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Ford said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were high school students, but many media conservatives attacked her or say Kavanaugh should be confirmed anyway
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Christine Blasey Ford had written a letter this summer to a Democratic lawmaker saying that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students. Soon after Ford’s account was published, right-wing media figures and outlets began attacking her credibility, publicly discounting her story, or calling on Kavanaugh to be confirmed by Republicans anyway.
Details from the letter, which she wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), leaked out several days earlier, and then Ford “decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.” From the Post’s story:
Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.
Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.
Notes from an individual therapy session the following year, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.
Kavanaugh has denied the report after Ford went public, calling it “a completely false allegation.” He previously said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation.” The immediate reaction from many conservative media figures was terrible: Many cast doubt on her account, others suggested they might believe her but said Kavanaugh should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice anyway, and others impugned her motives, suggesting a political or personal grudge.
Breitbart’s John Nolte: “GOP blows Kavanaugh, falls for this, they will be massacred in November.”
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones mocked Ford’s accusation: “Brett Kavanaugh in 1986 came to Dallas, TX, and I was in high school, and he raped me.”
Trump ally and conservative political operator Roger Stone: “This is a woman looking for her Anita Hill moment. This is her 15 minutes.”
Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens: “Nothing to see here, folks,” Ford is “just another woman who conveniently tripped and fell out of amnesia.”
Conservative radio host Erick Erickson: “If the GOP does not stand up to this character assassination attempt on Kavanaugh, every judicial nominee moving forward is going to suffer last minute sexual assault allegations.”
Erick Erickson: “I do not believe Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser. I do believe there is a Democrat PR firm working this story.”
Erick Erickson: “People who want to keep killing kids really shouldn’t be throwing Jesus in the face of those who don’t believe the accusation against Kavanaugh.”
Fox News’ Tomi Lahren: “Decades-old allegations against Kavanaugh come out just days before a vote….victim or opportunist?”
Tomi Lahren: "Female empowerment is NOT using sexual assault allegations to torpedo someone you disagree with politically."
Fox contributor Tammy Bruce: Report of assault by Kavanaugh is “an attempt at a political assassination.”
Newsmax’s John Cardillo: “No, 35+ year old dubious allegations about a non-crime made by a left-wing activist … do not hold water.”
NRATV’s Grant Stinchfield: “I have no idea if Judge Kavanaugh pushed this woman down on a bed at a high school house party where she wriggled free and ran away or not. What I do know is in the 35 years since, not one other woman has raised such an allegation. Sixty-five other women have, in fact, now come to his defense.”
Fox Business host Dagen McDowell: “You have to press [Ford] on any potential bias that’s there” against Republicans.
Fake news site TruthFeed: Ford’s story has “more holes than a slice of swiss cheese.”
The despicable Democrats are pulling out all the stops to try and derail the Judge Kavanaugh vote for SCOTUS.
They’re now claiming that Judge Kavanaugh attacked a woman in high school, nearly killing her. The woman, whose story has more holes than a slice of swiss cheese, claims there was a man in the room who witnessed the entire thing.
One big problem. That man, says it never happened.
Facebook page Silence is Consent posted a meme misleadingly claiming Ford was “so ‘devastated’” by incident “she contacted Feinstein 35 years later.”
Fox Business host Bob Massi: “The thing that’s remarkable to me” is that someone “with amazing credentials, amazing resumes, and an allegation like this comes out … and their entire career credibility is gone. … That’s the trouble with this.”
Sean Hannity radio show guest David Schoen: "The real crime here that happened" is Sen. Dianne Feinstein "presenting this thing under ... this veil of mystery."
Fox News host Sean Hannity cast doubt on Ford's accusation because of "everything else you see about Judge Kavanaugh's life ... this is a guy that spends a lot of time feeding the homeless."
CRTV's Gavin McInnes: Ford is "clearly full of crap."
CRTV's Mark Levin on Ford's accusation: "This whole thing to me sounds like a sham and a setup. ... This is an entire political scam and sham as far as I'm concerned."
