Author Page | Media Matters for America

Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • Fox News downplays Khashoggi's murder: “Saudi Arabia is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world”

    Fox host Neil Cavuto:It is a reminder how this one journalist death, tragic though it is, has disproportionately skewed the picture”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News contributor Jonas Max Ferris downplayed the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi by arguing that Saudi Arabia “is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world” and touting the country’s investments in U.S. businesses.

    In response, host Neil Cavuto acknowledged that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, has engaged in oppressive practices against critics. But he also downplayed Khashoggi's murder, saying, “It is a reminder how this one journalist death, tragic though it is, has disproportionately skewed the picture.”

    Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi government, was killed during a visit to a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey earlier this month. After initially claiming that Khashoggi had left the consulate after his October 2 visit, the Saudi Arabian government has now acknowledged that he was killed, implausibly claiming that he died after a fight broke out inside the diplomatic facility.

    Reacting to those developments, Ferris argued that “investors know Saudi Arabia isn’t really the enemy” and that “Saudi Arabia is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world” during the October 20 broadcast of Cavuto Live:

    JONAS MAX FERRIS: They’re turning their oil revenue slowly into an investment fund of epic proportions that keeps Silicon Valley -- it’s one of the major sources of cash --

    NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): And we want to be part of that.

    FERRIS: Of course we do, which is why in some ways the president’s not being diplomatic, which is possibly good. The end of the day, investors know Saudi Arabia isn’t really the enemy. Saudi Arabia is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world, believe it or not. If you go to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is a very excellent site with a database, it’s almost 1,000 journalists killed since 1993. It’s only one in Saudi Arabia and that was by Al Qaeda in 2004.

    Ferris cited a database maintained by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to claim that Saudi Arabia is a safe country for journalists. While he is correct that the database includes the murder of only one journalist in the country, in 2004, Ferris failed to note that Salman has ratcheted up oppression of journalists leading up to Khashoggi being targeted for murder.

    CPJ -- which has called Saudi Arabia’s explanation for Khashoggi’s death “ridiculous” and said that the government “lied to the world” -- has documented the oppressive conditions journalists work under in Saudi Arabia.

    As CPJ explained in an October 6 statement about Khashoggi, “Saudi Arabia's repression of journalists has intensified since Crown Prince Salman rose to power as the apparent heir to the king last year. CPJ recently documented a steadily increasing number of bloggers and journalists detained in unknown locations without charges since the start of what Saudi authorities term an anti-corruption campaign in September 2017.”

  • Infowars co-host says Democrats break election laws; also confesses he'll vote in a district he doesn't live in

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Harrison Smith, a contributor to Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet, said that he is going to vote in a district he doesn’t live in because he failed to update his voter registration before Texas’ deadline. The comment came during a segment in which Smith introduced himself as one of the co-hosts of a new Infowars show focused on 2018 midterm election coverage and accused Democrats of breaking election laws.

    Smith announced the new show during the October 9 edition of Infowars’ weekday afternoon show War Room, which is broadcast on Facebook, Infowars.com, and through terrestrial radio. War Room host Owen Shroyer and Jones will join Smith in hosting the show, which will air for two hours every weeknight until the November 6 elections under the banner “Banned 2018 Midterm Election Coverage.” Disturbingly, Infowars’ claims about elections have been previously promoted by the president: Trump’s lie that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally” originated with the outlet.

    Speaking to Shroyer, Smith encouraged listeners to register to vote before deadlines to “match these numbers that the Democrats are talking about,” and then said, “Don’t put it off until the last day like I admit I did. I was on my way to the post office to mail my voter registration when I get a call saying, ‘Hey, can you host the War Room today?’ So I will have to go back to my old district to vote this year.” Shroyer responded, “Oh, my gosh. I cost you a vote.”

    Texas law requires that individuals who move from one county to another submit a new voter registration application in person or via mail. Smith, who is based in Austin, TX, where Infowars’ studios are located, does not appear in public records of voters registered in Travis County, where Austin is located. He does, however, have an active voter registration in a different Texas county located more than 150 miles from Austin that started on January 1 and runs through 2019. Texas has been hypervigilant in prosecuting illegal voting cases, even in instances where the person being prosecuted didn’t realize they were violating voting laws.

    Moments later, Shroyer accused Democrats of violating election laws. Shroyer said that Democrats are trying to “rig” the upcoming elections by eliminating the Electoral College, advocating for 16-year-olds to vote, and “obviously the old story, the non-citizen vote, the illegal immigrant vote.”

    Shroyer told Infowars supporters, “Go to a Democrat event in your town where they’re registering people to vote and you watch them politicize it and force their hand, make them admit they’re politicizing it, make them admit they’re out there recruiting for Democrats, catch them on camera, then say, ‘Guess what, buddy? I just caught you breaking the law.’”

