The decision by Christine Blasey Ford to come forward with a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh shook the news cycle like an earthquake, as it was already in overdrive with a vote on his confirmation scheduled for Thursday.
The foreclosure case
On Monday, a fringe right-wing site wrote a short and thinly reported story about the fact that Brett Kavanaugh’s mother, Martha, a Maryland state judge, was involved in a foreclosure case brought against Ford’s parents.
The story was promoted perhaps most widely by Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Twitter and was shared in pro-Trump and far-right circles on social media. Though it was not explicitly stated, the subtext of the story was clear: that Ford was perhaps not motivated by the truth but by some personal vendetta.
“You literally cannot make this up,” wrote the site America First Media Group, which is perhaps most well-known for being named in a defamation lawsuit filed by the brother of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich.
The Daily Caller picked up the story later in the day but added important context, namely that Martha Kavanaugh’s involvement was “minimal”; she did not rule on the decisions about the possible seizure of the property but instead granted an uncontested motion to have the case dismissed after the two parties reached a settlement, the Daily Caller reported.
“Our client had no knowledge of this foreclosure action until the press began reporting on it today,” Ford’s lawyers at the firm Katz, Marshall and Banks said in a statement. “Based on a review of the court records, this was a foreclosure case involving property owned by Ralph and Paula Blasey, which involved at least two judges from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. One of those judges, Martha Kavanaugh, granted a motion voluntarily dismissing the foreclosure action, which was a favorable ruling for the Blaseys. The foreclosure action did not affect the Blaseys' ownership interest in this property.”
The Daily Caller later reported on a disclosure, made by Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz on CNN, that in addition to the four boys at the party whom Ford described, there was also another girl. The Caller highlighted the omission of the detail from the letter Ford initially sent Sen. Dianne Feinstein, according to CNN.
The wrong professor
Other pro-Trump sites published stories to sow doubt about Ford’s credibility.
The Gateway Pundit, which is known for promoting conspiracy theories and hoaxes, published a host of stories that seemed to bolster Kavanaugh’s denials and undermine Ford. It referred to her in headlines as an “unhinged liberal professor,” as well as the “far-left accuser.”
“HUGE!” read the headline of the lead story on the site on Monday evening. “Judge Kavanaugh Says He Was NOT EVEN AT THE PARTY in Question!”
The site YourNewsWire tried to link Ford to the Christopher Steele dossier, writing that “when the number of ‘coincidences’ in the case of Kavanaugh’s accuser are added up, a picture of enemy action begins to become clear.”
And though Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University, many prominent conservative shared the negative reviews for a different Professor Christine Ford, of California State University at Fullerton.
Breitbart joined other conservative outlets in giving prominence to the news that Ford had signed a letter along with thousands of other physicians and mental health practitioners written to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that expressed “grave concerns” about the family separation practice at the border. The article appeared to misleadingly attribute the letter to the ACLU when it was organized by the group Physicians for Human Rights, though the ACLU did include it as an exhibit in one of its lawsuits against the federal government.
Vague memories and other theories
The conservative-leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal argued that Ford’s claims should not warrant a hearing nor a delay in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, saying the surfacing of her claim was part of a political ploy by the Democrats. It also cast doubt on the accuracy of her accusation.
“The vagaries of memory are well known, all the more so when they emerge in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage,” it wrote. “Experts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth. Mistaken identity is also possible.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson echoed that line of doubt about Ford’s tale, mocking Democrats: “They’re all very, very deeply concerned,” he said.
“Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially over time,” Carlson added. “What were you doing one drunk night in the spring of 1982? Don’t remember clearly? Of course you don’t. It’s been 36 years. Past a certain point, the past is unknowable.”
In fact, Carlson had a theory about what was motivating concern about Ford’s story of sexual assault.
“This story doesn’t have anything to do with justice actually, or even with what Brett Kavanaugh may have done in high school, underneath it all, anyone who lives in Washington can tell you, it’s about abortion,” he said, bringing up Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, for his role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. “And yet Clinton and Kennedy supported abortion in all cases and therefore the left treated them as heroes and swept, speaking of under the rug, their crimes into the dustbin of memory. Kavanaugh though may not support Roe v. Wade, we don’t really know, therefore he must be destroyed, it’s pretty straight forward.”