Ethics and Public Policy Center Lance Morrow's Wall Street Journal op-ed likened Ford's accusation to Salem Witch Trials, diminished alleged rape attempt: "No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred."
The Salem witch trials turned on what was called “spectral evidence.” That was testimony from witnesses—either malicious or hysterical—who claimed the accused had assumed the form of a black cat or some other devilish creature and had come visiting in the night in order to torment the witness with bites and scratches, or to rearrange the bedroom furniture, or to send the baby into paroxysms.
Three hundred twenty-six years later, an anonymous woman—a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged—accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when he was a high-school student. It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.
The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred. The sin, if there was one, was not one of those that Catholic theology calls peccata clamantia—sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.
The offense alleged is not nothing, by any means. It is ugly, and stupid more than evil, one might think, but trauma is subjective and hard to parse legally. Common sense is a little hard put to know what to make of the episode, if it happened. The dust of 36 years has settled over the memory. The passage of time sometimes causes people to forget; sometimes it causes them to invent or embellish. Invention takes on bright energies when its muse is politics, which is the Olympics of illusion.
Federalist contributor Tom Nichols: “I’m good with the story being true,” but it shouldn’t “derail [his] nomination.”
Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: Ford’s report can’t be proven, “so he should be confirmed.”
Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro: “The Senate should just vote” on Kavanaugh.
The Federalist: Kavanaugh “should be confirmed” despite Ford’s report.
Townhall.com editor Guy Benson: “Absent additional evidence, I don’t know how it would be remotely just to derail the nomination” of Kavanaugh.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggested Ford possibly misremembered "in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage," and stated that letting Ford's accusation "stop Mr. Kavanaugh's confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush."
The woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of a drunken assault when both were teenagers has now come forward publicly, and on Monday it caused Republicans to delay a confirmation vote and schedule another public hearing. Yet there is no way to confirm her story after 36 years, and to let it stop Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush.
Mr. Kavanaugh denies all this “categorically and unequivocally,” and there is simply no way to prove it. The only witness to the event is Mr. Kavanaugh’s high school male friend, Mark Judge, who also says he recalls no such event. Ms. Ford concedes she told no one about it—not even a high school girl friend or family member—until 2012 when she told the story as part of couples therapy with her husband.
The vagaries of memory are well known, all the more so when they emerge in the cauldron of a therapy session to rescue a marriage. Experts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth. Mistaken identity is also possible.
This is simply too distant and uncorroborated a story to warrant a new hearing or to delay a vote. We’ve heard from all three principals, and there are no other witnesses to call. Democrats will use Monday’s hearing as a political spectacle to coax Mr. Kavanaugh into looking defensive or angry, and to portray Republicans as anti-women. Odds are it will be a circus.
Letting an accusation that is this old, this unsubstantiated and this procedurally irregular defeat Mr. Kavanaugh would also mean weaponizing every sexual assault allegation no matter the evidence. It will tarnish the #MeToo cause with the smear of partisanship, and it will unleash even greater polarizing furies.
Mike Cernovich: “Christine Blasey is a far left wing activist. ... this is straight activism on her part.”
The Gateway Pundit: Ford is a “far-left activist.”
Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft: Ford is an “unhinged liberal professor who former students describe as dark, mad, scary and troubled.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “Apparently this accuser was fine with leaving Brett Kavanaugh on the second highest court of the land. … But it was when he was up for the Supreme Court that suddenly the stakes got higher.”
Laura Ingraham: "This all has the whiff of a political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation."
Fake news site RedstateWatcher: Ford is a "registered Democrat and Democrat activist.”
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh: Ford is "a political activist. She's an angry political activist. She's much more than just a victim of alleged attempted rape."
Fox News host Tucker Carlson: "Does anyone really believe this story would have surfaced if Brett Kavanaugh had pledged allegiance to Roe v. Wade? Of course it wouldn't have."
Alex Kaplan and Natalie Martinez contributed research to this post.
The paper ran two pieces by climate deniers in two days, despite a previous pledge not to publish climate denial
On September 13, USA Today's editorial page published a piece that denied the settled science of climate change, despite the page's editor pledging earlier this year, "We won’t run pieces that deny the reality of human-induced climate change."
