The New York Times on Saturday published a previously unreported account of alleged sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was an undergrad at Yale University.
According to Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s, nonprofit owner Max Stier, said he once saw the future judge with his pants down at a dorm party while friends pushed his penis into the hands of a female student. Stier shared his story with senators and the FBI last year during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, but the FBI did not investigate it, the reporters said.
Pogrebin and Kelly said they learned of the alleged misconduct during their 10-month investigation of Kavanaugh’s life at prep-school and Yale for their upcoming book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.” They said they “corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with” Stier.
However, Mollie Hemingway, an editor at The Federalist, tweeted Sunday that the woman Stier reported seeing Kavanaugh expose himself to has no memory of the alleged incident. Hemingway said “the book quietly acknowledges” this fact, but it goes unmentioned in the excerpt published Saturday.
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. Seems, I don’t know, significant.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 15, 2019
In a followup tweet, Hemingway called the omission “Journalistically indefensible.”
NYT Reporters’ essay about a supposed second Yale incident omitted their own book reporting that completely undercuts it: alleged victim denies any memory of it. Journalistically indefensible, though gullible additional reporters are spreading it of course.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 15, 2019
Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, issued a tweet echoing Hemingway, with whom she coauthored a book about Kavanaugh published in July.
Severino also shared a photo of a relevant excerpt from “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh.” It names the alleged victim as Tracy Harmon Joyce and says she refused to discuss the alleged incident, “though several of her friends said she does not recall it.”
This is the blockbuster "new allegation" against Kavanaugh. Except it's not actually new. It was shopped to Senate Democrats at the time and they apparently found it impossible to nail down, so they ignored it – the same Senators who found the "rape boat" allegations plausible. pic.twitter.com/0183DKr0q2
— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) September 15, 2019
Without explanation, Pogrebin and Kelly did not name Harmon Joyce in the article or acknowledge reaching out to her.
The Times did not immediately respond to Pluralist’s request for comment.
Pluralist was not immediately able to obtain a copy of the book, which comes out Tuesday.
Liberals are also mad about the handling of the new Brett Kavanaugh allegation
Per usual on the polarizing issue of Kavanaugh, the left and right reacted very differently to the latest allegation.
Liberals voiced outrage that Kavanaugh had been appointed to the Supreme Court, tipping it rightward, despite previous claims of youthful sexual misconduct. Some called for him to be impeached based on what they characterized as the Times’ “bombshell.”
Kavanaugh should be impeached. https://t.co/dGpMembtg0
— Adam Jentleson 🎈🐢 (@AJentleson) September 15, 2019
Meanwhile, conservatives slammed the Times for continuing to probe Kavanaugh’s life for anecdotes of decades-old boozy misbehavior.
One guy says he saw it happened even though no one else did. It’s his truth. Kavanaugh is now canceled. https://t.co/6dy9HtxgWV
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) September 15, 2019
President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that Kavanaugh “start suing people for libel” or that the Justice Department “come to his rescue.”
Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue. The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
There was also debate about Stier’s credibility as a witness.
Partisan attacks like this are why people feel they can’t afford to speak out. They are designed to intimidate witnesses and distract from the truth.
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) September 15, 2019
On both sides of the partisan divide, though, commentators had questions about the Times’ seemingly half-hearted rollout of Pogrebin and Kelly’s reporting.
Many Twitter users noted that their work appeared in the Opinion Section, rather than being touted as news.
Others observed that article seemed to downplay the new allegation. Instead, the story was framed around a similar claim by another of Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmates, Deborah Ramirez, which was first reported last September by the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow. That report came after Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavanaugh of drunkenly assaulting her with his friend in high school.
Ask yourself why the @NYTimes decided to break news about a new Kavanaugh abuse allegation in the 11th paragraph of a feature/opinion story, and not as a hard news lede on the front page.
The revelation is trending on Twitter & other social media. At @NYTimes? Not so much.
— TimKarr (@TimKarr) September 15, 2019
The Times reporters said they talked to at least seven people who heard of Ramirez’s account “long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge,” including two former Yale students who learned of it days after it allegedly occurred.
“Mr. Kavanaugh did not speak to us because we could not agree on terms for an interview,” they wrote. “But he has denied Dr. Ford’s and Ms. Ramirez’s allegations, and declined to answer our questions about Mr. Stier’s account.”
On the left, the Times was also widely criticized for a Saturday tweet promoting Pogrebin and Kelly’s article, which suggested “having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.” Amid the backlash, The Times deleted the post, saying it had been “poorly phrased.”
However, many critics were left unsatisfied.
The @nytimes has deleted this, saying it was “poorly phrased,” but this is not about the wrong choice of words – it’s the constant diminishment and laughing off of women’s pain. pic.twitter.com/AXF5PeRK03
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) September 15, 2019
A number of New York Times staffers have in recent months drawn opprobrium with ill-advised Twitter activity. Last week, the newspaper deleted a tweet that suggested airplanes were to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks and undercounted the number of people killed in the tragedy by nearly 1,000.