Remember Alex Kozinski? The Reagan appointee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals resigned under fire in December, after allegations of sexual misconduct arose involving interns and others in his office. Six years earlier than that, Kozinski admitted to keeping pornographic materials on his personal website.
He’s dropped off the public radar ever since his departure, but get ready to hear more about Kozinski in the upcoming confirmation fight. Progressives want to tie former Kozinski intern Brett Kavanaugh to the scandal, despite the fact that Kavanaugh has never been accused of such behavior and would have had nothing to do with Kozinski’s actions:
Kozinski abruptly retired in December last year after multiple women, including former clerks and a retired federal judge, accused him of abuse, including showing them pornography in his chambers, forcibly kissing them and inviting them to have sex. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski from 1990 to 1991.
Ultraviolet, a liberal group that is part of the “#MeToo” movement working to expose and end sexual harassment, called Wednesday for the U.S. Senate to investigate what Kavanaugh knew about Kozinski’s behavior.
“Judge Kozinski’s office had a long history of being a toxic and dangerous environment for women,” Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer for Ultraviolet, said in a statement. “The American public deserves to know what Kavanaugh saw and heard, and if he did witness or hear about any harassment, what he did or could have done to report it.”
That might be a pertinent question to ask Kozinski’s actual victims, not other interns doing the grunt work in the office. Kavanaugh’s internship was nearly thirty years ago, at the very beginning of the awareness of toxic sexual harassment, when the definitions were still ambiguous and the reporting structures nearly non-existent. It was just about the same time as the Senate was pillorying Clarence Thomas on the issue, when most of Thomas’ staff insisted they had seen nothing amiss. Kavanaugh would have been the least senior person in the room without any particular exposure to what happened with Kozinski behind closed doors or outside of the office, which is apparently where these incidents took place.
McClatchy’s Stuart Leavenworth sounds skeptical that anything will come of it:
It is not clear if efforts to link Kavanaugh to Kozinski’s behavior will gain traction. While women have come forward to report abuse by Kozinski that occurred as early as the mid-1980s, there have been no known reports of Kavanaugh being aware of such behavior, or it occurring while he worked for Kozinski.
Kavanaugh’s critics, even before President Donald Trump nominated him on Monday, circulated a six-page opposition research memo tying him to Kozinski. The memo, first reported by Politico, concluded it was virtually impossible for Kavanaugh to be unaware of Kozinski’s behavior, although the memo cited no evidence that he did.
Of the incidents that the Washington Post uncovered, only one of them took place before or during Kavanaugh’s internship — and that one happened four years prior to it. The other reported incidents started in the mid-1990s and took place mainly outside the office or in chambers. Not only is there no connection, there’s not even correlation.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board slammed this as an unconscionable smear:
The Ultraviolet sleaze-slingers have no evidence that Mr. Kavanaugh knew about Judge Kozinski’s behavior and no witnesses to anything of the sort. They merely have insinuations that in the age of social media can spread around the world before the truth can even get a hearing. We’re told that journalists from several news organizations are also trolling former Kozinski clerks to see if they can find someone who will say that Judge Kavanaugh knew something, or should have known, about Judge Kozinski’s behavior.
All of which caused the White House to issue a statement Thursday addressing the smears by ancient association that are by now circulating widely on the internet and in the press corps. “Prior to the public reports late last year [about Judge Kozinski], Judge Kavanaugh had never heard any allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment by Judge Kozinski,” White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
The White House also released a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee signed by 18 of Judge Kavanaugh’s former female clerks attesting to “our uniformly positive experiences with the Judge as a boss on issues of gender and equality in the workplace.” Amy Chua of Yale writes nearby of her rewarding experience placing law clerks with Judge Kavanaugh.
It used to be that the press required at least some evidence to report a story, but now a politically motivated group can write a memo without incriminating facts and get it reported as news. Fair-minded Americans should treat it as the drive-by innuendo it is.
It will be interesting to see whether and which Senate Democrats decide to pick up this particular poisoned dagger. Don’t expect any of the red-state Democrats to do so; Jon Tester ran with a nonsense allegation against Ronny Jackson without checking it out and ended up doing a faceplant over it. The hearings would then turn not on Kavanaugh’s actions on the appellate circuit, not on how he handles himself in the office, but whether he spied closely enough on a senior judge while serving out an internship. It’d turn the hearings into an utter farce, and set a standard that Congress itself has failed miserably at maintaining.
Or maybe we should roll with it. Let’s start polling the interns of anyone who brings this up during the hearings to see whether these senators have reporting issues of their own. That’d be amusing, if not instructive. Or does the Senate finally plan on releasing the settlements they’ve reached on harassment complaints?
Even if they do run with this smear, all it will do is highlight the fact that Kavanaugh not only hired female interns, he gave women the majority of those slots — and they’re all endorsing him for the Supreme Court. Do Democrats really want to highlight that aspect of Kavanaugh?