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Kavanaugh Controversy Picks Up Steam

Both sides of the debate are convinced they're right
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2019 2:36 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new allegation of sexual impropriety emerged over the weekend about Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, but it's one of those cases where the story about the story is a thing unto itself. Where we're at: Democrats say the new allegation is cause to impeach Kavanaugh, but his defenders—including President Trump—say that it's bogus and that the way the New York Times handled the original story shows media bias. The details:

  • Impeachment? Don't hold your breath, says House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler. But the Democrat didn't exactly give Kavanaugh supporters a reassuring reason. "We have our hands full with impeaching the president right now and that's going to take up our limited resources and time for a while," said Nadler on WNYC, per Politico. However, the Hill notes that he added: "We have the FBI coming before our committee next month and we're certainly going to ask them about this, and we'll see where it goes from there."
  • The allegation: The allegation appeared in the Times in an article adapted from a soon-to-be published book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. It alleges that Kavanaugh, while a freshman at Yale, was drunk at a dorm party when he exposed himself to a female Yale freshman.
  • The key detail: Amid criticism, the Times later amended the story to note that the female involved in the incident has told friends she has no recollection of it. The reporters heard about it through another Yale classmate named Matt Stier, who says he witnessed it. Stier now runs a nonpartisan group in DC, but critics on the right say he's biased because he once worked as a Clinton defense attorney. The Times didn't help itself when it had to apologize for an insensitive tweet about the story, notes Vox.

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  • So what happened? Jackie Calmes of the Los Angeles Times also has talked to Stier. "According to his account, two drunken male students dragged the woman toward Kavanaugh, who was also intoxicated and standing with his penis exposed, amid much laughter from the men," she writes. The New York Times account goes a bit further, saying that "friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student." Stier tells the LAT that he's not surprised the female involved wouldn't remember it because of how inebriated she was at the time. But he insists it happened.
  • The others: The new allegation is similar to one that emerged during Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, when Deborah Ramirez alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm party at Yale and caused her to touch his penis, per the LAT. Kavanaugh denied it. The better-known testimony of accuser Christine Blasey Ford alleged Kavanaugh misconduct during high school.
  • In defense: President Trump ridiculed the NYT for its initial failure to note that the woman in the new allegation doesn't remember it. "DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT THESE HORRIBLE PEOPLE WILL DO OR SAY," he wrote Monday. "They are looking to destroy, and influence his opinions - but played the game badly. They should be sued!" At the National Review, David French concludes after a lengthy assessment that Kavanaugh "was never 'credibly accused' by any meaningful standard, and he is not 'credibly accused' today."
  • FBI criticism: Kavanaugh's critics are faulting the FBI for not investigating the incident as possible corroboration of the allegations that already had surfaced. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons wrote to the agency last fall and asked agents to interview Stier, but it never happened, report CNN and the Washington Post. He copied Judiciary Committee chair Charles Grassley, a Republican, and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein on his request.
(Read more Brett Kavanaugh stories.)

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