The Slatest

Did Brett Kavanaugh Snub the Father of a Slain Parkland Teen?

Fred Guttenberg extends his hand to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who looks concerned.
Brett Kavanaugh, leaving Fred Guttenberg hanging.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was murdered during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh refused to shake his hand when he approached before the lunch break at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing Tuesday. Much like the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration, the facts of the incident quickly became contested ground, as the Trump administration offered their own interpretation of events captured on camera. Guttenberg gave his account of what happened on Twitter:

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah had a different take, calling Guttenberg an “unidentified individual” who “the Judge” would have shaken hands with, if not for overzealous security guards:

Guttenberg immediately disputed Shah’s version on Twitter, which would have created an intractable Rashomon-type scenario, if not for the fact that their exchange was captured on video from multiple angles. Decide for yourself: Does this show a Supreme Court nominee realizing with alarm that he’s talking to a citizen who disagrees with his beliefs about gun control, then whirling away and rushing off without shaking hands, or does it show a Supreme Court nominee whose eagerness to extend his condolences, father to father, was unfortunately interrupted by security? First, here’s the version Raj Shah tweeted:

It’s strange that Shah chose an extreme long shot, in which the interaction between Guttenberg and Kavanaugh is barely discernable, but maybe it’s the only angle from which the gunman on the grassy knoll is visible. CNN was less coy:

The Washington Post captured the exchange from a slightly different angle, which shows more of Kavanaugh’s facial expressions. Guttenberg can be heard saying “… was murdered at Parkland,” then, more loudly, saying “Walking away? Have a nice day,” as Kavanaugh walks away from him:

NBC News captured Guttenberg’s facial expressions from an angle that makes it clear Kavanaugh ignored his handshake and turned away after he said “I’m Fred Guttenberg” but possibly before he mentioned his daughter’s murder (although there’s an inaudible sentence in between):

Guttenberg, who was there as a guest of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, later told CNN he’d gone to talk to Kavanaugh “as a dad,” adding, “I don’t go home to my complete family anymore.”

Finally, Paramount Pictures—normally not in the business of covering Supreme Court confirmation hearings—had no footage of Guttenberg and Kavanaugh, but were able to capture the moment when senatorial candidate Greg Stillson used a baby as a human shield at a rally in New Hampshire:

So it looks like it’s one of those intractable Rashomon-type scenarios after all. The only possible way to determine whether what happened between Kavanaugh and Guttenberg was a snub or an accident would be to somehow measure the relative credibility of Guttenberg, who has dedicated his life to the cause of gun safety after the murder of his teenage daughter, against that of Shah, a man who voluntarily took a job working for Donald Trump. It’s a real pickle!