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Julie Millican

Author ››› Julie Millican
  • Pro-Kavanaugh conspiracy theory suggests Christine Ford hypnotized herself into creating false memory of assault by Kavanaugh

    Study co-author blasts this conspiracy theory as “absolutely ridiculous”


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    An emerging smear of Christine Blasey Ford, who says that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, suggests that Ford created a false memory of the assault while in a hypnotic state.

    Margot Cleveland, a senior contributor to The Federalist, launched the conspiracy theory on Twitter, seizing on an academic article co-authored by Ford, who is a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, and 10 others that is titled, “Meditation With Yoga, Group Therapy With Hypnosis, and Psychoeducation for Long-Term Depressed Mood: A Randomized Pilot Trial.” The conspiracy theory was later posted at The Federalist.

    Cleveland wrote that the article was about “a study in which participants were TAUGHT SELF-HYPNOSIS & noted hypnosis is used to retrieve important memories ‘AND CREATE ARTIFICAL (sic) SITUATIONS’":

    The conspiracy theory has been promoted by Gateway Pundit, which has pushed other hoaxes about Ford, and is spreading on 4chan and Reddit’s r/TheDonald subreddit.

    The implication is that Ford may have hypnotized herself and created a false memory of her account of Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her at a party when she was 15 and he was 17. This is a misreading of the article, which cites research published in 1964 by Stanley Abrams that “suggested that hypnosis could be used to improve rapport in the therapeutic relationship, assist in the retrieval of important memories, and create artificial situations that would permit the client to express ego-dystonic emotions in a safe manner.”

    In terms of self-hypnosis, the article says that “participants also were taught self-hypnosis to use outside the group for relaxation and affect regulation” -- not to create false memories.

    Reached for comment, one of the study’s co-authors, who is being granted anonymity because of harassment and threats surrounding Ford’s decision to speak out, told Media Matters that the claims being spread about Ford and the study are “absolutely ridiculous” and “the study had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of false memories, or the creation of memories of any kind.” The co-author added that Ford was a statistical consultant on the report, not a participant in the study, and that she worked on the data after it was collected.

    This is not the first hypnosis-related conspiracy theory to be spread about Ford. Fox News host Jeanine Pirro has repeatedly suggested that Ford may have been hypnotized by her therapist in 2012.

  • The Fox News interview with Brett Kavanaugh was a sham. Here are seven reasons why.


    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday. Multiple women have come forward in recent days to report that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted them: Christine Blasey Ford has said Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in high school; and Deborah Ramirez has said he exposed himself to her in college.

    Though MacCallum quickly received praise from right-wing media for the interview, she failed to highlight a number of crucial elements and did a poor job of following up on others.

    Here are seven ways the interview was a sham:

    Mark Judge’s history and credibility

    Ford reported that Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge was present in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her. Judge clearly knew Kavanaugh and  wrote about attending his 2005 wedding. He is a conservative writer and recovering alcoholic who has extensively written about his misogyny and drunken escapades in high school. In one story, Judge even wrote about being a peeping Tom when he was younger. Judge’s ex-girlfriend told The New Yorker that he told her a disturbing story about him and his friends taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.

    And yet, MacCallum made just passing references about Judge during the interview and Kavanaugh didn’t acknowledge him at all. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are also resisting calling Judge to testify. Kavanaugh claimed over a dozen times to MacCallum that he wanted a “fair process.” It’s unclear why that process would exclude a key witness.

    Possible coordination between Kavanaugh, The White House, Senate Republicans, and operative Ed Whelan

    Conservative power player and writer Ed Whelan spun a conspiracy theory on Twitter that a doppelganger was the one responsible for the sexual assault of Christine Blasey Ford. The ridiculous theory backfired when it was met with widespread ridicule and Ford herself debunked it.

    After teasing Whelan’s revelation for days, conservative figures quickly denied that Kavanaugh had any prior knowledge of it. Whelan also denied any coordination with Kavanaugh or the White House.

    Whelan’s claim was undermined when Ford shared an email with The Washington Post that showed Whelan reviewed her LinkedIn page before Ford’s name was even public. Ford sent that email to the Post 90 minutes after the paper had asked the White House for comment.

    Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office denied being involved in any coordination with Whelan, even though a staffer appeared to have prior knowledge of what Whelan was about to do.