    Shroyer suggested reporting election law violations to Texas officials and said, “Better watch out, Democrats, your desperation is leading you down a long, dark pathway of illegal criminal behavior that’s going to catch up with you.” Smith responded, “If only law applied to Democrats like it does to conservatives.”

  • Hugh Hewitt and Sen. Tom Cotton go to the fever swamps in Kavanaugh nomination postmortem

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) are pushing a conspiracy theory that professor Christine Blasey Ford’s decision to speak out about then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was actually orchestrated by Democratic leaders in the Senate. The version of events proposed by Hewitt and Cotton is at odds with reports on how Ford decided to come forward, and it serves to undercut Ford’s bravery.

    Cotton was a guest on the October 9 broadcast of Hewitt’s radio show, The Hugh Hewitt Show. Hewitt prompted the conspiracy theory by asking Cotton if he thought “that this was planned long before it was unveiled? And by that, I mean the leak of Dr. Ford’s letter. I don’t know who did it, but I believe it was part of a campaign that was set up to occur exactly when it did. Do you agree with me?”

    Cotton did agree, and he wove an evidence-free conspiracy theory that as early as July, “the Schumer political operation” -- a reference to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- and possibly former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara were involved in a plan to leak the contents of a letter Ford had sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). In the letter, Ford gave an account of Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school.
     

    This conspiratorial timeline is at odds with reality. Ford sent a letter dated July 30 to Feinstein and asked that the California senator keep its contents confidential. The Intercept was the first to report on the letter, writing on September 12 that it “describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school” and that Feinstein was refusing to share its contents with other senators, which “created tension on the committee.” According to Politico, “The reporter behind that [Intercept] story later stated that Feinstein’s staff did not leak the letter.”

    Ford came forward publicly in a September 16 Washington Post article. She said later during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the presence of reporters at her home and workplace made her realize her identity would be revealed in any case, so she decided to speak on the record with a reporter at the Post who she said had gained her trust.

    Hewitt has a history of being dishonest while discussing federal judicial nominations, but political talk shows still treat him as a mainstream conservative commentator when they bring him on to talk about the topic. While previously his falsehoods served to provide cover for the GOP to radically change norms around the nomination process, he has now sunk to pushing a conspiracy theory.

    Cotton, for his part, has his own history of underhanded behavior on executive branch nominations. In 2014, Cotton placed a hold on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Cassandra Butts to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas. More than two years after her nomination was announced, Butts, who Cotton acknowledged was not a controversial nominee, died of leukemia at age 50, with Cotton’s hold still in place. Before she died, Butts told The New York Times that she had visited Cotton to ask about the hold and he said he knew she was friends with Obama and the hold was a way to inflict personal pain on the president.

  • This American Life falls for Jeff Flake’s gimmick

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Among U.S. senators, perhaps no one bears more responsibility for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court than Arizona’s Jeff Flake. The retiring Republican senator has made a cottage industry in recent months out of his willingness to break away from Republican Party orthodoxy surrounding President Donald Trump. But he does so in entirely symbolic gestures, nearly always supporting the president's agenda whenever it comes to a vote.

    Flake deployed a variation of this tired schtick on September 28, when he inserted himself into Kavanaugh’s confirmation process by saying he would oppose the vote on the Senate floor unless the FBI was given one week to reopen its background investigation into Kavanaugh.

    While Flake received some plaudits for attaching this caveat to his vote, there is little evidence that he deserved the praise. Of course the FBI’s process was controlled by the Senate’s GOP leadership and the White House -- not Flake -- and their investigation predictably ended up being a sham, extremely limited in both scope and time. What’s worse: The farce of an investigation provided a pretext for senators who were receiving the strongest pressure to vote no -- most notably Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Flake himself -- to push Kavanaugh over the finish line instead.

    This American Life, a weekly public radio program and podcast with an estimated audience of nearly 5 million listeners, published an October 5 episode in which producer Zoe Chace followed and interviewed Flake throughout the confirmation process. Unfortunately, the typically illuminating program fell short in this instance by casting Flake in the softest and most credulous light possible.

    The episode glorified the moment when Flake set in motion the sham FBI investigation, with Chace narrating that Flake’s move preserved “the integrity of the process on the Senate Judiciary Committee.” It also celebrated Flake’s all talk, no action approach as something admirable and sorely needed in today’s politics -- even as Flake himself acknowledged to Chace that in his view “he could never have done something like this if he were still running for office”:

    ZOE CHACE: Preserving the integrity of the process on the Senate Judiciary Committee is a much less romantic story than the one about two survivors of sexual assault changing a senator's mind at the last second. That's what happened, though.

