The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout
This year, while editing many stories about sexual abuse accusations (see “Crouching at every door,” Sept. 15), I’ve gained a lot more sympathy for the women bringing charges. Before running an investigative story, I put reporters through an excruciating process of line-by-line questioning: How do we know this? Are you sure? Do we have the testimony of two or more witnesses regarding who, what, when, where, and—sometimes—why?
We’ll see what the FBI comes up with, but at this moment the case against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is far, far weaker than anything WORLD would run with, or other journalistic organizations should. Who? For 30 years Christine Blasey Ford did not identify Kavanaugh as her assailant. What? She does not remember specifics. When? Sometime in the summer of 1982, maybe, although she previously said “mid ’80s.” Where: A house somewhere, and she doesn’t know who invited her, how she got there, or how she got home. Corroborating evidence? No.
Then there’s Deborah Ramirez’s charge that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a Yale party. Who? She told other students she didn’t know for sure it was Kavanaugh. What? She says her memory has “gaps,” and no one else confirms he was at the party. Oh, don’t forget the convenient new accuser, Julie Swetnick. Did Kavanaugh attack her? She “cannot specifically say that he was one of the ones who assaulted me.” Was she gang-raped? No friends have come forward to support her allegation, and The Wall Street Journal contacted “dozens of former classmates and colleagues [but] couldn’t reach anyone” who backed her up.
Nevertheless, Kavanaugh underwent trial by Saturday Night Live this past weekend, with Matt Damon parodying the appropriately angry judge. Damon last December told ABC that if someone made an assault claim against him “it would be scorched-earth. I don’t care if it would cost me $10 million in court for 10 years, you are not taking my name from me, you are not taking my name and reputation from me, I’ve worked too hard for it, I’ve earned it, you can’t just blow me up like that.” Now Damon slams Kavanaugh for reacting like a human being rather than a robot.
Now it’s open season on a judge and his family, with cartoonist Chris Britt even portraying Kavanaugh’s 10-year-old daughter praying, “Dear God, forgive my angry, lying, alcoholic father for sexually assaulting Dr. Ford.” For shame. The fifth W reporters learn about is “why,” and the default journalistic answer has been, “To tell the truth.” Here the answer appears to be, “To lie, in pursuit of abortion freedom.”