    There are a lot of questions about how something so unethical could have happened and who knew about it. While MacCallum did not ask about Whelan, Kavanaugh did imply that he thought it was possible that Ford could still be confused as to the identity of her attacker.

    Kavanaugh’s frequent tales of drunken parties and membership to misogynist fraternity and secret society

    Kavanaugh has repeatedly told stories about excessive drinking in college. In his Fox News interview, Kavanaugh implausibly suggested he wasn’t a heavy drinker and claimed that he never drank to the point of blacking out. Materials submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his nomination contain text of several speeches in which Kavanaugh told stories about parties involving heavy drinking and drunken shenanigans. For instance, in a 2014 speech at a Yale Federalist Society banquet, Kavanaugh said:

    In the same speech, Kavanaugh bragged about arranging a party bus to go to a Boston Red Sox game:

    In a 2010 speech at the Yale Law Journal banquet, Kavanaugh also described drinking heavily before his own Law Journal banquet and characterized it as “not a good idea”:

    Kavanaugh also listed himself as the treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club in his high school yearbook, and multiple former classmates described the culture of the school to be one of frequent parties with excessive drinking. His former Yale roommate has stated of Kavanaugh: “He was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. ... I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”

    Additionally, Kavanaugh was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity, which was “notorious for disrespecting women.” The Yale Daily News reported that at the time, a common task for pledges was to raid women’s rooms and take underwear that would be fashioned into a giant flag that was paraded around campus. The DKE fraternity was suspended from 2011-2016 “after videos circulated of fraternity recruits chanting ‘no means yes, yes means anal’ in front of the University’s Women’s Center.” Multiple members have been accused of sexual assault.

    The Yale Daily News also reported that: “In addition to DKE, Kavanaugh also belonged to Truth and Courage, one of Yale’s secret societies for seniors. Among some students, the all-male club, which was popular with athletes, was known by the nickname ‘Tit and Clit.’” Buzzfeed reported that according to alumni, the society was known for being “mostly about drinking.”

    Reports that Kavanaugh likes a “certain look” in his women law clerks.

    During the interview, Kavanaugh bragged about his record of hiring women law clerks. But MacCallum never mentioned recent reporting from The Guardian that a “top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a ‘mentor to women’ privately told a group of law students last year that it was ‘not an accident’ that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all ‘looked like models’ and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him.” Multiple women reported that they were coached on how to dress for an interview with Kavanaugh, including one woman who stated she was told that Kavanaugh hired women “with a certain look.”  

    Does Kavanaugh actually want an FBI investigation or not?

    MacCallum asked Kavanaugh’s wife whether she wanted an FBI investigation into these (and any subsequent) reports. Kavanaugh intervened, giving a non-answer. Instead of pressing for a clear response, MacCallum  instead started a line of questioning about how unfairly Kavanaugh thinks he’s being treated.

    Here’s the transcript, via The Washington Post:

    MACCALLUM: Do you believe there should be an FBI investigation into these allegations and that a pause should happen and, you know, sort it all out? If there’s nothing to worry about and nothing to hide, why not have that process, Ashley? And then I’ll ask you that, Brett.

    KAVANAUGH: I mean, I’ve said all along and Ashley, too, I want to be heard. I was first interviewed last Monday, the day after the allegation appeared by the committee staff under penalty of felony, and I denied this categorically and unequivocally and I said twice during that, I said, “I want a hearing tomorrow,” last Tuesday, a week ago.

    I want an opportunity – a fair process. America’s about fairness, I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity and clear my name as quickly as I can in whatever forum the Senate deems appropriate.

    MACCALLUM: When you hear senators who are on the committee – Senator Mazie Hirono and then you hear from others, you know, the New York Senator Gillibrand, she says, “I believe this woman. I believe all of them. They’re credible, and we all have to believe them.”

    When you hear United States Senators who are making judgments, final judgments, what does that make you think about the presumption of innocence in this country?

    KAVANAUGH: In America, we have fairness. We hear from both sides. I’ve spent my life in the judiciary, the – our judicial system, and part of the judicial systems as I’ve said during my first – my hearing was process protectium (ph). That’s what judges believe that’s what our system was built on, the rule of law, about fair process.

    MACCALLUM: Do you feel unprotected by the process?