    And finally, that day, the world sees Jeff Flake find a third way. It's something he's been looking for for a long time on a lot of issues -- a way to vote with his Republican colleagues, but stand for certain principles with the Democrats. It's the weirdest niche. But he's a weirdo right now -- a ghost Republican. He doesn't really have a constituency he's speaking for, being anti-Trump but pro- his policies.

    He's retiring from the Senate in a few months. As he says, he could never have done something like this if he were still running for office. There's no value to reaching across the aisle, he says. There's no currency for that anymore. If you do that, you'll lose. So there is not much crossing over to the other side ever, by anybody -- which is maybe why, when you do cross over, this is what happens.

    Chace also adopted Flake’s claim about Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, saying the senator “found Ford credible and convincing, but he came back, over and over, to the fact that there was nothing corroborating her testimony. No one else could put him in the room that night.”

    Setting aside the credulous repetition of the bizarre GOP talking point that Ford is credible and convincing yet also totally mistaken about who attacked her, the claim about corroboration is misleading at best. Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were both in high school was corroborated by conversations Ford had in therapy, with her husband, and with friends and other family members prior to his Supreme Court nomination. And the GOP-controlled FBI investigation ensured that no contemporaneous corroboration would be uncovered, despite compelling evidence -- such as an entry on Kavanaugh’s calendar showing that he was drinking with the same people Ford said were at the party during the time frame in which she said the assault occurred. The FBI investigation was also not permitted to independently verify employment records for key witness Mark Judge, an action Ford herself suggested to the Senate Judiciary Committee would help to narrow the time frame of the alleged assault for a more thorough investigation.

    More broadly, it would be an understatement to characterize the collegial exchanges between Flake and Chace throughout the segment as a softball interview. In one scene, the two met up in New York City, where Flake was speaking at an event the day after he made his FBI investigation gambit. Chace noted that presumably liberal New Yorkers approached the senator and asked him to pose for pictures, which she took for them. Later the reporter and the senator laughed as she asked, “Do you think they know that you're going to vote for Kavanaugh?”

    Chace’s interviews with Flake focused on the optics and political horse race aspects of the Kavanaugh nomination while ignoring real-world impacts. For example, the program didn’t force Flake to explain to women what it means to have yet another justice confirmed to the Supreme Court despite multiple credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Or what it means to have a new Supreme Court justice who is fresh off of delivering a highly unusual and partisan rant before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or what it means to confirm a nominee who clearly lied under oath numerous times in testimony, something that Flake had told 60 Minutes would be a deal breaker. (Clearly when it was time for him to vote, it wasn’t.)

    Instead, the program focused primarily on what it's like to be the senior senator from Arizona, right now. “Jeff Flake's had a rough few years,” Chace reflected after he called for the FBI investigation but before he announced he was voting to confirm Kavanaugh. “They hate him on the right, and he keeps disappointing the left. It feels good, for once, to be popular.”

    The segment closed with one last interview after Flake had done what most expected and voted for Kavanaugh. Chace asked, “Do you feel better now? You're kind of back among your people. You had kind of a week with the Democrats celebrating you, but you're back among your people.”

    “Do I have people?” Flake responded. “I guess so. I am a man, temporarily, without a party,” he said, laughing.   

  • Conservative media run with flawed FBI investigation and GOP's spin to vindicate Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media are hyping claims from the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that the results of an FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh do not corroborate multiple women’s accounts that he sexually assaulted them while at the same time attacking anyone who pointed out flaws in the investigation. The FBI investigation was extremely limited in scope and time; did not include interviews of Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, or approximately 40 others who say they tried to talk to the FBI but couldn’t get through; and did not look into the likelihood that Kavanaugh lied in his Senate testimony. Ford, whose report that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school is central to determining Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court, offered to speak with the FBI, but was rebuffed.

    Trump and Senate Republicans purposely limited the scope of the FBI investigation

    The FBI was initially authorized by the Trump administration and Senate Republicans to interview just four people. From The New York Times:

    Mr. Trump ordered the one-week F.B.I. investigation on Friday after Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a key swing vote, insisted the allegations be examined before he committed to voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. But the White House and Senate Republicans gave the F.B.I. a list of only four people to question: Ms. Ramirez and Mark Judge, P.J. Smyth and Leland Keyser, three people Dr. Blasey identified as being at the house where she said Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. [The New York Times, 10/1/18]

    Trump later reportedly authorized the FBI to interview more witnesses, but still kept it limited by an arbitrary deadline. From The New York Times:

    The White House authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh by interviewing anyone it deems necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

    At an event on Monday celebrating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, President Trump said he instructed his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, over the weekend to instruct the F.B.I. to carry out an open investigation, but the president included the caveat that the inquiry should accommodate the desires of Senate Republicans.

