Facing mounting accusations of sexual misconduct, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that aired Monday night. Despite the friendly confines of the network, MacCallum put in a good-faith journalistic effort in her questioning. The host didn’t get much in response other than flat denials, and failed to make any significant headway in getting Kavanaugh off script, but seemed content to keep moving rather than try to pry new information out of the beleaguered nominee.
As a result, Kavanaugh’s answers predictably denied the sexual assault allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford about an incident from when they were both in high school 30-plus years ago as well as another accusation published by the New Yorker from former Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez, who says the Supreme Court nominee “thrust his penis in her face” at a party while in college. Kavanaugh, who appeared emotional at times during the interview, kept to a very tightly worded script, repeating a variation of several talking points in response to a variety of different questions:
• “I’m just asking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity.”
• “I’ve always treated women with dignity and respect.”
• “Listen to the people who’ve known me best.”
• “If such a thing had happened, it would have been the talk of the campus” (in reference to the allegation at Yale).
In general, Kavanaugh’s answers were more lawyerly than emotive. Coming off as circumspect and evasive is usually not the goal of sit-down-spouse-by-your-side interviews, but it was likely enough to reassure Trump Republicans already sympathetic to the cause. After denying the assault allegations, when asked if he knew Ford, Kavanaugh said, “I may have met her.” “I was never at any such party,” Kavanaugh said of the night in question in 1982 when Ford says Kavanaugh, then a high school student, forced himself on her. “I am not questioning … that perhaps Dr. Ford … was sexually assaulted by someone in some place,” Kavanaugh continued. “What I know is I never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or at any time.”
The most potentially perilous portion of the interview for Kavanaugh going forward will likely be his broad pushback against the growing portrayal of the nominee as a hard-drinking, hard-partying high school and college student. It’s a claim that is falsifiable and could undermine his credibility, if found to be false.
MacCallum: … Michael Avenatti says that he has significant evidence and another accuser who claims that you and Mark Judge at multiple house parties in the Washington, D.C., area in the 1980s would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol and drugs to allow a train of men to subsequently gang-rape them. There are multiple witnesses that will corroborate these facts and each of them must be called to testify publicly. Did you ever participate in or were you ever aware of any gang rapes that happened at a party you attended?
Kavanaugh: That’s totally false and outrageous. I’ve never done any such thing, known about any such thing. When I was in high school, and I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, a Jesuit high school, where I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship. Friendship with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all-girls Catholic schools. Yes, there were parties. The drinking age was 18. Yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. Yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion. In high school I think all of us have done things we look back on in high school and cringe a bit. That’s not what we are talking about. We are talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. The girls from the schools I went to and I were friends.
MacCallum: You are saying through all of these years in question you were a virgin?
Kavanaugh: That’s correct.
MacCallum: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school and in college?
Kavanaugh: Correct. Many years after. I will leave it that. Many years after…
MacCallum: You are going to be pressed on something you just said about people do things in high school. You were all drinking. Were there times when perhaps you drank so much—was there ever a time you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened the night before?
Kavanaugh: No, that never happened.
MacCallum: You never said to anyone, “I don’t remember anything about last night?”
Kavanaugh: No, that did not happen.
MacCallum: Did you have any sense that any kind of description of the behavior I described with women being taken into rooms and raped or having sex with a number of men … that was going on at the parties you were at?
Kavanaugh: I never saw any such thing. Any such thing. I certainly never participated in any such thing. I never saw or heard of any such thing. I was focused on trying to be No. 1 in my class and captain of the varsity football team and doing my service projects, going to church. The vast majority of time I spent in high school was studying and focused on sports and being a good friend to the boys and girls I was friends with. We have these great lifelong friendships that are fantastic and supporting each other through the ups and downs of life.
“I’m a good person. I’ve led a good life. … I’m not perfect,” Kavanaugh said. “I just want a fair process.”