    KAVANAUGH: Fair process means hearing from both sides, and I think the process – I want to have an opportunity to defend my integrity and clear my name and have a fair process. A fair process at a minimum – at a bare minimum requires hearing from both sides before rushing –

    MACCALLUM: Right. Let me ask you this. Separately from these allegations, is it fair to judge someone on something they did before they were 18-years-old? When they were 17-years-old, should anything they did then follow them later in life or should it enter into any decisions made about them later in life?

    KAVANAUGH: What I’m here to do is tell you the truth, and this allegation from 36 years ago is not –

    MACCALLUM: But separately from what you’re being accused of just as a judge, if you were looking at this case as a part of what you’re going through and someone said, “This person did that at 17-years-old,” is it fair to judge them on something that when they’re in their 50s, 60s year old?

    KAVANAUGH: I think everyone is judged on their whole life. I’m a good person. I’ve led a good life. I’ve tried to a lot of good for a lot of people. I am not perfect, I know that. None of us is perfect. I’m not perfect, but I’ve never, never done anything like this.

    According to the transcript, Kavanaugh mentioned “fair process” 17  times. And yet thanks to Fox News, we still don’t have a clue what he thinks a fair process would look like, given that he seems to have dismissed the fairest procedure available out of hand.

    At least he’s not up for a job that oversees the entire United States’ justice system.

    The idea that being a virgin in high school would in any way exculpate Kavanaugh

    The weirdest part of the interview was also a non sequitur.

    MacCallum failed to clarify that being a virgin or not has no bearing on whether one attempted sexual assault. Any journalist for a real news network would, at least.

    Some have defended the relevance of the answer by noting that this answer was in response to the account raised by attorney Michael Avenatti. But subsequent discussion between Kavanaugh and MacCallum implies that this is relevant to all of these accounts. At the very least, MacCallum had a responsibility to clear things up. That did not happen.

    The corroborating evidence for Christine Blasey Ford’s report

    MacCallum alleged that there is no corroboration of Ford’s account. That is simply not true.

    The Washington Post reviewed notes from Ford’s therapy sessions and spoke with her husband who also noted that Ford had shared her account in couples therapy in 2012. On the advice of her attorney, Ford also took a polygraph test in August; the results showed she was being truthful in relaying her account of the incident.

    MacCallum disappeared that evidence, saying, “And to this date, no one has corroborated the story that she has told.”

    The interview was a stilted, overproduced sham, and you have Bill Shine to thank.

  • The apathy in the media regarding Brett Kavanaugh is a national scandal

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Picture this: A controversial, deeply unpopular president mired in scandal makes a Supreme Court nomination that his party is desperately trying to jam through the process before virtually anything is known about the nominee. Then, in the middle of it, an anonymous senior official in the president’s administration pens an op-ed in The New York Times that lays out serious questions about the president’s fitness for office and the dangers he poses to the country. You’d think that conversation in the media would focus on the fact that this president -- who is so unstable that his own senior staff members are sounding the alarm -- is about to make a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

    You’d be wrong.

    Let’s start at the beginning. In late June, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, and President Donald Trump moved quickly to nominate Brett Kavanaugh -- a former George W. Bush administration official who currently sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit -- to replace him. Kavanaugh’s path to confirmation has carried all the hallmarks of the Trump administration: conflicts of interest, unprecedented secrecy, violations of norms, whiffs of corruption, and lies.

    Senate Republicans have assisted the Trump White House in obscuring Kavanaugh’s full record, particularly related to his time at the Bush White House. Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) requested only 10 to 15 percent of the documents available from Kavanaugh’s time at the White House. According to Democrats, just 4 percent of Kavanaugh’s White House records were made public at the outset of confirmation hearings. Some 101,921 pages were not released due to a dubious, last-minute claim of executive privilege by the Trump administration. Additionally, mere hours before Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing was to begin, the administration dumped over 40,000 documents on the committee for members to somehow review before the hearing began.

    On top of that, the documents were vetted and cleared by an outside team led by a Republican operative, attorney, and personal friend of Kavanaugh named William Burck before they were released to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This was an unprecedented move that the National Archives, which normally conducts such reviews, went out of its way to distance itself from the document production process, issuing a statement saying that this “has never happened before” and that it did not “represent the National Archives or the George W. Bush Presidential Library.”

    Burck was a close colleague of Kavanaugh’s in the Bush administration, and more recently, as reported by Vox, he also “represented at least three current or former Trump White House officials” -- White House counsel Don McGahn, former Trump chief of staff and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, and former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon -- in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia. But that’s not all: Apparently, Republican leaders did initially think a more complete review of Kavanaugh’s record was appropriate … until they held a private meeting with McGahn in July and abruptly reversed course.