    The new directive came after a backlash from Democrats, who criticized the White House for limiting the scope of the bureau’s investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The F.B.I. has already interviewed the four witnesses it was originally asked to question, and on Monday it reached out to others. [The New York Times, 10/1/18]

    In the end, only 10 witnesses were reportedly interviewed. [Twitter, 10/4/18]

    The investigation finished within only a few days. CNN reported that the White House sent the information gleaned from the investigation to the Senate on the morning of October 4, just days after the investigation was set into motion on September 28. [CNN, 10/4/18]

    The FBI reportedly did not investigate whether Kavanaugh lied to the Senate. New York magazine’s The Cut noted that, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the FBI did not investigate whether Kavanaugh perjured himself by lying about his high school and college behavior:

    What’s not being investigated is Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school and college, which his classmates say was defined by partying and drinking to excess, at which point the SCOTUS nominee would allegedly become “aggressive” —accounts that drastically differ from those Kavanaugh offered while under oath. Some senators, including Bernie Sanders, have raised concern over the FBI’s apparent disregard for the likelihood that Kavanaugh may have perjured himself.

    “The FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh must include a review of his numerous untruthful statements in his previous testimony before Congress,” Sanders tweeted. “Lying to Congress is a federal crime.” He then outlined the numerous examples in which Kavanaugh appears to have lied under oath. [The Cut, 10/3/18]

    Neither Kavanaugh nor Ford were interviewed by the FBI. Kavanaugh repeatedly lied under oath about his behavior in high school and college, but he didn’t have to defend his statements during an FBI interview. Ford sought to speak with the FBI, but was turned down. From Vox:

    Notably, Ford and Kavanaugh are both not yet on the list of people that the FBI has interviewed. A spokesperson for Ford’s attorneys said she had still not been contacted by the FBI as of early Wednesday afternoon.

    “We have received no response from anyone involved in this investigation, and no response to our offer for Dr. Ford to be interviewed,” Ford’s attorneys emphasized in a Tuesday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This afternoon, we learned of media reports that the FBI does not intend to interview either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh. We hope that this reporting is inaccurate.”

    There could be a crucial reason for their omission from the investigation. Sources have told Bloomberg that the FBI has not done interviews with Ford or Kavanaugh because the White House hasn’t granted it the authority to conduct them. [Vox, 10/3/18]

    NBC News: “More than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI.” [NBC News, 10/4/18]

    Legal and criminal experts explain that conditions Trump placed upon the FBI investigation make it a sham

    Chris Kang, former Obama administration deputy counsel: “President Trump and Senate Republicans are turning this much-needed FBI investigation into a sham. … The entire investigation must be made public, so the American people can know which witnesses were interviewed and whether the FBI was able to follow a full range of questioning, including regarding Kavanaugh's candor and credibility.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Mike Zubrensky, former deputy assistant attorney general at DOJ Office of Legal Counsel: “The investigation of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct is far too serious for a rigged process. … Senator Flake and his Senate colleagues must insist that McConnell respect the confirmation process. And they should demand that the FBI take the time it needs to conduct a thorough and meaningful investigation.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence: “Existing background investigation protocols between the White House and the FBI regarding presidential appointees are flawed and need to be reexamined. ... When the White House can prevent the nation’s premier investigative agency from fully determining the suitability of a Supreme Court nominee we have a problem.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Kristine Lucius, former top legal and policy advisor to Sen. Patrick Leahy: “During my over 14 years on the committee, I can’t remember any supplemental investigation in which the FBI did not interview the person who brought forth the allegations, and the nominee himself. … That has been – and must remain – a minimum base line for credibility. No senator should even consider agreeing to proceed with this nomination unless and until the FBI investigation is determined to be thorough and unfettered.” [The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 10/3/18]

    Former FBI officials said past background checks were not limited by politics. From The New York Times:

    Several former F.B.I. officials said that they could think of no previous instance when the White House restricted the bureau’s ability to interview potential witnesses during a background check. Chuck Rosenberg, a former F.B.I. chief of staff, said background investigations were frequently reopened, but the bureau decided how to pursue new allegations.

