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 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.