Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Martha McCallum Monday in an attempt to reclaim momentum for a bid badly hamstrung by two allegations of sexually inappropriate conduct.
The entire scene was surreal. A man days away from a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will save or doom his chance at the nation’s highest court, talking about his sexual past on national TV.
I went through the transcript and picked out the most important lines. They’re below.
1. “I am looking for a fair process, a process where I can defend my integrity and clear my name.”
“Fair” is the word of this interview. Kavanaugh says it more than a dozen times in the course of the relatively short sitdown. The unspoken point comes through loud and clear: Being forced to endure these accusations without being able to answer them has been deeply unfair in Kavanaugh’s mind. And he wants a chance to level the playing field.
2. “I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not ever.”
This is a total and complete denial, with zero wiggle room. Which means that if either of Kavanaugh’s accusers – Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez – can make a convincing case (or a corroborated case) that Kavanaugh did in fact engage in the behavior they said he did, he’s cooked.
3. “All I am asking for is a fair process where I can be heard.”
Again and again (and again), Kavanaugh turns whatever question he is asked to these two basic points: a) fair process where b) his voice can be heard.
4. “I never had any sexual or physical activity with Dr. Ford.”
This response from Kavanaugh effectively eliminates the theory offered in some conservative circles that Kavanaugh and Ford did have an encounter that he believed to be consensual and she did not. What Kavanaugh has said even to this point in this interview is that there was never any sort of contact between him and Ford. None. Ever.
5. “I’m not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford was sexually assaulted by someone in some place.”
Kavanaugh is trying to walk a very fine line here. He knows that saying that Ford made the whole thing up would not play well in our current cultural moment. So, he says he believes she may well have been assaulted – just not by him.
6. “I never did any such thing. Never did any such thing.”
This is Kavanaugh’s total denial of the allegation made over the weekend by Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they were both freshmen at Yale.
7. “If such a thing had happened, it would have been the talk of the campus.”
It’s hard to know whether – three decades later – what was the “talk of the campus” and what wasn’t. But it is worth noting that The New Yorker, which first wrote about the Ramirez allegations, talked to several people who went to Yale with Kavanaugh and Ramirez who said they had heard about a story similar to the one Ramirez told in the days after the event allegedly occurred. The magazine, however, acknowledged that it “has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party.”
8. “The women I knew in college and the men I knew in college says it is inconceivable that I could have done such a thing.”
Many have. But one of Kavanaugh’s roommates in the fall of 1983 – James Roche – released a statement in which he said he saw Kavanaugh often drinking heavily during that period of time. “Based on my time with Brett, I believe he and his social circle were capable of the actions that Debbie described,” said Roche.
9. “Again, just asking for a fair process where I can be heard and I did defend my integrity.”
I told you he was on message.
10. “The New York Times said they could not corroborate this story and said the person making the accusation had been calling around to other classmates indicating her uncertainty about whether I had ever done such a thing.”
It is true that The New York Times had been pursuing this same story. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The New Yorker spoke to Ramirez on the record. The Times did not. As Times editor Dean Baquet told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple on Monday: “I gather some people thought we were trying to knock down (Ramirez’s) account, but that’s not what we were doing. I’m not questioning their story. We’ve been competing against Ronan Farrow for a year and he’s terrific.”
11. “A letter from friends I knew in high school produced overnight 65 women who knew me in high school.”
This is true. But Kavanaugh’s assertion that all the people who knew him in high school can attest that he was a good kid took a hit on Monday night when The New York Times reported that a woman mentioned in Kavanaugh’s yearbook found the insinuation that she was part of a sexual conquest of his “hurtful” and “untrue.”
12. “When I was in high school – and I went to an all-boys Catholic high school where I was focused on academics and athletics and going to church every Sunday at Little Flower and working on my service projects and friendships.”
Even if you believe that Kavanaugh never did anything like what is being alleged by Ford and Ramirez, this portrait the judge is painting of himself doesn’t comport with the reality that even some of his friends portray of their high school life. The culture in which Kavanaugh operated was of drinking and carousing. Which doesn’t make him guilty of sexual assault. But the idea that he was a choir boy is a bit of a reach.
13. “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.”
Whoa boy. This took a turn. And I did not see it coming.
14. “Many years after. I will leave it that. Many years after.”
So, we have now learned that Brett Kavanaugh, according to Brett Kavanaugh, was a virgin through high school and college and “many years thereafter.” Which is not what I expected to learn when I tuned into this interview.
15. “I would say, fair process. Let me be heard.”
Fair process. Be heard. Fair process.
16. “For the last seven years I’ve been coaching girls basketball. Ask the moms.”
This argument doesn’t really check out. Kavanaugh is making the case that because he coaches his daughters’ basketball teams and the moms of the girls love and trust him, he couldn’t possibly have done what Ford and Ramirez have alleged. Which is simply not true. One does not follow the other. Kavanaugh very well may have done neither of the things that the two women have said he did. But the fact that the moms of the kids he coaches think he is a good dude proves nothing either way,
17. “No, that never happened.”
This is Kavanaugh’s response to a very good McCallum question about whether he ever drank so much that he simply didn’t remember what happened the night before. Kavanaugh’s rejection of that idea is in keeping with his hermetically sealed denial. There was never a moment of his life he doesn’t remember and he remembers he didn’t do these things.
18. “I think everyone is judged on their whole life.”
Here Kavanaugh rejects one of the defenses some have offered of him – when he was young and stupid, he was young and stupid. Kavanaugh says that idea doesn’t apply, that he should be judged on his conduct during his entire life: 15, 17 or 50s.
19. “I just want a fair process where I can be heard.”
20. “I just want a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity defend the integrity of my family.”
21. “I just want an opportunity and a fair process to defend my integrity.”
These are three straight Kavanaugh responses to questions about whether he wonders where all this is coming from and why these women are saying what they are saying. And yes, they are almost verbatim of one another.
22. “I am not going anywhere.”
The argument being made by Kavanaugh allies before and after this interview was that he wanted to do it not out of panic but because he wanted to send a very clear signal to Senate Republicans, some of whom were getting a bit shaky on all of it, that he was in the fight to stay. That he wasn’t backing down and neither should they. This line, which is the most quoted of the interview, does just that.