    “The White House normally tells the F.B.I. what issue to examine, but would not tell the F.B.I. how to examine it, or with whom they should speak,” he said. “It’s highly unusual — in fact, as far I know, uniquely so — for the F.B.I. to be directed to speak only to a limited number of designated people.” [The New York Times, 10/1/18]

    Leah Litman, UC Irvine assistant law professor: Restricted FBI investigation makes it “a joke.” From The New Yorker:

    Leah Litman, an assistant professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, said the severe restrictions on the scope of the investigation made it “a joke.” She asked, “What kind of an investigation into an assault that happened under the influence of alcohol doesn’t include investigating the accused’s use of alcohol?” She said, “Usually, the F.B.I. investigators aren’t told who to call and who not to.” She said that Rasor should be interviewed, given her past relationship with Judge. “If Mark Judge is on the ‘approved’ list of witnesses, and they are interviewing him, there is no reason not to interview Rasor, who has testimony that is very relevant to his credibility, and the testimony that he would offer,” she said. [The New Yorker, 9/30/18]

    John Mindermann, former FBI special agent: The restrictions on the probe means it’s not a “real, authentic FBI investigation.” From an October 4 MSNBC interview:

    JOHN MINDERMANN (FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT): What will be laid out within the limits of the scope and the time that the FBI had to do the investigation will be a portrait of the individual who is being investigated. That's in any background check. The key to a background check is comprehensive running out of all available leads. Apparently in this case, those leads, which were available, were not run out by the FBI because of the limits of time and scope. That is very, very problematic because that limits the overall portrait. It's like taking the brush out of the hand of the painter midway through the portrait session. What will be in there will be, corroborating or not, statements, data, information, times, dates, et cetera, that may or may not corroborate specific allegations that were brought forward.

    HALLIE JACKSON (HOST): We know that the FBI has spoken with nine people that have been interviewed. And we know the names of six of them. We don't know who the other three people are. We know that they originally contacted 10 people. It's not clear to us just yet, based on our sources, why that 10th person was not actually interviewed. You can see who we know and who we don't know there. Dr. Ford's attorney says because she's not on this list -- right, you don't see Christine Blasey Ford on that screen right there -- so her lawyer says this can't be called an investigation. The FBI was not actually seeking the truth. So John, do you agree? Is this a comprehensive investigation or not?

    MINDERMANN: I actually agree that really this does not fall under the definition of a real, authentic FBI investigation. It really is an investigation which is just limited in terms of targeting specific individuals, and for reasons unknown, eliminating a vast majority of people who could have provided corroborating evidence, corroborating information, positive, negative, neutral, whatever. But in an FBI investigation -- and I've done these and I've supervised these -- in these investigations, you encourage your agents to go out, cover all bases, run out all leads, develop that comprehensive look so that whoever is looking at this is well versed and can make that judgment call. This is a judgment call. There's a lot of subjectivity if you don't have factual information. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson, 10/4/18]

    Conservative media figures carry water for the sham investigation -- and treat its spin by GOP officials -- as vindication for Kavanaugh

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity:

    Conservative pundit Erick Erickson:

    Erickson:

    Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk:

    Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume:

    Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro: The FBI didn't need to talk to Ford because "there is nothing else to ask her. There is nothing else that they need to do”:

    Fox & Friends applauded the investigation by claiming "the very narrow scope" avoided "tangents":

    CRTV’s Allie Stuckey:

  • Brett Kavanaugh lied repeatedly. News reports and personal accounts prove it.

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE, LEANNE NARAMORE & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is a petulant liar -- about matters large and small -- and he often tells his lies under oath. During his confirmation hearings with Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh’s falsehoods have run the gauntlet from repeatedly lying that Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted by him has been “refuted” by witnesses, to lying about his behavior in high school and college, to repeatedly lying about the policies he worked on in the Bush administration. Kavanaugh is such a brazen liar that many of his false claims have been entirely refuted by reporting:

    Here are some of Kavanaugh’s lies:

    Kavanaugh repeatedly claimed Ford’s accusation has been “refuted” by others who she said attended the party -- even though the other attendees have said no such thing. Kavanaugh seized on the word “refuted” when responding to Ford’s report, claiming in five instances that the three people who Ford says were at the party when Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her had “refuted” her account. That’s an obvious misrepresentation of what those people have said. They have actually all said that they don’t recall the party in question -- a major difference from saying something didn’t happen. And Ford’s friend Leland Keyser has said that although she doesn’t remember the party in question, she believes Ford is telling the truth.

    Kavanaugh said he “did not travel in the same social circles” as Ford, but he did. During prepared remarks, Kavanaugh said that Ford “and I did not travel in the same social circles. It is possible that we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that.” But Ford testified that she went out with one of Kavanaugh’s friends, whose name appears 13 times in Kavanaugh’s calendar.

