If you’ve been following the media lately, you’re probably not surprised that Ronan Farrow has got in on the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations. What you may be surprised at is how flimsy the new allegations, published Sunday, are — and how they crumble once they’re placed under the slightest scrutiny.
Farrow, who has become one of the official chroniclers of the #MeToo movement, wrote the account — along with New Yorker staff writer Jane Meyer — of Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who says he exposed himself to her at a party.
We’re going to warn you that, as so many Kavanaugh pieces do, this contains sensitive details of a sexual nature. Reader discretion is advised.
The first thing one notices about Ramirez’s claims is how problematic her narrative is — including the fact she seemed wholly uncertain about it just days prior.
“For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident,” the piece reads.
“In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
OK, so how do “six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney” make Ramirez’s memories any clearer? While one appreciates Farrow and Meyer’s full disclosure here, clearly he has to understand that an inventory of her memories that took less than a week and occurred with a legal — not psychological — professional might not lend additional credibility to this narrative.
And corroboration? Roughly the same that Kavanaugh’s other accuser was able to produce: “The New Yorker has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party. The magazine contacted several dozen classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh regarding the incident.”
Here was the corroboration they were able to come up with: “Another classmate, Richard Oh, an emergency-room doctor in California, recalled overhearing, soon after the party, a female student tearfully recounting to another student an incident at a party involving a gag with a fake penis, followed by a male student exposing himself. Oh is not certain of the identity of the female student. Ramirez told her mother and sister about an upsetting incident at the time, but did not describe the details to either due to her embarrassment.
“Mark Krasberg, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico who was also a member of Kavanaugh and Ramirez’s class at Yale, said Kavanaugh’s college behavior had become a topic of discussion among former Yale students soon after Kavanaugh’s nomination. In one e-mail that Krasberg received in September, the classmate who recalled hearing about the incident with Ramirez alluded to the allegation and wrote that it ‘would qualify as a sexual assault,’ he speculated, ‘if it’s true.’”
The actual evidence that it was Kavanaugh or Ramirez in the first case wasn’t immediately apparent. In the second case, notice that Krasberg “said Kavanaugh’s college behavior had become a topic of discussion among former Yale students soon after Kavanaugh’s nomination.” If there were emails, surely there was proof he could offer, right? If there was, Farrow documents one email.
All of the people mentioned by Ramirez denied her account or claimed zero memory of it. Three classmates The New Yorker contacted, meanwhile, also vigorously disputed Ramirez’s account.
“We were the people closest to Brett Kavanaugh during his first year at Yale. He was a roommate to some of us, and we spent a great deal of time with him, including in the dorm where this incident allegedly took place,” Dino Ewing, Louisa Garry, and Dan Murphy said in a letter.
“Some of us were also friends with Debbie Ramirez during and after her time at Yale. We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it — and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending. Editors from the New Yorker contacted some of us because we are the people who would know the truth, and we told them that we never saw or heard about this.”
A former friend of Ramirez’s who was married to a male classmate alleged to have been involved also disputed her allegations.
“This is a woman I was best friends with. We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening,” the woman said.
“She said she hadn’t spoken with Ramirez for about 10 years, but that the two women had been close all through college, and Kavanaugh had remained part of what she called their ‘larger social circle,'” Farrow writes. “In an initial conversation with The New Yorker, she suggested that Ramirez may have been politically motivated. Later, she said that she did not know if this was the case.”
Here were some of the other facts Farrow and Meyer believed backed up their narrative: “Former students described an atmosphere at Yale at the time in which alcohol-fuelled parties often led to behavior similar to that described by Ramirez. ‘I believe it could have happened,’ another classmate who knew both Kavanaugh and Ramirez said. Though she was not aware of Kavanaugh being involved in any specific misconduct, she recalled that heavy drinking was routine and that Ramirez was sometimes victimized and taunted by male students in his social circle.”
“It could have happened?” That could be said about almost anything. How non-specific can you get? Also, examples weren’t necessarily given and Ramirez says she continued to be friends with the group.
“Ramirez said that she continued to socialize with one of the male classmates who had egged Kavanaugh on during the party during college; she even invited the classmate to her house for Thanksgiving one year, after he told her that he had nowhere to go,” Ramirez said. “She also attended his wedding, years later, as a guest of his wife, and said that she posed for photographs with Kavanaugh, smiling.”
She claims that she didn’t come forward or disown the group because she was embarrassed of her drinking in that situation. However, this statement belies everything that’s mentioned in the account: “It was a story that was known, but it was a story I was embarrassed about,” Ramirez told The New Yorker.
If that was the case, how come there were so few people they could find who knew about it?
There are a lot more problems in Farrow and Meyer’s account, but one is genuinely surprised he or his editors put this account into print. Most of it seems to rely on innuendo and uncorroborated allegations in an environment where the political felicitousness of the accusations produces a credible motive to either lie or “remember” things in a certain manner not entirely consistent with the truth.
Kavanaugh will almost certainly be questioned about this and his behavior during high school and college before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s entirely appropriate. What isn’t appropriate is publishing allegations that cannot be sourced or corroborated in any discernible fashion. This is #MeToo-as-political-assassination at its worst, and it all crumbles as soon as you read it.
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