Jurisprudence

The Most Alarming Thing About Brett Kavanaugh’s Interview on Fox News

Brett Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh sit across from Fox News' Martha MacCallum.
Brett Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, in an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday night.
Fox News

Brett Kavanaugh wants you to know that all he’s asking for is a “fair process.” During his interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday night, the Supreme Court nominee used that phrase 17 times, often to avoid answering MacCallum’s (pretty good) questions. It’s one of a handful of stock answers that Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, tossed at MacCallum during a conversation that was so on script that it might as well have been published as talking points.

Given that Kavanaugh barely ventured beyond what he’s already said in statements to the press, Monday’s interview clearly wasn’t designed to let him tell his side of the story. Instead, it was an opportunity for the nominee to convey their decency, to prove to the world that he’s too nice a guy to have sexually assaulted anyone. This was likely a preview of what the country will see on Thursday, when both Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The most alarming thing about Monday’s interview, aside from Kavanaugh’s robotic repetition, was how wildly it diverged in tone and substance from a letter he sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier on Monday. It marked his most vigorous effort thus far to contest the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who allege that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted them. Ford claims Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge attempted to rape her at a house party in the summer of 1982, when the nominee was 17. Ramirez claims Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face during a drunken dormitory party, making her touch it without her consent. Ford has agreed to testify at Thursday’s hearing, and pivotal Republican Sen. Susan Collins has said she wants Senate investigators to question Ramirez under oath as well.

Kavanaugh initially denied both charges in a measured and concise statement. But in his Monday letter, the nominee went full Clarence Thomas, painting himself as the victim of a “coordinated” attack. He dismissed Ramirez’s “false and uncorroborated accusation from 35 years ago” as part of a “frenzy to come up with something—anything—that will block this process.” The claims from Ramirez and Ford, he insisted, “are smears, pure and simple.” And he declared that this “grotesque and obvious … last-minute character assassination” will “dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service.”

On Fox News on Monday night, Kavanaugh didn’t dismiss Ramirez and Ford or say they were part of a smear campaign. Rather, he said he only wished to “defend my integrity and clear my name.”

“I’ve always treated women with dignity and respect,” Kavanaugh insisted. “Listen to the people who’ve known me best my whole life.” Did he commit sexual assault? He “never saw any such thing.” Did he engage in lurid sexual encounters? He “never participated in any such thing.” Rather, he was focused on “trying to be No. 1 in my class” and “captain of the varsity basketball team” while working on “service projects” and “going to church.” Also, he did not have “anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.”

This image of a nearly irreproachable Kavanaugh clashes with Judge’s account of their youthful foibles; in his book Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, Judge described a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” vomiting in cars and passing out during benders. Clearly aware of this contradiction, Kavanaugh admitted that, “Yes, there were parties” and that “people might’ve had too many beers on occasion.” But in the interview on Fox News, he denied drinking to the point of blacking out and said, with respect to the allegations of sexual assault, “I’ve never, never done anything like this.”

In his hearings and in Monday’s interview, there was a consistent pattern in what Kavanaugh remembered and what he forgot. He doesn’t remember seeing Alex Kozinski, his friend and mentor for more than a quarter-century, engage in sexual harassment—even though multiple victims have alleged that Kozinski’s inappropriate behavior was frequent and relentless.
He does know that he himself never committed sexual abuse, and that any claims to the contrary are “smears, pure and simple.” Kavanaugh doesn’t remember receiving sexually explicit emails that Kozinski blasted out to his associates on a regular basis, and apparently can’t be bothered to search his records for them. He apparently was able to produce a calendar from 1982 that ostensibly helped exonerate him of Ford’s allegations.

While this discrepancy doesn’t prove anything about Kavanaugh’s conduct, it does reveal a fair amount about his approach to his current problem. It’s clear that when Kavanaugh feels that he needs to remember something, he remembers it. And when he doesn’t remember an alleged incident, that means it could not have occurred. There were no surprises in Monday’s interview and there probably won’t be any in his testimony on Thursday. He has committed to a narrative of absolute innocence, one in which Ford and Ramirez are the real villains and he is a virtuous victim.

Read more from Slate:
Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Page Appears to Make Sexual Reference to Female Friend
Republican Senators Do Not Appear to Give a Damn About Latest Kavanaugh Allegation
We’re About to Find Out Whether Michael Avenatti Is Full of It
Why Jane Mayer Has Been Overshadowed by Ronan Farrow in Their Joint #MeToo Stories