    Kavanaugh attempted to fabricate an alibi by suggesting he did not drink on weekdays and was out of town almost every weekend night of the summer of 1982. Kavanaugh claimed that the incident Ford described “presumably happened on a weekend” and suggested that he and his friends didn’t drink during the week because of their jobs while adding he was “out of town almost every weekend night before football training camp started in late August.” In doing so, Kavanaugh attempted to falsely imply that he did not attend the type of get-together that Ford described. Kavanaugh’s lie is readily apparent in the calendars he provided the committee and a contradictory statement he made acknowledging “the calendars show a few weekday gatherings at friends’ houses after a workout or just to meet up and have some beers.” In particular, great attention has focused on his July 1 calendar entry -- a Thursday -- that showed he was having “[brew]skis” with some of the people Ford said were at the party.

    Kavanaugh said he had no connection to Yale University prior to attending undergrad and law school there, but he was a legacy admittee. While denying that he was a heavy drinker in college who drank to the point of blacking out, Kavanagh said, “I got into Yale Law School -- that’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there; I got in there by busting my tail at college.” In fact, Kavanaugh’s grandfather Everett Edward Kavanaugh attended Yale, making Kavanaugh a legacy student.

    Kavanaugh denied every blacking out from drinking and downplayed his alcohol consumption as a young man, but numerous Yale classmates say he was a belligerent drunk. Kavanaugh became angered under questioning from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) after she asked him if he ever blacked out from excessive drinking. In response, Kavanaugh pressed Klobuchar if she had ever blacked out and claimed that he doesn’t have a drinking problem. The New York Times reported that “nearly a dozen” of Kavanaugh’s classmates “said they recalled his indulging in heavy drinking, with some characterizing it as outside the norms of college life.” His freshman roommate James Roche said Kavanaugh was “frequently unusually drunk” and would become “belligerent and mean,” while classmate Charles “Chad” Ludington said Kavanaugh was “a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker.” Classmate Elizabeth Swisher called Kavanaugh’s claim he never blacked out “a lie” based on her observation of his behavior at the time. Classmate Lynne Brookes told CNN that she and her former classmates were texting each other during the hearing that Kavanaugh was lying about his college drinking habits.

    Kavanaugh cited Maryland’s drinking age in explaining his behavior, even though he was too young to legally drink in any case. Twice during his testimony, Kavanaugh cited what he said had been Maryland’s drinking age, saying that “the drinking age was 18 in Maryland for most of my time in high school” and “the drinking age, as I noted, was 18 so the seniors were legal.” But Maryland raised the drinking age from 18 to 21 when Kavanaugh was 17, meaning his implication that he was a legal drinker was a lie.

    Kavanaugh said he didn’t live close to Columbia Country Club, but he did. Ford testified that the assault occurred at a house close to Columbia Country Club, where both her family and Kavanaugh’s family were members. During his opening statement, Kavanaugh said, “In her letter to Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), she said that there were four other people at the house, but none of those people, nor I, lived near Columbia Country Club.” But Kavanaugh did live close to the club, according to a map used during the hearing. His house was approximately 3.5 miles from the club. In general, all of the individuals in question lived in the suburban Maryland area surrounding the club.

    Kavanaugh lied about him and his friends’ juvenile yearbook joke targeting female acquaintance. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned Kavanaugh about the text he included on his yearbook page that read “Renate Alumnius,” which refers to Renate Dolphin, an attendee of a local all-girls school. Other references to Dolphin in Kavanaugh’s yearbook make it clear that she was the target of a joke that implied she had had sexual relations with Kavanaugh and his friends. Under questioning, Kavanaugh played off the reference as merely an attempt at “affection” among he and his friends, and blamed the media “circus” for the term being interpreted as relating to sex, which it clearly was. Dolphin, who had signed a letter of support for Kavanaugh, became aware of the yearbook references and told The New York Times, “I can't begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”

    Kavanaugh said the “devil’s triangle” reference in his yearbook refers to a drinking game (that no one has ever heard of). Kavanaugh told Whitehouse that “devil’s triangle” was a drinking game played with three glasses and quarters. But the term is commonly used to refer to a sex act involving two men and a woman. Pete Davis, who attended high school in Washington, D.C., told Current Affairs, “Every guy who went to my D.C.-area high school knows what ‘devil’s triangle’ means. I’m sure Brett Kavanaugh knows what it means, too.”

    Kavanaugh said “boofing” yearbook reference was about flatulence. Both Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her, made references to boofing in the yearbook. Kavanaugh said during the hearing, “That refers to flatulence, we were 16.” Boofing is actually a term for anal sex. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted on Twitter, “Urban Dictionary has the definition of ‘boof’ that I recall from high school in the 1980s and it wasn't flatulence.”

    Kavanaugh attempted to explain that his membership and title in the “Beach Week Ralph Club, Biggest Contributor” was related to his aversion to spicy food. Asked by Whitehouse about “ralphing,” Kavanaugh said it could be a reference to alcohol-related vomiting, but then went on a long explanation of his famously “weak stomach,” saying, “The last time I was here, you asked me about having ketchup on spaghetti. … I got a weak stomach, whether it’s with beer or spicy food or anything.” Whitehouse asked a follow-up question, “So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference related to the consumption of alcohol?” Kavanaugh didn’t answer -- instead he listed his academic achievements in high school.

