The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee recommended anti-Trump attorney Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges on Thursday. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley noted that in multiple public statements, Swetnick and Avenatti contradicted the sworn statement they provided claiming that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ran a gang-rape-party ring in high school.
What was a very bad day for Avenatti got worse when NBC News reported hours later that "NBC News also found other apparent inconsistencies in a second sworn statement from another woman whose statement Avenatti provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bid to bolster Swetnick's claims."
It was very good reporting by NBC News. But it was also reporting based on interviews conducted three weeks ago, with no clear indication of why the outlet chose to sit on it.
To NBC News' credit, their reporting is the entire reason we know about the discrepancies in Swetnick's accounts. It was their October 1st report—during the height of the Kavanaugh sexual misconduct debate—that first revealed that Swetnick would not or could not confirm several of the details she made in a sworn statement to Congress.
But per the newest story, these are the details NBC News knew for a fact during the Kavanaugh debate, and chose not to report:
- On September 30, Avenatti forwarded an anonymous woman (I'll call her Woman B) to NBC claiming she could corroborate Swetnick's story. On the contrary, she said of the punch spiking "I didn't ever think it was Brett" and when asked if she ever witnessed Kavanaugh act inappropriately towards women replied, "No."
- On October 2nd, Avenatti publicized a sworn statement from an unnamed woman claiming she had "witnessed firsthand Brett Kavanaugh, together with others, ‘spike’ the ‘punch’ at house parties I attended with Quaaludes and/or grain alcohol" and he engaged in "inappropriate physical contact with girls of a sexual nature."
- The same day, Avenatti confirms to NBC News that the woman is Woman B.
- On October 3rd, Woman B tells NBC she only "skimmed" the statement she made to Congress.
- The same day, when asked about the discrepancies, Avenatti suddenly backtracks and claims the woman is not Woman B.
- On October 4th, Woman B texts NBC: "It is incorrect that I saw Brett spike the punch. I didn't see anyone spike the punch ... I was very clear with Michael Avenatti from day one."
- The same day, when asked about her denials, Avenatti responds, "I have a signed declaration that states otherwise together with multiple audio recordings where she stated exactly what is in the declaration. There were also multiple witnesses to our discussions."
- Five minutes later, Woman B texts NBC: "Please understand that everything in the declaration is true and you should not contact me anymore regarding this issue."
- Minutes later, NBC calls again, and Woman B again reiterates she never saw Kavanaugh spiking punch or being sexually inappropriate.
- On October 5th, she texts NBC: "I will definitely talk to you again and no longer Avenatti. I do not like that he twisted my words."
Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed October 6th. At the time of his confirmation, there was a sworn statement before Congress indicating that the Supreme Court nominee was a sexual assailant and drugged women. As far as the Senate and public knew, there was nothing indicating that statement was false.
NBC News knew that it was false. Four days earlier, they at least had enough to report that Woman B had changed her story. And days before that, they knew that one of the witnesses that Swetnick alluded to could not "attest to the truthfulness" of her allegations as she claimed in her sworn statement.
What gives? One gets the impression that had Grassley not moved to recommended Avenatti for criminal charges, NBC News would have continued to sit on the story. When exactly was the public going to hear all this?
Even divorced from the Kavanaugh allegations, the on-the-record statements NBC gathered proved that a #Resistance hero with 2020 aspirations lied to reporters, lied to Congress, and oh yeah, possibly committed a felony. While NBC News did its due diligence in reporting the discrepancies in the Swetnick allegations, to an outside observer it could have appeared that Avenatti was just duped or sloppy. The Woman B statements accuse him of having an active hand in crafting lies. That seems newsworthy!
I'll conclude by saying that I'm actually asking all this in good faith. I do believe there's a liberal media bias, but one that usually stems from ideological blindspots and honest mistakes, not active, cartoony malice against conservative figures. It's possible that there is a very good ethical reason NBC News sat on the story for nearly three weeks. If so, the public deserves an explanation.