Let me gently remind you upfront that the Deborah Ramirez allegation first came to light publicly last fall in these immortal words from the New Yorker:
In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away…
Ramirez acknowledged that there are significant gaps in her memories of the evening, and that, if she ever presents her story to the F.B.I. or members of the Senate, she will inevitably be pressed on her motivation for coming forward after so many years, and questioned about her memory, given her drinking at the party.
And yet, after several days of considering the matter carefully, she said, “I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there.”
Ramirez, the alleged victim, is herself unsure of whether she was assaulted by Kavanaugh. Which turns out to be a recurring problem in the media’s Kavanaugh scandal coverage.
The New York Times introduced the possibility that Ramirez’s story might at long last be corroborated, however, in the Kavanaugh story published over the weekend that’s getting attention today for its already infamous “editor’s note.” Quote: “At least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez’s mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge. Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred, suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time.” Seven different people heard about Kavanaugh assaulting Ramirez before the rest of the world did — two of them contemporaneously? That’s a big problem for Kavanaugh defenders. Suddenly Ramirez’s shaky memory seems less shaky.
But there’s more to this claim too, and again that “more” was strangely omitted from the Times piece. Byron York got hold of a copy of the book written by the authors of the NYT piece that delves into detail about what those seven people did and didn’t know about the incident. I don’t want to quote York at length since he did the work of sifting through it and writing it up. Read his piece for the full treatment. But this should suffice for our purposes:
That is the seven. Number 1, Ramirez’s mother, based her account on four very unspecific words from her daughter 35 years ago. Number 2, Appold, based his account on a memory of being told something by a “witness” who could not recall the incident at all. Number 3, Wetstone, heard it from Appold. Number 4, Oh, overheard something from someone he doesn’t remember that did not connect the incident to Kavanaugh. Number 5, Anonymous, is totally unclear. And Number 6 and Number 7, Ludington and Roche, had “vague” memories that also did not connect an unspecified incident to Kavanaugh.
Not one of the seven actually witnessed the assault. Only one, Appold, even heard Kavanaugh’s name mentioned in connection with it, and the person who told him couldn’t recall the incident when contacted by the New Yorker. Tiana Lowe also got hold of the book and sums it up:
To recap: Of the seven sources meant to bolster the credibility of Ramirez’s allegation, only one recalls hearing Kavanaugh mentioned as the perp by an unknown source who, if he ever existed, has since failed to come forward. Only one other person claims to have independently heard about such an incident at the time, but he does not appeared to have named Kavanaugh in connection with it. Three of the sources may not have recalled any details about the incident, and another one just heard it from the first.
Literally no one, including the alleged victim, is sure that Kavanaugh did anything. This is what’s supporting the claim in the Times that no fewer than seven people have heard about “the Yale incident.”
As I write this at 6:30 p.m., the Times’s editorial brain trust has been almost completely silent about the significant problems with its story. Politico came knocking with questions and was ignored. So was the Washington Post. The only person willing to comment thus far is deputy editorial page editor James Dao, who’s … proud of the piece, calling it calling it “a well-reported and newsworthy account that sheds new light on a matter that provoked significant national debate.” Conservatives on social media this afternoon are convinced that the paper’s going to try to follow Bloomberg’s recent protocol in handling a garbage story published under its banner and simply memory-hole the controversy, waiting for everyone (except its right-wing critics, who don’t matter) to lose interest.
But it’s not just righties who are attacking the paper for its story. I noted Joe Scarborough’s disgust with the Times this morning; there’s no show on American television normally more friendly to Beltway media than his. David Folkenflik, NPR’s media correspondent, tweeted early today that it’s indisputable that the Times should have mentioned in its story that the alleged victim of the new assault accusation against a young Brett Kavanaugh has no memory of the incident. CNN is out with a story tonight calling the Kavanaugh story “the latest in [a] series of blunders from Opinion section.” Trump has made an issue of it too, in case the Times thought it might run and hide until this blows over:
I think they’ll have to comment. They’re not Bloomberg and this isn’t a story about a lawyer at the Department of Labor whom no one’s ever heard of. This is a paper that thinks of itself as a singular guardian of the public trust; and this is a story about a sitting Supreme Court justice allegedly sexually assaulting a woman while he was in college. If they had smeared a high Democratic official with material as thin as what they’re using here, the uproar on the left would have already triggered a big newsroom bullsh*t session for the paper’s staff to do some soul-searching together, like they did after the left’s ridiculous meltdown over the Bad Headline involving Trump last month. The reason they haven’t commented yet, I suspect, is because they’ve thrown a few reporters at the claims made in this weekend’s piece and are trying to nail something down that might let them save face. Can they find anyone who remembers hearing at the time that Kavanaugh assaulted Ramirez? Can they maybe get the supposed victim of the latest assault accusation to say that it *might* have happened, or at least that she found Kavanaugh to be a drunken lout on campus, etc? They’ll have more to say about this. They’re just busy right now trying to make it so that they can somehow say, “We were right all along.”
Exit question via Jonathan Last: Is the Democratic reaction to this episode actually a trap for … Joe Biden? Read his argument before you answer.