A New York Times report last week that detailed another claim of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has been the subject of scrutiny, raising questions about missing details, sources and possible media bias.
The original NYT article initially attracted attention for the description that accompanied the link on the Times' Opinion Twitter feed, which the Times later deleted. The Times later issued another correction, stating that the female student who was allegedly assaulted declined to be interviewed and did not recall the incident.
Some criticized the FBI, claiming the bureau conducted a poor initial investigation that missed key elements and witnesses. Several prominent Democrats renewed calls for Kavanaugh's impeachment. Other politicians, reporters and pundits defended Kavanaugh and criticized the Times, saying the story's main source potentially had an ax of their own to grind.
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Snippets from the Center
Wall Street Journal
""The New York Times on Sunday published an article about Deborah Ramirez, who had accused Justice Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her during a party at Yale University in the early 1980s. The piece, based on a book planned for publication this week, asserts that others including fellow classmates recalled hearing contemporary accounts of the incident and alleges there might have been another similar episode."
"In tweets Sunday, Mr. Trump called the latest report about Justice Kavanaugh “made up” and said the “lies being told about him are unbelievable.” He added: “False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!”"
"The latest claim mirrors one offered during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process by Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate who claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken party."
"The Times said that the female student in the latest claim declined to be interviewed and that friends said she doesn’t recall the episode. The newspaper said Sunday in an editor’s note that an earlier version of its story didn’t include that information. None of the Democratic candidates publicly adjusted his or her position on Kavanaugh after the newspaper published the editor’s note and updated the story."
Megan McArdle for the Washington Post
"Yet as the renewed fighting over Kavanaugh this week suggests, we will never know which of these stories is true, or how much of them is true, because by now everyone’s memories are just too impaired — maybe by alcohol, maybe by trauma, certainly by time."
"All of which means that we will never have any more certainty about the Kavanaugh story than we have right now — which is to say, none at all. We can either find a way to live with that fact, and each other, or partisans on both sides can keep tearing the country apart by insisting that they know the one clear truth about an irretrievably murky past."
Snippets from the Left
Kate Kelly and Robin Pogrebin for The Atlantic
"Ultimately, we combined our notebooks with our common sense and came to believe an utterly human narrative: that Ford and Ramirez were mistreated by Kavanaugh when he was a teenager, and that Kavanaugh over the next 35 years became a better person."
"Unproven as it is, we found that the account of Christine Blasey Ford—to use Martha’s phrase—“rings true.” Ford’s social circle overlapped with that of Kavanaugh as a high-school student. She dated his good friend Chris Garrett. Her good friend Leland Keyser dated Mark Judge. Judge and Kavanaugh, whom Ford recalled being together in the room where she was allegedly assaulted, were close friends. They were often seen together at parties, and their tendency to drink beer, sometimes to excess, was well known."
"The Sept. 14, 2019, New York Times article "Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not" ignited a firestorm, and even led to some Democratic presidential candidates calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment. It depicted a previously unreported scene in which Kavanaugh, then a Yale student in the 1980s, was said to have engaged in lewd conduct at a "drunken dorm party."
"Amid the fallout over its reporting, the Times’ deputy editorial page editor James Dao published written answers to five questions from readers, including a question about why the Times decided to print an allegation that some viewed as insufficiently supported."
Barbara McQuade for NBC News
"In recent days, new reporting indicates that during the supplemental investigation, Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, relayed to the FBI yet another allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. Reports indicate that this allegation was made by Max Stier, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s. Stier is now a prominent lawyer who surely understands the stakes having previously served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter."
"But even if the student does not remember the incident, others who witnessed it could have been interviewed. And yet, the FBI reportedly did not interview Stier or other witnesses to this event, even though a members of the Senate Judiciary Committee requested it. Nor did the FBI interview the 50 witnesses whose names the lawyers for Ford and Ramirez sent to them."
Snippets from the Right
"The update included the significant detail that several friends of the alleged victim, Harmon Joyce, said she did not recall the purported sexual assault in question at all. The Times also stated for the first time that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed, and has made no other comment about the episode."
"The only firsthand account concerning the supposed attack in the original piece, which was published on Saturday, came from a Clinton-connected lawyer who claimed to have witnessed it. (The lawyer, Max Stier, did not actually provide his account directly; the Times acknowledged that "two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier" had relayed his supposed version of events.)"
"One of the two New York Times reporters behind the much-maligned article detailing a new accusation of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh acknowledged that she knew the Supreme Court justice in college."
"The piece, which was published on Saturday, alleged that one of Kavanaugh's classmates at Yale University said he made inappropriate sexual contact with a female student. However, the article failed to mention that the female student who was the alleged victim has no recollection of the supposed event and declined to be interviewed...The New York Times' article failed to acknowledge the connection between Pogrebin and Kavanaugh."
John McCormack for National Review
"All that the authors write in the New York Times essay about corroborating the story is this: “Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. (We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier.)”"
"The book isn’t released until Tuesday, but Mollie Hemingway got a copy, and she writes on Twitter: “The book notes, quietly, that the woman Max Stier named as having been supposedly victimized by Kavanaugh and friends denies any memory of the alleged event.” Omitting this fact from the New York Times story is one of the worst cases of journalistic malpractice in recent memory."