On September 14, the paper doubled down, running a longer op-ed by another climate denier, Roy Spencer, who argued, "If humans have any influence on hurricanes at all, it probably won’t be evident for many decades to come."
Climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, told Media Matters, "There is not a single sentence in that piece, near as I can tell, that is factually defensible. Roy Spencer is an equal opportunity science denier. He denies evolution and he denies climate change."
Spencer also has a long history of climate denial. His website claims, "The extra carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere is not enough to cause the observed warming over the last 100 years." Spencer has gone on The Rush Limbaugh Show and Fox News to spread misinformation about climate change.
In addition to being employed as a scientist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, Spencer is a senior fellow at the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and a member of the group's advisory board. The Cornwall Alliance is committed to climate denial, claiming, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming."
Three climate scientists contacted by Media Matters disputed the central claim in Spencer's USA Today piece.
Mann just published an op-ed in the Guardian that lays out the clear links between human-caused climate change and more devastating hurricanes, including Florence. Last year, he co-authored a piece in Scientific American on the same topic. Mann has also been doing media appearances this week to explain the science connecting climate change and stronger hurricanes.
Scott Mandia, professor of Earth and space sciences at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, pointed out that Spencer neglected to mention sea level rise in his piece, one of the most clear ways that climate change leads to more damaging hurricanes. Mandia explained in an email:
ALL coastal storms are now worse due to sea level rise caused by human activities that are warming the climate. A warmer climate means more ice melt, which adds water to our oceans. Warmer water expands and thus rises upward. A double-whammy for sea level rise.
Imagine a basketball hoop ten feet above the floor and consider a dunk to be a storm over-topping a sea wall or other barrier. Now imagine humans have caused that floor to rise by a foot. It is much easier to dunk a basketball now. More flooding just like we saw in Sandy, Harvey, Maria, Florence and EVERY hurricane from now onward.
Do not be fooled by Roy Spencer's misdirection. He cannot deny human-caused sea level rise and that is why he chose not to mention it to USA Today's readers.
Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also explained how climate change affects hurricanes. Trenberth was lead author on a study published in May that determined, “[Hurricane] Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human-induced climate change.”
"Hurricanes are natural, but climate change is supercharging them!" Trenberth wrote in an email to Media Matters. His comments:
Human-caused increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere produced an energy imbalance and its partitioning between atmospheric, ocean, cryosphere and land heat reservoirs govern how the global climate evolves. Most of the imbalance, over 90%, goes into the ocean and accordingly ocean heat content (OHC) provides a primary indicator of climate change, along with sea level rise. 2017 was the warmest year on record for the global OHC down to 2000 m depth and the latest quarter (April to June) is the hottest on record. The heat fuels storms of all sorts and contributes to very heavy rain events and flooding.
Hurricanes are natural, but climate change is supercharging them! The observed increases of upper OHC support higher sea surface temperatures and atmospheric moisture, and fuels tropical storms to become more intense, bigger and longer lasting, thereby increasing their potential for damage. Sea level is also steadily rising, increasing risks from coastal storm surges.
While USA Today chose to elevate the perspective of a notorious climate denier, other papers made the more responsible choice to invite well-informed scientists and experts to explain the ways climate change exacerbates hurricanes -- like The Washington Post, which ran a strong op-ed by meteorologist Eric Holthaus.
Holthaus ended his piece by saying, "It is a time for courageous action." Trenberth echoed that sentiment in his comments to Media Matters, emphasizing that we can and should be reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the future impacts of climate change:
The damage and loss of life from such storms does not have to be disastrous, however, if there is adequate preparation. We have the options of stopping or slowing climate change from humans, and/or adapting to and planning for the consequences, but we are not doing enough of either!
If outlets like USA Today educated people about the real dangers of climate change, instead of propagating climate denial, more Americans might be inspired to demand and implement real climate solutions.