    Even still, using the paucity of documents made available, senators have all but accused Kavanaugh of lying under oath during his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings to become a federal appeals court judge. Back then, to quote Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) from Wednesday’s confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh was questioned “extensively” about a Bush administration-era scandal in which “two Republican [congressional] staffers … regularly hacked into the private computer files of six Democratic senators,” stole thousands of files, then used those files “to assist in getting President Bush's most controversial judicial nominees confirmed.” At the time, as Leahy explained, Kavanaugh repeatedly denied that he had any idea about these activities and claimed he had never received any of the stolen materials. We now know that’s a lie. During Kavanaugh’s first day of questioning, Leahy confronted him with an email clearly showing Kavanaugh was in possession of some of the stolen documents and strongly suggested that Republicans were withholding documents that showed that not only did Kavanaugh receive stolen documents, but he also knew damn well they were stolen. (Leahy showed additional stolen emails sent to Kavanaugh during the second day of questioning, including one with the subject line “spying.”)

    Normally, a Supreme Court nominee apparently committing perjury during a confirmation hearing would be explosive news that’s covered extensively. Normally, reporters would be shouting about the records that continue to be withheld. Normally, they would ask, “What are they hiding?” Such scrutiny is even more important considering the the other major news story of the day -- that a senior administration official published an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times confirming numerous other reports that the White House is a volatile shitshow run by a madman whose fitness for office is routinely questioned by the very people working for him.

    If you thought that would be the tenor of the evening news coverage on September 5, you’d be wrong. For instance, none of the broadcast newscasts reported on the very real possibility -- raised by evidence presented in the hearings -- that Kavanaugh lied under oath about knowingly receiving stolen documents when he worked in the Bush administration. And the controversy surrounding the withholding of documents about his record was hardly mentioned at all. ABC and NBC News made no mention of the extremely contentious issue, while CBS News simply reported that “several Democrats also complained today, like they did yesterday, that they needed more documents to consider this nomination, but Republicans said that was just politics, that they had more documents on Kavanaugh than any nominee in history.”

    Instead, the Beltway press has been far more interested in gossiping about the chaos within the White House than discussing what it expected to be “very long days” filled with “long, boring” testimony. A Media Matters review of the broadcast networks’ morning and evening news programs, for instance, showed that since the first day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings ended, the networks have spent over twice as much time covering leaked passages of Bob Woodward’s upcoming book Fear -- which reported what we already knew about the volatile environment within the White House -- and the anonymous op-ed than they did covering the Kavanaugh hearing.

    What should have already been a newsworthy story about a scandalous process including a potential cover-up should have been even more newsworthy when you consider the fact that this was all happening in order to rush through a Supreme Court pick chosen by a person whose own staff says he isn’t fit to be in office.

    You’d think the press would be interested in covering it.

  • Fox & Friends Cribs RNC Doc To Attack Dems For "Pivoting" To "Jobs"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Fox & Friends aired several segments today criticizing Democrats and President Obama for "pivoting" to "jobs" after the default crisis was resolved. The co-hosts wondered "what's new" about their pledges, as Obama has been "talking about" jobs and the economy "for two years," which they suggested meant Obama wasn't actually as focused on jobs as he claimed to be.

    If this sounds familiar, then you, too, probably read an August 2 Republican National Committee (RNC) research document that made the exact same argument using very similar language.

    At the very least, it seems pretty clear that Fox & Friends' segments were inspired by the RNC's research department. Observe:

    • RNC Says: "Obama will be more focused on saving his own job."
    • Fox & Friends Says: Co-host Steve Doocy said of Obama and Democrats: "Obviously what they're doing is they're trying to protect their jobs."
    • RNC Says: Democrats are "Pivoting in Circles."
    • Fox & Friends Says: Doocy said of Democrats: "They're pivoting so much they're spinning around in a circle."
    • RNC Says: "ObamaCare Was A Distraction From The 'Jobs Problem.' "
    • Fox & Friends Says: Co-host Gretchen Carlson concluded the show's first segment on the topic by saying: "When you look back in history, people will say that he was not talking about jobs when he was talking about health care. ... Many could argue that maybe he should have been talking about jobs, and maybe we wouldn't be at the situation that we are now."
    • RNC Says: The Democrats' "pledges" to focus on jobs "sound familiar."
    • Fox & Friends Says: During their segments, on-screen text aired which said, "Déjà vu? President Offers Similar Strategies In Speech."
    • Fox & Friends Says: Doocy also quipped that Obama's "been talking about the economy and it being fragile, and jobs is his job one for the last two years. So what's new?"
    • ·Fox & Friends Says: Fox & Friends also repeatedly aired a video montage of Obama discussing jobs as his priority during the past two years.

