Over the past few days, Republicans have tied themselves in knots to defend Brett Kavanaugh from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of attempting to rape her when they were in high school.
The GOP has trotted out all kinds of excuses, from the letter signed by 65 of Kavanaugh's female friends saying he's a good guy to generic "boys will be boys" excuses. But the worst defense of all came from conservative activist Ed Whelan, whose bizarre tweetstorm exonerating Kavanaugh made him the laughing-stock of the political media last night.
Earlier this week, Republicans floated the theory that perhaps Ford was attacked by another person whom she mistook for Kavanaugh, with Senator Orrin Hatch positing the theory in an interview with the Desert News and The Wall Street Journal running with it as well. Around that same time, Whelan chimed in:
Although National Review editor Rich Lowry called him a "model of careful, discerning legal analysis and commentary," Whelan's reputation among liberals is less pristine. In an article on Election Law Blog, author Rick Hasen recounted how Whelan sent him several threatening and profane messages following the publication of his book on Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Whelan had clerked for. "Whelan," he wrote, "suggests I must be either lying or incompetent...rather than engaging in the presumption...that someone with a different viewpoint is competent and acting in good faith."
Still, Whelan's pronouncement that his theory proving Kavanaugh's innocence was "100%" foolproof set conservatives abuzz - until its debut, when it crashed like a Ford Edsel through Al Capone's vault.
The Insane Thread
The thread, which can be read here, not only attempts to exonerate Kavanaugh, but also alleges that Dr. Ford mistook another classmate for him. How did he prove this? Through Zillow, Google Maps, and the Georgetown Prep yearbook for 1983.
Dr. Ford insisted that the rape took place in a house "not far" from the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and that there were at least four people at the party that night, none of whom lived near that particular country club according to Google Maps (Georgetown Prep's yearbook includes the students' addresses.) He then found a student, Christopher C. Garrett, who lived near the club, was friends with lone witness Mark Judge, and who was also said to resemble Kavanaugh:
Using Zillow, Whelan obtained the map of Garrett's house and coordinated Ford's description of the events that night with its floor plan - i.e., saying it made sense for her to have run from the bedroom into the hallway bathroom, as she described in her letter, because the layout of the second floor supports it.
"If you’re at a gathering of 'four others' in someone’s home," Whelan said, "you’d ordinarily think that the four others include the host who lives in the home. And that host would be the person least likely to act like a guest and most likely to use private areas of the house." Since Judge and party guest P.J. Smyth already said Kavanaugh wasn't there, and the female attendee Ford named in her letter has said mum, then Ford mistook Garrett for Kavanaugh after 35 years of keeping it a secret.
"To be clear," he concluded, "I have no idea what, if anything, did or did not happen in that bedroom at the top of the stairs, and I therefore do not state, imply or insinuate that [Garrett] or anyone else committed the sexual assault that Ford alleges."
Whelan might have thought he was giving Ronan Farrow a run for his money when he pressed the "send" button but within an hour, media reporters were calling BS on his assertions. Whelan has been raked over the coals by liberals and conservatives alike, with The New York Times' Ross Douthat and Fox and Friends the only high-profile exceptions.
Dr. Ford claimed in a Washington Post article published this morning that while she knew Kavanaugh and Garrett, "there is zero chance that I would confuse them." Since then, Whelan has deleted the thread and apologized for it.
A Larger Conspiracy?
Whelan has potentially opened himself up to a defamation lawsuit since his charges amount to "defamation per se" against Garrett. Garrett (who has not yet commented) is a private citizen, so he has a better shot at succeeding in a court of law should he go so far.
Whelan's connections to Brett Kavanaugh however, are even more suspicious. According to the Post, he and Kavanaugh have been friends since they worked together in the Bush Administration, and has been advising him throughout the hearings. Whelan is also very close to Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, who pushed Trump to nominate him.
What's more, the Post reported that Kavanaugh's team considered a defense "that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh," and an interesting twist suggests that this may have happened. We know that Kavanaugh told Orrin Hatch he wasn't at the party, and that Hatch publicly doubted his guilt. Less known is that Hatch aide Matt Whitlock tweeted - and then deleted - this cryptic message:
How did Hatch and his aide know to get the ball rolling on this earlier in the week? Did Kavanaugh's team green-light the strategy and dupe Hatch into believing it? Or was he a willing accomplice? "If Kavanaugh played any role at all," wrote Charles Pierce in Esquire, "not only should he not be confirmed...but also he probably should lose the job on the appeals bench that he already has."
Maybe Brett Kavanaugh didn't OK the thread, and Whelan put it together independently. But given the bad-faith tactics Republicans have used throughout these hearings, it's possible that they would conspire to de-legitimize the accusations of Christine Blasey Ford - certainly more possible than anything Whelan alleges occurred that night in 1983.