Yes, I'm writing a sequel to a piece I literally published yesterday. But the news cycle immediately provided me with several other examples of partisans and the media simply presuming Brett Kavanaugh's guilt and unjustly shifting the burden of proof, and I figured I'd strike while the iron was still hot.
The first pair of terrible arguments comes courtesy of our proud U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Mazie Hirono, who asked in a press conference: if Brett Kavanaugh is reeeeally innocent, why isn't he onboard with an FBI investigation?
Hirono on Kavanaugh: They want to get him confirmed, come hell or high water..Why isn’t Kavanaugh asking for an investigation if he has nothing to hide
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) September 20, 2018
Kirsten Gillibrand: "Who is not asking the FBI to investigate these claims? The White House. Judge Kavanaugh has not asked to have the FBI to review these claims. Is that the reaction of an innocent person? It is not." (via CBS) pic.twitter.com/0MBuBZFmHX
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 20, 2018
I suppose that these senators would have no problem with the federal authorities tapping their phone, searching their homes, auditing their finances, or stopping and canvasing their cars, correct? After all, they're innocent of any crimes. And why would an innocent person not want to prove their innocence?
The insistence that "no innocent person would object" to government intrusion is the hallmark of every authoritarian regime. One of the many protections baked into our system is that we do not infer guilt from silence, and that citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Virtually every lawyer in the country would caution their client not speak to law enforcement more than necessary, regardless of how innocent they are or are not. If a Yale-educated federal judge like Brett Kavanaugh was actually out there demanding the FBI investigate him, I would honestly consider that evidence he was a terrible lawyer and unfit to serve on the Supreme Court.
It's also an odd argument in these circumstances for two related reasons. The first is that Kavanaugh has already testified to staffers of the Senate Judiciary Committee denying the charges against him, and has offered to testify before the full committee. Lying during either would be a felony. Likewise, at the time of the Democrats' statements, Blasey Ford herself was refusing to provide testimony on the issue to the committee, even with assurances from Senate Republicans that she could be questioned by aides from the privacy of her own home and away from cameras. One could just as easily ask in bad faith why, if she's telling the truth, did she turn down an opportunity to tell her story?
It's pretty obvious that both Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford want the allegation investigated. What's happening now is just bickering over which federal body they'll testify to under oath and under penalty of prison if they lie. That's not a strike against either's credibility.
There are also two more pieces of journalism that insinuate Kavanaugh must be guilty because, well it kinda sounds right, and he just sort of fits the profile as a result of his privileged white male upbringing.
The first, from Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe, argued that "In the ’80s, boys’ prep schools like Kavanaugh’s could be bastions of misogyny." Jaffe draws on his own experience attending Landon School, "which is just down the road, and not all that different" from Kavanaugh's school Georgetown Prep.
Jaffe details the casual misogyny of his own classmates and friends, how they terrorized their female teachers and girls from other schools, how they told homophobic jokes. Evidently we're meant to infer that because people with similar upbringings were misogynists, surely Kavanaugh is too.
"One way for Kavanaugh to handle the accusations against him would be to admit some boorish behavior decades ago, and then use the rest of his life as an example to prove that he has risen above the toxic sexism and misogyny of his youth," he wrote, in a piece that literally does not detail a single instance of Kavanaugh engaging in boorish behavior. On the contrary, the only one of his school-friends who knew Kavanaugh described him as "a decent and ‘very conservative' person."
Then there was a story from Kavanaugh's former employer, the Yale Daily News, which I noticed when it was spread on social media by Washington Post reporter Phillip Rucker. "During Brett Kavanaugh’s time as an undergrad at Yale, his fraternity, DKE, marched across campus waving a flag woven from women’s underwear," he tweeted.
During Brett Kavanaugh’s time as an undergrad at Yale, his fraternity, DKE, marched across campus waving a flag woven from women’s underwear, according to this @yaledailynews report https://t.co/7o3fyzgmeX
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) September 20, 2018
…then he followed up his tweet with a clarification.
In case it isn’t clear in my tweet, Kavanaugh is not in the flag-waving photo, as explained in this story, which is about the culture of his frat.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) September 20, 2018
So yeah, it turns out there's no evidence that Kavanaugh acted like a misogynist pig in college, but some of the members of his fraternity did! However, the Daily News insists "the casual disrespect for women seems noteworthy in light of the explosive allegation by California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her at a high school party almost 40 years ago."
The guilt-by-association continues, when the Yale Daily News notes that "since Kavanaugh’s graduation in 1987, DKE’s reputation for mistreating women at Yale has only grown. Yale banned DKE from campus for five years in 2011 after videos circulated of fraternity recruits chanting ‘no means yes, yes means anal' in front of the University’s Women’s Center." Yes, it's seriously supposed to reflect poorly on Kavanaugh that his frat used an edgy rape joke 24 years after he graduated.
It's blatantly obvious what's going on here. In lieu of concrete evidence that Kavanaugh is a rapist, the media is forced to scramble for evidence that he is a misogynist. But that doesn't exist either, so now we're forced to scrape up evidence that the culture around him as a young man was teeming with sexism. From there, we are meant to presume that Brett Kavanaugh must be a sexist, and it's plausible he's an attempted rapist.
After all, he's a rich white guy, and you know how they are. "How is it never the right time to bring up assault allegations against a rich white dude?" asked alleged comedian Samantha Bee. "How much future do rich white guys get to have?" As I note in my earlier column, liberal reporters at Salon, MSNBC, and ThinkProgress also couldn't help but hammer home the fact that Kavanaugh is white and male, as though that automatically made him suspect.
Simply imagine someone making this argument during the confirmation fight for Clarence Thomas, a respected black jurist with a modest upbringing who likewise was hit with an allegation of sexual impropriety. Imagine journalists winking and nudging that a sharecroppers' son just sort of fits a profile of a likely rapist, that people from his neighborhood and his background often engaged in deplorable behavior.
Who, in a million years, thinks that would fly? Why then are the media engaging in the same of sort of guilt-by-association prejudicial stereotyping that's rightfully deplored in other contexts? The evidence against Brett Kavanaugh must be evidence against Brett Kavanaugh, not his frat brothers, not his regional peers.