    Of course, this isn't the first time Fox has looked to the Republican Party's research or press releases for inspiration.

  • Predictable: Fox Lobs False Attack At Obama Over His Ramadan Statement

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    On August 1, President Obama issued a statement "on the occasion of Ramadan," in which he and the First Lady extended their "best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world." On August 2, Fox & Friends co-hosts reacted with predictable outrage, falsely declaring that he issued a "proclamation" in honor of the holiday. Reviving their bogus attack on Obama for not issuing an Easter proclamation, the co-hosts whined that Obama did "nothing big" for "Christianity's holiest, most sacred holiday," but for Ramadan he "issued an absolutely lovely statement regarding Ramadan" and "will also host a -- an Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast that occurs after sunset." Of course, their attack falls flat for multiple reasons.

    While the co-hosts acknowledged that Obama hosted the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll, they suggested that the rest of Obama's official recognition of the holiday was limited to a brief "mention ... in his weekend address." In fact, in addition to the Easter Egg Roll and his weekly address, Obama hosted an entire Easter Prayer Breakfast in which he discussed how the "resurrection of" his "savior, Jesus Christ ... puts everything else in perspective." In his very personal speech, Obama quoted the Scripture and said of Jesus' "slow march up that hill" and "the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross" Jesus was subjected to:

    [W]e're reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

    In the words of the book Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

    This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this "Amazing Grace" calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.

    Acknowledging this speech, however, would interfere with Fox & Friends' outrage. So would reporting that no presidential proclamations have been made on Easter for at least the past 20-plus years.

    Which brings me to this: Fox & Friends' claim that Obama issued a "proclamation" for Ramadan is false. He issued a statement in honor of the holiday, but he did not issue a proclamation.

  • Right-Wing Media Cheerlead Default To Defeat Obama In 2012

    ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Recently, right-wing media figures have advised congressional Republicans to refuse to compromise in the debt ceiling debate, even allowing the country to default, because, they argue, the consequences of a default could hurt President Obama in 2012. Economists agree that there could be severe consequences to the economy if the debt ceiling is not raised.

  • Fox & Friends Does Damage Control For Its Corporate Parent

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Media Matters documented that Fox News hasn't spent much time reporting on what is undeniably one of the biggest news stories percolating in the recent news cycle -- News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal. The scandal is so large that even the FBI has gotten involved, reportedly opening a preliminary investigation into News Corp., stemming from allegations that News Corp. journalists sought to hack 9-11 victims' phones. Fox & Friends, in particular, has made scant mention of the scandal, regulating its coverage mainly to news briefs. Until today.

    In what could be seen as a sign that News Corp. is actually terrified about the unfolding and far-reaching hacking scandal, Roger Ailes sent out his favorite attack dogs to defend Fox's parent company. Fox & Friends hosted a segment with Robert Dilenschneider, head of a communications firm, to discuss the issue. In a nutshell, co-host Steve Doocy and Dilenschneider argued that everyone just needed to get over the scandal and move on.

    Here are their arguments:

    1) The "public" and the "media" are "piling on" News Corp., and that needs to stop.

    2) The scandal is no big deal because the Pentagon and other major corporations have been hacked.

    3) News Corp. has done "all the right things" in response to the scandal.

    4) We've got "serious problems in this country right now," so why is the media "talk[ing] about this?"

    5) This happened years ago, so what's the big deal?

    6) Everyone just needs to "move on and deal with the important topics of the day."

  • Right-Wing Media Praised GOP For Walking Out On Default Crisis Talks, Now Attack Obama

    ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

    Following reports that President Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) had a "blow up" while negotiating solutions to the default crisis, in which Cantor accused Obama of "abruptly walking out" of the talks, right-wing media have attacked Obama as a "petulant child" for allegedly doing so. However, in June, right-wing media praised Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) for walking out of default crisis negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden.