We’re officially off the rails.
There’s an easy, not-so-scientific way determine exactly when this happens. It happens at the very moment when Michael Avenatti’s name enters the discussion.
You remember Avenatti. He’s the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, who said she was paid $130,000 - a month before the 2016 presidential election - to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she had with Donald Trump in in 2006. Avenatti also mentioned he might run for president in 2020. Don’t snicker. The Atlantic called Avenatti the “Democrats’ Trump” in August. I’m not sure whether that was a compliment or an insult. Maybe it was both.
Nevertheless, Avenatti has now insinuated himself in the Jell-O wrestling match that passes for our confirmation process of a potential Supreme Court justice.
Avenatti claims that nominee Brett Kavanaugh and others targeted women with “alcohol/drugs” to allow men to sexually assault them at high school parties.
On Wednesday, Avenatti produced a client, Julie Swetnick, who claims that in the 1980s, she witnessed Judge Kavanaugh and a classmate, Mark Judge, trying to get teenage girls “inebriated and disoriented” so they could then be sexually assaulted.
Avenatti released an explosive statement in which Swetnick says, “I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room,” she said. “These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.”
Any reasonable person must consider the timing here. I suppose this information wasn’t important enough to be made public before Kavanaugh became a judge in the first place.
Avenatti’s allegations came after Debbie Ramirez, a college classmate of Kavanaugh’s, told the New Yorker that Supreme Court pick exposed himself to her during a Yale University party when he was a freshman. Kavanaugh has said it never happened. The New York Times decided not to run the story due to lack of corroboration.
Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford said Kavanaugh, while in high school, pinned her down, tried to remove her swimsuit and held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Kavanaugh said he “never sexually assaulted anyone.”
Ford’s story has yet to be corroborated by anyone who was actually present.
For the sake of the country, we need to get this right. And certain media outlets, which are supposed to be in the business of “getting it right,” aren’t doing their profession or the rest of us any favors.
CNN ran a story Monday detailing Mark Judge’s recollections of drunken keg parties at Georgetown Prep. As CNN reported, in a passage of his book, “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” the only time Judge comes close to mentioning Kavanaugh, if you can call it that, is when he recalls a conversation with a young woman about “Bart O’Kavanaugh.”
“Do you know Bart O’Kavanaugh?”
Yeah. He’s around here somewhere.”
“I heard he puked in someone’s car the other night.”
“Yeah. He passed out on his way back from a party.”
In about the 18th paragraph, CNN happens to mention, “CNN has no confirmation that the Bart O’Kavanaugh mentioned in the passage above refers to Brett Kavanaugh.”
It’s certainly not a stretch to believe they were talking about Kavanaugh. If so, we know that he might have had too much to drink at a high school party 35 years ago. If that’s a disqualifying factor for employment, we’re all in trouble.
And on Wednesday, The New York Times published Kavanaugh’s calendar from the summer of 1982 under the headline, “Kavanaugh’s Calendar Portrays Party-Filled Summer for Supreme Court Nominee.”
We’re now in feeding-frenzy mode which, of course, is much to the delight of Democrats who want to long-play this thing until the Republicans either decide Kavanaugh isn’t worth the fight or simply give up out of boredom.
We live in a world of extremes, where tribalism rules the day. Kavanaugh is either a monster who must be cast out or he’s being railroaded for political purposes. Somewhere, in between, is the truth.
I don’t know what Brett Kavanaugh did or didn’t do when he was in high school. I do believe his accusers need to be heard on the matter and so does he, before any conclusions are drawn.
The problem, it seems, is that conclusions have already been drawn. And there’s nothing right about that.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.