Just when Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court appointment seemed like an inevitability, Donald Trump's nominee was accused of sexually assaulting a woman when they were both at a high school party more than 30 years ago. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” his accuser Christine Blasey Ford told the Washington Post. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” The description of the alleged assault in the Post is horrifying:
Kavanaugh and a friend—both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges—corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
She says she was able to escape when one of Kavanaugh's friends, who also attended Georgetown Preparatory School, "jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling."
"This is a completely false allegation," Kavanaugh wrote in a statement. "I am willing…to refute this false allegation from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity."
Already, parallels have been drawn between this scandal and Anita Hill's testimony about getting sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas, who was still able to take a seat on the Supreme Court. But even now, in the era of #MeToo, conservatives are doing backflips to justify their continued support of Kavanaugh. As Donald Trump said about #MeToo, according to Bob Woodward's new book, “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead.”
Here's how the right has tried to discredit or downplay Ford's accusation:
It was just "rough horseplay"!
On Tuesday, Kavanaugh ally Carrie Severino characterized Ford's sexual assault allegation as "rough horseplay," which I guess is the 2018 version of "locker room talk."
"Her allegations cover a whole range of conduct from boorishness to rough horseplay to actual attempted rape," Severino said in response to a question about whether Ford's claims should disqualify Kavanaugh from serving on the high court.
"I don't think anywhere in there she's saying this is boorish horseplay at all," CNN host Kate Bolduan responded.
"She's certainly implying that it's attempted rape, but I think…there's 35 years of memory that we're trying to play with here and I'm saying the behavior that described could describe a whole range of things," Severino said.
It's not fair that the Democrats didn't tell us about this earlier!
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein received a letter detailing Ford's accusations in late July, but CNN reported she didn't make the information public because Ford "had asked to remain confidential." In an interview with the New York Times, Republican Senator Susan Collins, who is still undecided on Kavanaugh pending a hearing on Ford's accusation, said it was unfair that Feinstein and the Democrats didn't make Ford's allegation against Kavanaugh public weeks ago.
“What is puzzling to me is the Democrats, by not bringing this out earlier, after having had this information for more than six weeks, have managed to cast a cloud of doubt on both the professor and the judge,” Collins said. “If they believed Professor Ford, why didn’t they surface this information earlier so that he could be questioned about it? And if they didn’t believe her and chose to withhold the information, why did they decide at the 11th hour to release it? It is really not fair to either of them the way it is was handled.”
Donald Trump Jr. made a similar argument, posting a meme mocking Ford's allegations on his Instagram account, with the caption "Finestein [sic] had the letter in July and saved it for the eve of his vote… honorable as always. I believe this is a copy for full transparency. 🤣🇺🇸🤣🇺🇸🤣 #politics #maga."
This is the 21st-century version of the Salem Witch Trials!
In the Wall Street Journal, Lance Morrow, a fellow at a conservative think tank, wrote a melodramatic op-ed comparing Kavanaugh's sexual assault allegation to the Salem Witch Trials. He explained that 326 years ago, women were falsely accused of being witches and put to death based off "either malicious or hysterical" testimony, which is somehow exactly the same as a woman claiming Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school.
"There had been no police report, and there were no witnesses," Morrow wrote. "The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred." (That single quote has pretty much everything in it: She's lying, plus it wouldn't be a big deal if it did.)
She's a Democrat so you shouldn't believe her, plus it happened a really long time ago!
Fox News alum Megyn Kelly, who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, spoke about Ford's accusations on the Today Show. In an apparent effort to discredit Ford, she said, “Her lawyer is a well-known Democratic activist. Her lawyer, by the way, was very defensive of Bill Clinton when he got accused by Paul Jones, and said that one allegation of Bill Clinton taking out his private parts in front of Paul Jones wasn’t enough for sexual harassment.”
She then opined, “Maybe he blew her off. This is what defenders would say, right? She been harboring—she had an axe to grind about him and she lays the foundation as a Democrat donor, saying I don’t want—I’m just going with the most dramatic theory.”
The 80s were a different time!
Conservative Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle took to Twitter to defend Kavanaugh, writing:
B-b-but, Brett Kavanaugh was nice to me!
Before Ford gave an on-the-record interview about her accusation, 65 of Kavanaugh's high school acquaintances signed an open letter vouching for his character. "I know him very well and I’m 100 percent behind him," Suzanne Matan, one of the signees, told Politico.
"The Brett Kavanaugh I know is a good and decent person, and I have never seen him treat women with anything but respect," conservative pundit Virginia Hume wrote on Twitter.
In a statement given to Politico, former president George W. Bush, who you may remember for waging a war in Iraq based on falsehoods, echoed a similar sentiment, asserting: “Laura and I have known and respected Brett Kavanaugh for decades, and we stand by our comments the night Judge Kavanaugh was nominated.”
Well, that settles that, right?
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.