In fact, if there is any story to tell here, it is that a guy whose claims were marshaled in support of Ramirez’s charge turned out to be completely unsupported. In any usual journalistic environment, Appold would be deemed useless as a result of this. Appold’s original testimony was that he had heard from a guy that something happened; subsequent investigation has confirmed that, like everyone else named as a witness, the guy that Appold said he heard it from denies remembering anything like it; and thus we reach the end of the road. Typically, this would be it. Typically, Appold’s involvement in any subsequent story would be nil. Typically, he would be regarded as unreliable, and his other claims would be treated accordingly. But for Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, the collapse of Appold’s story serves as an excuse to repeat their original charges in lurid detail, and to add some other swipes at Kavanaugh for good measure. In so doing they bring to mind the dishonest politician who uses preterition to spread his innuendos: “Given that he was cleared, I shall not mention that my opponent was accused of embezzlement.”

As if to add insult to injury, Farrow and Mayer then descend into lazy high-school gossip-mongering. Having left Appold behind, they quote “two high-school acquaintances of Kavanaugh’s,” whose anonymous case against the judge seems to have been that he was a football jock. (How far we have come from the topic of sexual assault.) Throughout, the words of the acquaintances are couched in cop-out phrases such as “the impression I formed” and “seemed to be,” while Farrow and Mayer’s descriptions carry heavy caveats such as “while he might not be remembering the rhyme word-for-word.” The accusations, likewise, are heavy on implication and light on detail. “He said that he never witnessed Kavanaugh physically attacking another student,” one reads, “but he recalled him doing” nothing to stop it. He also may have laughed once when someone around him said words.