The Cut is a vertical connected to New York magazine, one that focuses on style and celebrity news about Beyonce and Justin Bieber but which also includes pieces on politics. Today the Cut published a piece titled “A Running List of Excuses Team Kavanaugh Has Tried Out.”
This is a garbage headline for at least two reasons. First, calling Kavanaugh’s response to the allegations “excuses” suggests he’s trying to offer some lame mitigation for his behavior, i.e. the dog ate my homework. That’s an excuse you offer when you didn’t do your work. But as the Cut’s own story points out, what Kavanaugh has actually done is offer a flat denial of the accusation.
Kavanaugh denied these claims, telling The New Yorker, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
He issued another denial on Monday, after Ford came forward as the author of the letter, writing:
This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.
The second reason that headline is junk is that saying these excuses were “tried out” suggests this is a list of failed excuses that haven’t stood up to scrutiny. In fact, the only reason to make a list like this is to point out that someone has told a series of shifting stories that, usually, get less absolute each time a new one if offered. It’s a way to combat the modified limited hangout strategy often employed by politicians like Hillary Clinton.
But that’s not what the actual body of the article shows. In fact, Kavanaugh’s denials don’t vary at all. One is slightly more fleshed out because Christine Blasey Ford had come forward, but the denial itself is still absolute. So the suggestion in the headline that “Team Kavanaugh” has tried out a list of excuses is bogus. He has offered one flat statement which has not changed. The Cut gets around this by pointing to statements made by others on Kavanaugh’s behalf:
The “Some of My Best Friends Are Women”
Hours after The New Yorker report came out, Senator Chuck Grassley shared a letter sent to him by 65 women who went to high school with Brett Kavanaugh, in which they said that in the 35 years they’ve known him, “he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”
Again, this isn’t an excuse and it wasn’t made by Kavanaugh. He didn’t claim some of his best friends are women. These women came forward on their own after one classmate sent a letter around to other women. Nothing about this changes Kavanaugh’s flat denial. All it shows is that he had a pretty good reputation among women who knew him long ago.
The “I Wasn’t Even There”
On CNN on Monday, Senator Orrin Hatch insisted that Ford is “mistaken,” adding, “I talked to [Kavanaugh] on the phone today … [he said] he didn’t do that, and he wasn’t at the party. So, you know, clearly, somebody’s mixed up.”
Is this a new excuse? When Kavanaugh said, “This is a completely false allegation” that would seem to cover the allegation as a whole, not just the groping part. The only way this is a new excuse is if you read his earlier denial narrowly, i.e. I was there but I didn’t touch anyone. But he never said that. He said it was completely false and he hasn’t changed his tune or backed away from it even a little.
Later on Monday, two of Kavanaugh’s ex-girlfriends — Maura Kane, who dated him in high school, and Maura Fitzgerald, who dated him in college — issued statements vouching for Kavanaugh’s character.
One of the things Ronan Farrow has consistently relied on in his excellent #MeToo reporting is multiple accusations. Guys who behave like this tend not to do it just once. It’s usually a pattern. So it does count for something when two women Kavanaugh dated at around the time of the accusation says he did not behave that way. Does it prove Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation is false? No, I don’t think it does, but it certainly should be weighed as a factor in Kavanaugh’s favor.
The “Rough Horseplay”
On Tuesday, Carrie Severino, spokesperson for the Judicial Crisis Network — the organization that runs the campaigns for Republican judicial nominees — said on CNN that Ford’s allegations “cover a whole range of conduct, from boorishness, to rough horseplay, to actual attempted rape.”
Finally, we get to something that does sound a bit like an excuse. But even here, Severino is clear the allegation includes “attempted rape.” As excuses go, this doesn’t seem to mitigate very much. And of course, this isn’t coming from Kavanaugh himself.
Maybe Kavanaugh will change his tune next week under hostile questioning. Maybe another accuser will come forward. But at this moment in time, the accused hasn’t “tried out” a list of excuses. In fact, he has only said one thing from the beginning: This is completely false.