    Kavanaugh mischaracterized a memoir about teenage alcoholism written by Judge. Judge wrote a memoir documenting his alcoholism and antisocial behavior as a young man. In the book, Judge mentions a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who passes out in a car from drinking. Kavanaugh told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) during the hearing that Judge’s book is “fictionalized.” The title page of the book says, “This book is based on actual experiences.” During the questioning, Kavanaugh refused to say whether he was the “Bart O’Kavanaugh” mentioned in Judge’s book, saying, “You’d have to ask him.” On October 2, The New York Times reported that Kavanaugh wrote a letter in 1983 that characterized he and his friends as “loud, obnoxious drunks” that he signed with the name “Bart,” which The Times explained was Kavanaugh’s nickname at Georgetown Prep.

    Kavanaugh denied under oath that he had watched Ford’s testimony, but The Wall Street Journal reported that he did just that. Ford spoke before Kavanaugh at the hearing. When Kavanaugh was asked whether he watched Ford’s testimony, he said, “I did not. I planned to, but I did not, as I was preparing mine.” But a judiciary committee aide told The Wall Street Journal that Kavanaugh was watching “from a monitor in another room in the Dirksen Senate Building.” WSJ uncritically repeated Kavanaugh’s statement from the hearing in an update to its initial report.

    Kavanaugh said that he first became aware of Deborah Ramirez’s report that he exposed himself to her in college when it was published in the press, but that isn’t true. While being questioned by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Kavanaugh said that he first learned that Ramirez said he exposed his penis to her when they both attended Yale “in the last -- in the period since then, in the New Yorker story.” But according to NBC News, “In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.”

    Kavanaugh either lied about being a virgin for “many years” after high school to Fox News, or lied to a Yale classmate that he was not a virgin. Kavanaugh raised eyebrows with his claim during a Fox News interview when he said, “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.” Beyond the fact that Kavanaugh has been reported for sexual misconduct and assault, not rape, a former Yale classmate disputed Kavanaugh’s claim on the basis of things Kavanaugh himself said when they were in college.

    Kavanaugh acted like he never heard of the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres where his good friend works as a partner. During the first round of confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh was caught off guard when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked if he had discussed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, which was founded by Trump’s personal lawyer. Kavanaugh reacted to the question with befuddlement. But Kasowitz Benson Torres employs Ed McNally, a close friend who worked at the Bush White House with Kavanaugh, and who was also part of a testimonial put out by the Republican National Committee in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

    Kavanaugh said documents stolen from Democrats that he received from a GOP operative didn’t raise any red flags with him, even though they were marked for internal use. Kavanaugh’s receipt of emails stolen from Democratic offices during a time when he worked on judicial confirmations for the Bush administration has plagued him for years. Kavanaugh has always denied that he had any reason to believe the emails he received were stolen, but Leahy called out his claim during the initial confirmation hearings. Leahy presented Kavanaugh with emails clearly marked for internal use, including one with the subject line “spying.” Kavanaugh repeated his denial, leading Leahy to say, “Judge, I was born at night, but not last night.”

    Kavanaugh previously testified he didn’t work on the confirmation of controversial judge William Pryor, but he did. During his 2004 confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, Kavanaugh was adamant that he had not worked on Pryor’s nomination besides participating in a “moot court argument.” During his 2018 confirmation hearings, Leahy confronted Kavanaugh with emails indicating otherwise.

    Kavanaugh said he grew up in “a city plagued by gun violence,” but he actually grew up in Bethesda, MD, which was not plagued by gun violence. Kavanaugh seemed to reference Washington, D.C., during his initial hearing, claiming, “I am a native of this area, I’m the native of an urban-suburban area, I grew up in a city plagued by gun violence, and gang violence, and drug violence.” In fact, he grew up in wealthy and low-crime Bethesda, MD.

    Kavanaugh denied knowing that disgraced Judge Alex Kozinski oversaw a work environment hostile to women, leaving other people who clerked for Kozinski scratching their heads. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, who abruptly resigned in 2017 when facing multiple reports of sexual misconduct. Kozinski had previously been criticized in 2008 for operating “a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos,” and for running a sexually explicit email list. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned Kavanaugh about his relationship to the disgraced judge, and he denied knowing about any impropriety Kozinski was involved in, including denying knowledge of Kozinski’s widely known email list even though its existence has been public for 10 years. Former Kozinski clerk Heidi Bond wrote for Slate: “Having clerked in his chambers, I do not know how it would be possible to forget something as pervasive as Kozinski's famously sexual sense of humor or his gag list.”