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“Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich and serially inaccurate site Gateway Pundit were among the first to push the bogus claim
Radio stations and talk hosts around the country, including syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh, ran with a false far-right claim that the Jacksonville, FL, mass shooter was a Reddit user with a history of critical posts against President Donald Trump.
On August 26, a man opened fire during a video game tournament in Jacksonville, FL, killing two people and injuring 10 others before turning the gun on himself. After the shooting, far-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich baselessly tweeted that the shooter “was a member of the Resistance who referred to Trump supporters as ‘trumptards’” citing what he claimed was his Reddit history. Ian Miles Cheong, formerly a self-described contributor for The Daily Caller who was involved (as was Cernovich) in the misogynistic online movement known as Gamergate, tweeted an image of anti-Trump comments posted by a Reddit account named “Ravenchamps,” which he claimed belonged to the shooter.
Gateway Pundit, a serially inaccurate far-right site that consistently gets things wrong during breaking news events (and is now facing lawsuits for it), subsequently elevated both tweets and pushed the story. Conspiracy theory outlet Infowars also picked up the claim, along with fake news-churning sites like YourNewsWire, Neon Nettle, and True Pundit. The claim was also turned into memes and put on Facebook, where thousands of users shared the posts.
The claim turned out to be false, as the user “Ravenchamps” -- whose name is Pavel -- subsequently clarified on Reddit that he was not the shooter, sharing the harassment he was receiving as a consequence of the far-right’s irresponsible claim. Pavel, who is from Minnesota, told BuzzFeed that he was “call[ing] out the idiots” who blamed him for the shooting and told NBC News, “There are a lot of idiots on the internet who come to conclusions over no factual evidence.”
The baseless claim that “Ravenchamps” was the shooter jumped to multiple radio stations, a medium with a history of pushing false stories that originated online (including some from fake news sites in places like Africa and Macedonia). The radio shows pushing the bogus claim include:
The nationally syndicated The Rush Limbaugh Show, where host Rush Limbaugh claimed that “you might not hear very much about this Jacksonville shooting ... because it appears the shooter was part of the Trump resistance. Limbaugh said that the shooter was apparently “very, anti-Trump” on a Reddit thread. Limbaugh claimed as a result the “drive-bys [media] are not going to want to want to make a vast, vast move on this guy” because “people that hate Trump are supposed to hate guns”;
Maryland talk station WCBM-AM’s Morning Show With Sean and Frank, where hosts said the alleged shooter’s Reddit page was “littered with anti-Trump garbage” and, in a later segment, reiterated that he was “part of the Trump resistance”;
Nebraska talk station KFAM-AM’s Chris Baker, who asserted that “according to all reports,” the alleged shooter was a “Trump resistor” based on his “Reddit page; and
The Steve Kane Show on Florida talk station WSBR-AM, where the host shamefully lauded Cernovich as “awesome” and read his tweet about the Reddit account. He added that it showed the shooter was “another liberal, just like the guy that shot up the baseball team,” referring to the 2017 shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice.
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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has been accused of knowing about, and failing to act on, sexual abuse by the team doctor during his tenure as assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Multiple former athletes have accused Dr. Richard Strauss of sexual misconduct and have claimed that Jordan knew or must have known about the abuse yet failed to act.
Jordan, who is also the co-founder of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, has denied the accusations, claiming he was unaware of any abuse. During a July 6 appearance on Fox News’ Special Report, he was quick to attack multiple accusers, criticized CNN for hosting a former wrestler to discuss the claims, and stoked conspiracy theories by claiming that “the timing” of the accusations “is suspect” because he’s about to launch a campaign for speaker of the House. Allies of the conservative congressman have been equally resolute in their defense, with both President Donald Trump and outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) backing Jordan, and the entire Freedom Caucus voting to officially support him.
Unsurprisingly, right-wing media have also jumped to Jordan’s defense, suggesting that the accusations are no more than a politically motivated smear. Here are some of right-wing media’s defenses:
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs criticized Ryan for failing to immediately defend Jordan from “suspiciously timed smear campaigns.” He also called the accusations “a smear campaign of the vilest sort” and said Jordan has been “dishonorably attacked by the left."
