Podhoretz to Ben Wittes: Putting Burden of Proof on Nominee to Disprove Allegations Is a ‘Horrible Standard’

Wittes wrote in an op-ed 'my conscience would not permit me to vote' to confirm Kavanaugh

Commentary editor John Podhoretz called out Benjamin Wittes on Wednesday for his recent article in The Atlantic, in which he said he wouldn't vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh despite knowing and liking him.

Wittes, citing Kavanaugh's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, wrote "If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh." He called the nominee's testimony a "howl of rage."

Podhoretz noted that Wittes called for Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination even before Kavanaugh and Chrstine Blasey Ford, a woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault back in the early 1980s, testified before the committee.

"Can I just point out that on September 21, you said Kavanaugh should withdraw his own nomination because Christine Blasey Ford's claims seemed credible to you and that the burden of proof was on him … So now that you're saying that he should withdraw his nomination because his temperament was bad and he was too partisan, it leaves me to believe that you came in with a fixed attitude and that this is not entirely a discovery that you just made after the testimony," Podhoretz said.

"So let me both agree with you and contradict you. First of all, I did come with a fixed attitude. I came in the with a fixed attitude that I believed the burden was on Brett Kavanaugh, as I think the burden is always on the nominee in a situation in which questions have arisen and you have to get to 50 votes. You bear the burden of persuasion," Wittes said. "That's just the way our nomination system in fact works."

Podhoretz called that a "horrible standard."

"The burden of proof is on him to disprove Christine Blasey Ford's allegations? That I think is a horrible standard," he said.

Kavanaugh has denied the accusation and testified before the Senate committee about the allegation. Ford's allegation against Kavanaugh hasn't been corroborated by any of the witnesses she cites were present at the party. There are also discrepancies in Ford's account and she and her lawyers refuse to hand over requested documents, including her therapist's notes from when Ford said she described the assault in 2012.

Wittes continued to defend himself by saying he thought Kavanaugh would be a good justice but thought he didn't defend himself in the correct way.

"But I also want to say, look, I did come in with a fixed presumption, also, that Brett Kavanaugh would be a good justice and would be somebody who I would want to see confirmed under normal circumstances. I also want to say I did not say he should withdraw. I said he should withdraw if he is unable to defend himself in a persuasive fashion without attacking her," Wittes said. "And I think he answered that question on Thursday, and he answered it pretty decisively. He was not able to defend himself in a persuasive fashion, in my view, and he had to go on attack against the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, and other unnamed and named liberals and Democrats. And I don't think that is an appropriate way for a candidate for a nomination to the Supreme Court to behave."