In 1983, I was one of Brett Kavanaugh’s freshman roommates at Yale University. About two weeks ago I came forward to lend my support to my friend Deborah Ramirez, who says Brett sexually assaulted her at a party in a dorm suite. I did this because I believe Debbie.
Now the FBI is investigating this incident. I am willing to speak with them about my experiences at Yale with both Debbie and Brett. I would tell them this: Brett Kavanaugh stood up under oath and lied about his drinking and about the meaning of words in his yearbook. He did so baldly, without hesitation or reservation. In his words and his behavior, Judge Kavanaugh has shown contempt for the truth, for the process, for the rule of law, and for accountability. His willingness to lie to avoid embarrassment throws doubt on his denials about the larger questions of sexual assault. In contrast, I cannot remember ever having a reason to distrust anything, large or small, that I have heard from Debbie.
I did not want to come forward. When the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow contacted me while researching a story about Debbie and Brett, I told him that I didn’t see the point. There is no way that Brett will face legal consequences after this much time. Either he will be confirmed or another conservative judge will be. There would be a high cost. I was raised in a Republican family. My mother, who has since passed away, was a Republican state representative in Connecticut. My father owns a MAGA hat. I have close friends who are very conservative. In recent years I have had disagreements over politics with some of these friends and family, but I care deeply about them. My involvement has and will come with personal, professional, and reputational damage.
Ultimately, I told Farrow that Debbie’s story was believable and that Brett was “frequently, incoherently drunk.” When asked about my comments in the New Yorker at his hearing last week, Judge Kavanaugh seemed to suggest that my account was not credible because “it was a contentious situation” where I “did not like” the third suitemate. He then referenced a prank I pulled on the third suitemate and some redacted portion of his closed-door questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee staff. It’s true that I played a prank on the third roommate. We were not close. But that relationship has no bearing on my ability to observe Kavanaugh’s behavior then and to describe it now.
As for the specifics of what happened to Debbie freshman year: When Farrow approached me, I had a vague memory of an event involving Debbie and Brett, but not enough to say “I am sure.” I told Farrow that I could participate off the record and only to support Debbie’s credibility and to describe Brett’s behavior when drinking, where I had meaningful, firsthand experience.
Right before publication, Farrow called me and asked if I would reconsider publicly sharing my own recollections. Debbie was going to be attacked. She had lived with the pain of this event for years. Brett’s friends who participated would deny that it happened. It would be a powerful Washington judge and his friends against Debbie.
Others would say: “Brett was background-checked many times. This must be made up.” As Brett’s college freshman roommate, I would have expected to be interviewed if a background check was looking for evidence of poor college behavior. I wasn’t called. I assume college behavior was not a topic of interest. The FBI didn’t find Debbie’s story because they were not looking for it.
As for this round of the investigation: I still haven’t been called, even though they are supposedly looking into Debbie’s case. How will they learn what happened if once again they are not allowed to truly and thoroughly investigate?
Debbie needed someone to help her be heard. When nobody else would do it, I agreed to be quoted in Farrow’s story on the record. “Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie? Yeah, definitely,” I said. “Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.” I stand by this quote and I accept it is my opinion and not objective fact.
Since the New Yorker story came out, I have been asked for countless interviews by print publications, TV, and online media, the vast majority of which I have resisted. Ultimately I wrote and distributed a statement to minimize the distraction to my personal and business life. In the statement, I wrote that Brett “was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”
I believe that many women have been mistreated and silenced. When they come forward, they are treated like they are liars or whiners or crazy. But I also believe that both accusers and the accused deserve a deep, unfettered investigation. In Brett’s cases, if he is innocent, he should be cleared. If he is not and he is being untruthful to the nation, that should disqualify him from sitting on the highest court in the land. This just seems fair.
The other night I reviewed the transcript of the hearings. People are asking for me to respond.
I do not know if Brett attacked Christine Blasey Ford in high school or if he sexually humiliated Debbie in front of a group of people she thought were her friends. But I can say that he lied under oath. He claimed that he occasionally drank too much but never enough to forget details of the night before, never enough to “black out.” He did, regularly. He said that “boofing” was farting and the “Devil’s Triangle” was a drinking game. “Boofing” and “Devil’s Triangle” are sexual references. I know this because I heard Brett and his friends using these terms on multiple occasions.
I can’t imagine that anyone in the Senate wants to confirm an individual to a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court who has demonstrated a willingness to be untruthful under oath about easily verified information.
I do not argue that Brett or anyone else should be persecuted for teenage drinking antics that are common to many, many Americans. My parents once visited Yale unexpectedly to find that I was unresponsive in my dorm room after a long session at Mory’s where friends and I sang and drank from trophy cups way past our limits. I was not a choirboy, but—unlike Brett—I’m not going on national television and testifying under oath that I was. This is not about drinking too much or even encouraging others to drink. It is not about using coarse language or even about the gray area between testing sexual boundaries with a date and sexual abuse. This is about denial. This is about not facing consequences. This is about lying.
In this case, the lies are not trivial: His lies about sexual terms and his drinking are directly relevant to the accusations of Christine Blasey Ford and Debbie Ramirez, which both involved sexual behavior and heavy drinking. The truth would make him look bad and would bolster the credibility of both of these women. In this climate, had he simply said “I don’t remember” or even “If I did these things in my youth I am sorry,” he might have sailed through the confirmation process. But he lied, under oath, like it was nothing.
During last week’s hearings, some committee members equated Brett’s frustration over his stalled ambitions and the challenges to his character to Ford’s pain from an attempted rape and challenges to hers. They had both “been through a lot.” Members of the committee ignored the obvious and easily checked inaccuracies in his story and instead chose to erupt with rage that one of the most powerful men in America might have to defend himself against credible allegations of sexual assault. There was no consideration given to the truth that even if he withdraws, Brett will return to his position for life as one of the most powerful forces in the U.S. justice system. The women who say that they have been traumatized by his actions, meanwhile, will know that their suffering and bravery did not even warrant a thorough investigation.
Debbie’s story and her pain have been lost in all of the yelling. Her accusation should be fully and properly investigated, as should any current and emerging allegations regarding Judge Kavanaugh’s behavior. Let real law enforcement professionals spend the time that it takes to figure out the truth. If this takes too long, find a less controversial, similarly conservative judge and start over.
To me it seems very simple. We are deciding if a man is suited to judge others. To hear with compassion and empathy the cases of the vulnerable. As a Supreme Court justice, he would be the last line of legal defense for people who need a champion with unimpeachable judgment. A man who lies effortlessly rather than taking responsibility for his own words and actions is not what we need.
Support our journalism
Help us continue covering the news and issues important to you—and get ad-free podcasts and bonus segments, members-only content, and other great benefits.Join Slate Plus