Republicans’ latest bid to make it seem as if Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was not credibly accused of attempted rape is a striking example of how quickly misinformation spreads in the conservative ecosystem.
Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the top U.S. court in a 50-48 Senate vote last month despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, has been defended by Republicans. Many decided Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that she was the victim of an attempted to rape as a teenager was credible, but said they believed that she had mistaken the identity of her assailant, and that it was not Kavanaugh, as she alleged.
The “mistaken identity” conspiracy theory was promoted by prominent conservatives, including a bizarre series of tweets from a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and Kavanaugh acquaintance that relied on screenshots from Zillow, before inevitably making its way to Fox News.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) suggested Dr. Ford might be “mixed up” about who actually attempted to rape her days before the “mistaken identity” conspiracy theory started to gain traction in conservative media.
Now it appears as though Hatch, who called Dr. Ford an “attractive witness” and shooed away sexual assault survivors last month, is behind another effort to defend Kavanaugh by spreading misinformation.
On Friday evening, Hatch tweeted “Another Kavanaugh accuser has been referred to law enforcement” for fabricating “graphic allegations” against him.
NEW: Another Kavanaugh accuser has been referred to law enforcement after admitting the graphic accusations she made to the committee were “a ploy,” done “for attention,” noting she’s never even met Brett Kavanaugh. https://t.co/D398Ucv7iA pic.twitter.com/u8JHY46GTG
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) November 2, 2018
The conservative outrage machine immediately shifted into overdrive, as Fox News, The Daily Caller, Tina Fey impersonator Sarah Palin, ‘Pizzagate’ truther Mike Cernovich, serial plagiarist Benny Johnson, future Huggies spokesman Charlie Kirk, and former pusher of Russian propaganda Katie Pavlich all breathlessly commented on Hatch’s tweet with varying claims of Kavanaugh’s vindication.
There are some obvious flaws to this line of thinking.
For starters, these “fabricated allegations” were not the focus of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and they received a small fraction of media coverage compared to the credible accusations by Dr. Ford and Deborah Ramirez.
Also, Hatch’s tweet says the supposed Kavanaugh accuser “referred to law enforcement” admitted she “was not the author of the original “Jane Doe” letter.” The Utah Republican is not asserting that the allegations from the anonymous letter are fabricated.
Of course, the facts didn’t matter to the tweeter-in-chief, President Donald Trump, who asked “Can you imagine if (Kavanaugh) didn’t become a Justice of the Supreme Court because of her disgusting False Statements” on Saturday morning.
A vicious accuser of Justice Kavanaugh has just admitted that she was lying, her story was totally made up, or FAKE! Can you imagine if he didn’t become a Justice of the Supreme Court because of her disgusting False Statements. What about the others? Where are the Dems on this?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2018
Trump reacted to the allegations against Kavanaugh by claiming it was a “very scary time for young men,” promoting the conspiracy theory that George Soros was paying sexual assault survivors to protest, implying that he had blackmail material about a Democratic senator, and mocking Dr. Ford at a rally. Trump later insisted that making fun of Dr. Ford helped Kavanaugh get confirmed and falsely claimed the accused attempted rapist had been “proven innocent.”
The president, who has been credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment by over a dozen women, was not able to explain the disconnect between his concerns about “due process” for Kavanaugh and his continued insistence that the Central Park Five are guilty despite being exonerated.
Republicans have also tried to discredit Kavanaugh’s accusers by citing Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti, the attorney who claimed the Supreme Court Justice was present for the gang rape of his client, Julie Swetnick. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) referred Swetnick and Avenatti to the Justice Department (DOJ) for a criminal investigation last week over alleged contradictions between sworn statements and media interviews. Avenatti responded by tweeting, “We welcome the investigation as now we can finally get to the bottom of Judge Kavanaugh’s lies and conduct. Let the truth be known.”
The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein noted Grassley did not refer apparent perjury by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, to the DOJ relating to his infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Nearly a quarter of the Supreme Court has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct.