’s high school acquaintances and professional colleagues have been equally generous in supporting her.
Thus, giving both the benefit of the doubt, it seems possible to believe both that Ford was assaulted just as she has described — and also that Kavanaugh didn’t do it. In a case without evidence, witnesses or corroboration, mistaken identity would provide a welcome resolution to this terrible riddle.