The Daily Caller ran an article attacking some of the accusers, arguing that their “sketchy history” raises questions about their “authenticity.”
Fox News contributor David Bossie tweeted that Jordan is “an honest man of unparalleled integrity” and “the scurrilous allegations against him are absurd - perpetrated by the fake news media and liberals with an agenda to stop Congressman Jordan.”
Radio host Wayne Dupree claimed the accusations were a “hit job” and argued that the story “seems like an inside job from our side that doesn't want a conservative becoming Speaker of the House.” He also called the accusations a “sex smear” and said that they have solidified his “unequivocal support” for Jordan.
Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter called the accusations “sudden” and “convenient,” claimed multiple times that the story was “bullshit,” blamed the victims, and suggested there was a “coordinated” liberal response to the wrestlers’ claims.
Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell said the accusations reek of “dirty tricks” and implied that they were made to derail Jordan’s campaign to join Republican House leadership.
During Rush Limbaugh’s July 6 radio show -- titled “With Paul Manafort in Solitary, Deep State Targets Jim Jordan” -- the radio host argued that the accusations against Jordan are just the result of “opposition research” and claimed they emerged “because he’s had a successful interrogation period with [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein and is being mentioned for possible speaker.” Limbaugh also attacked the victims’ histories and stoked conspiracy claims by noting that the “the leading Democrat law firm in all of fascist Democrat America,” Perkins Coie, is investigating the wrestlers’ accusations. Gateway Pundit made similar accusations, blaming the deep state, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) also told Dobbs that the deep state was to blame.
The Daily Wire ran an article that called the “timing of these allegations… suspect,” because they have come out only when “Jordan was considering a run to replace Paul Ryan (R-WI) as speaker of the House.”
Infowars’ Owen Shroyer claimed “intimidation tactics” were being used against Jordan, argued there are “a bunch of holes in this” story, and said, “It seems to me like this is just another case of the Clinton crime machine trying to intimidate Americans who are standing up to them.”
Infowars’ Roger Stone rejected the accusations as a “smear tactic” and “a hit piece” and argued that Jordan is being targeted for his criticism of Rosenstein.
Following the Trump administration’s implementation of a policy requiring the separation of immigrant children from their parents as they cross the border, some self-described “pro-life” organizations and media figures have failed to denounce this policy. Others, though, have seemingly attempted to distract from the outrage about the policy by making outlandish and inaccurate comparisons to abortion.
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Right-wing media figures were quick to defend and rejoice over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza for his felony conviction for violating campaign finance law.
On the morning of May 31, Trump tweeted:
Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
D’Souza was indicted in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws, and right-wing media figures also jumped to defend him then, portraying him as a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration, which D’Souza had criticized in a lie-filled book attempting to trace Obama’s liberal policy motivations and later in a lie-filled movie. But D’Souza pleaded guilty to the charges against him five years ago. His more recent missives have included tweets mocking students who survived the February school shooting in Parkland, FL and likening Democrats to Nazis.
Following Trump’s announcement that he will give a full pardon to D’Souza, right-wing media figures celebrated the decision and claimed that D’Souza was indeed treated unfairly:
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro: “Fantastic news @DineshDSouza to be pardoned by @POTUS. Obama’s political prosecution null and void.”
Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s pardon of D’Souza is “a marvelous act of justice. Not mercy, justice.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “It’s about time”; pardon “was long overdue.”
Right-wing troll Mike Flynn Jr.: “WOW! Incredible! @DineshDSouza totally deserves this! CONGRATS!”
— 🇺🇸MFLYNNJR🇺🇸 (@mflynnJR) May 31, 2018
Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: “Good to see Trump using that power” to correct “a lot of these travesties of justice that are taking place.”
Wash. Examiner’s Byron York and Ingraham agree D’Souza sentencing was a “travesty” and “outrage.”
Radio host Rush Limbaugh: D’Souza was sentenced “so that Obama could flex his muscles and show what a tough guy he was.”
Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth: “I thought that was great.”
Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft: D’Souza’s prosecution was an “Obama political hit job and “an obvious witch hunt.”