WaPo: Dems retreat on Kavanaugh after Republicans pounce on ... "journalistic mishap"?

Hey, we’re always up for another fun edition of Republicans Pounce!™, but this example is more jaw-dropping than usual. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane reports on the “whiplash moment” currently befalling Democrats as the New York Times’ rehashed smear job on Brett Kavanaugh comes apart. Kane notes that Republicans have gone on offense right in the lead, while waiting more than a dozen paragraphs to note that Democrats actually pounced first.

Kane laments this “familiar refrain,” which is perhaps a little more familiar than even Kane appreciates:

Since the first allegations emerged a year ago Monday, in a Washington Post story, the Kavanaugh saga has evolved in a familiar refrain.

Seemingly credible accusations get made; Democrats pounce and demand investigations. Republicans grow quiet, until some other allegation emerges that appears to go too far. Then Republicans go into full umbrage mode, pushing Democrats back until the nominee is confirmed (or, in this week’s case, until Democrats change the subject).

“Seemingly credible,” eh? That’s the start of Kane’s problem in describing this pattern. The allegations against Kavanaugh weren’t “seemingly credible” at any stage, and got less credible as scrutiny increased. Christine Blasey Ford offered up an ambiguous claim of an assault from more than thirty years ago at a time she couldn’t name, a place she couldn’t identify, with people present who say they have no recollection of the event at which this assault allegedly took place. Despite Kavanaugh being in public life for years, Blasey Ford had never come forward to make this claim, and hadn’t even told others until decades after it supposedly happened. Blasey Ford offered the names of four people she claimed would verify her story, only to have all four eventually deny that anything of the sort happened — and at least one of whom eventually said she had no confidence in Blasey Ford’s credibility.

How is that “seemingly credible”? In what journalistic world does an uncorroborated and ambiguous claim with so few details that it’s impossible to check become “seemingly credible” enough to print? It was only “seemingly credible” to partisans and media outlets that were and are already primed to dislike Kavanaugh. It was that assignment of credibility to Blasey Ford’s claim that encouraged “some other allegation[s] that appear[] to go too far” to emerge, a dynamic that Kane apparently never considers.

Kane continues by reducing the Times’ travails this week to a “journalistic mishap”:

But the Times story included another allegation of similar behavior that drew most of the attention, until editors posted an update Sunday that included the denial by the alleged victim.

Like Graham a year ago, Republicans jumped on this journalistic mishap to try to destroy the overall content of the book. “I’m distressed by the declining journalistic principals, so much on display,” McConnell said Tuesday.

A “journalistic mishap”? A “journalistic mishap” is using the wrong form of the word “principles” in the above quote. What the New York Times and its reporters did was pass along the rotted fruit of campus gossip from more than thirty years ago without any substantiation at all.  The Times knowingly published an allegation that was easily shot down, while not including the following information that was already in the source material:

  • The new allegation came from a thirdhand anonymous source describing what a secondhand source told the FBI last year
  • The reporters never talked to the secondhand source, Max Stier
  • The reporters never talked to the victim either (although they did know she denies it ever happened)
  • Stier was represented as a good-governance advocate without disclosing the fact that he also was an attorney who represented Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal
  • The article and the book reference Leland Keyser in establishing Blasey Ford’s credibility when Keyser explicitly told them that she doesn’t “have any confidence” in Blasey Ford’s story

That’s a “journalistic mishap” in the same manner that a massive derailment might be described as a “slight delay.” The article is a trainwreck of bad journalism attempting to reinvigorate an egregious character assassination without any evidence at all. Kane’s attempt to turn this yellow-journalism embarrassment into a Republicans Pounce! narrative is a faceplant all its own.

At least some Democrats have the good sense to change the subject. Kane should get a clue.

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