  • 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”

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    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.

  • Right-wing conspiracy theorists now claim Christine Blasey Ford is “deeply tied to the CIA”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservative radio host and conspiracy theorist Michael Savage is promoting a rapidly spreading conspiracy theory that professor Christine Blasey Ford, who says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, has “deep” connections to the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Savage has pushed incredibly bizarre conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric, and he has been closely connected to President Donald Trump and the White House. He pushed the latest conspiracy theory on Twitter and his website:

    Savage’s conspiracy theory makes three claims about Ford’s connections to the CIA, all of which are false or baseless:

    1. The post claims that Ford “happens to head up the CIA undergraduate internship program at Stanford University.” This claim seems to originate from a conspiracy theory website, brassballs.blog, that drew this conclusion because Stanford does have an undergraduate CIA internship program, and Ford, who is a psychology professor at nearby Palo Alto University, is also listed as an “affiliate” in the “psychiatry and behavioral sciences” department at Stanford. The blog post argues that it is suspicious that Ford’s contact information has been deleted from her Stanford profile page, although the more likely explanation is that it has been removed due to the threats and harassment that Ford has received since coming forward.

    2. The theory draws another connection between Ford and the CIA via her brother’s previous work for law firm BakerHostetler. A previous Ford-related conspiracy theory connected her brother’s work at BakerHostetler to Fusion GPS, a research firm involved in the ongoing Russian collusion investigation. However, Ford’s brother left BakerHostetler six years before Fusion GPS was ever founded. Savage’s conspiracy theory repeats this false claim and goes even further, claiming that three CIA-controlled businesses are located in the same building as BakerHostetler. There is no evidence these businesses are connected to the CIA -- in fact, one, Red Coats, Inc., is a janitorial company that does not even share office space with BakerHostetler.

    3. Savage’s post also claims that Ford is the granddaughter of Nicholas Deak, who worked with the CIA during the Cold War. According to his 1985 Washington Post obituary, Deak only had one child, a son named R. Leslie Deak. But as the conspiracy theory’s second claim also notes, Ford’s father is actually Ralph Blasey Jr.

    Savage’s false claim is rapidly spreading, and was promoted during Alex Jones’ September 28 broadcast. The conspiracy theory is also indicative of how search platforms like Google amplify such clear falsehoods. A Google search for “Christine Ford CIA” done in a private browsing window aggregated YouTube videos pushing the conspiracy theory and Savage’s website as the top results:

    The CIA conspiracy theory is just one of several false narratives related to Ford’s brother. A claim that he also worked with former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s sister-in-law has been spreading on voat and 4chan, and has turned into a meme spreading on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Pro-Kavanaugh media push conspiracy theory about Christine Blasey Ford’s polygraph

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media defenders of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to make hay over the fact that Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, didn’t know who paid for a polygraph exam she took.

    Prior to coming forward publicly, Ford underwent a polygraph exam in which she was questioned about her recollection of the assault. The exam concluded that her answers were “not indicative of deception.”

    Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee hired to question Ford in their place at today’s hearing, asked Ford who paid for the exam. Ford said she didn’t know.

    In an exchange later in the hearing, Ford’s attorneys said that they paid for the exam, “as is routine.”

    There is nothing unusual about lawyers paying for their client's polygraph test. It is the same process through which they, rather than the client, would typically select an expert witness for a legal proceeding and then later bill the client -- or not bill the client if the legal work was being done on a pro bono basis, as it is in this instance.

    Before the question of who paid for the polygraph was resolved, conservative media started arguing that it proved … something.

    Conservatives also took issue with Ford saying she wasn’t sure if she took the polygraph exam the day of or the day after her grandmother’s funeral, as if that were a reflection of the truthfulness of her account:

  • Conservative media latch on to prosecutor's bizarre questions about Christine Blasey Ford's flying habits

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservatives are claiming that they have found an issue on which to discredit Christine Blasey Ford: her fear of flying.

    As Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor Republican committee members hired to ask questions on their behalf, asked Ford at length about the times she has flown on an airplane.

    This line of questioning followed previous reporting that Ford has a fear of flying and did not want to fly to Washington, D.C., for the hearing. And indeed, Ford told senators that she finally decided to fly after some encouragement from her friends.

    In response to questions, Ford acknowledged several instances in which she has flown. Ford’s travel history is probative of absolutely nothing -- people who are scared of flying make the decision to fly all the time.

    Still, Kavanaugh’s defenders in conservative media elevated the exchange as a “gotcha” moment that made Ford seem noncredible:

     

    As one former Media Matters writer noted, people can often overcome their fears.