Reliable Sources: Kavanaugh calls allegation in New Yorker story a 'smear'

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. ...

Posted: Sep 24, 2018 8:49 AM
Updated: Sep 24, 2018 8:49 AM

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Supreme Turmoil

"This is a smear, plain and simple," Brett Kavanaugh says.

That's his response to the new allegation of sexual misconduct against him -- published by The New Yorker on Sunday night -- in a story co-bylined by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer.

"I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name -- and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building -- against these last-minute allegations," Kavanaugh said.

The White House responded to the story by reiterating its support for Kavanaugh. But the headline everyone heard Sunday night/will hear Monday morning is: "A second woman." "New allegations."

The accuser, Deborah Ramirez, says she knew Kavanaugh at Yale. She alleges that he exposed himself at a party. If you haven't read it yet, here's the story...

>> Reminder: There's a hearing scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. ET...

Farrow + Mayer

This time, the rumors were right. All afternoon long, the chattering classes in DC and NYC said that Farrow was about to break a big story about Kavanaugh. The White House apparently knew several hours ahead of time. Word of the story leaked out via The Drudge Report in the 6 p.m. hour. The actual story came out one hour later. But it wasn't just Farrow's story: Mayer was the second byline. This was the third co-production by the pair: They also worked together on the investigation that ensnared NY A.G. Eric Schneiderman.

>> FLASHBACK: Mayer and Jill Abramson co-authored "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas..."

>> COMPETITION: Other news outlets were also chasing the Ramirez story... For example, NBC News says a reporter contacted Ramirez on Saturday...

Key graf from the New Yorker:

"The New Yorker contacted Ramirez after learning of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh. The allegation was also conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer. For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh's role in the alleged incident with certainty." The mag says that "after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney," she felt confident enough to recount it all...

Here's the thing...

As I said on "CNN Newsroom" Sunday night, there's much more to be learned here. But the existence of this new allegation will spur a lot more scrutiny of Kavanaugh's hard-partying high school and college years. Already, there's been reporting about excessive drinking and ensuing behavior. One of the headlines on on Sunday night, before this new allegation came out, said "100 kegs. A stripper. Kavanaugh's classmate reveals wild parties..."

"Boys will be boys?"

During the aforementioned CNN segment, I found myself saying this about Kavanaugh: "He is allowed to have been a frat boy. I'm sure other judges have been frat boys. I'm sure other judges have had similar experiences at college."

Afterward, I wanted to unwind those words. Yes, a fraternity member is allowed to become a Supreme Court justice -- many have. Long nights of partying shouldn't be counted against someone. But acts of sexual assault should be. Boys will only "be boys" if society enables and excuses certain behaviors...

Gergen's view

On CNN, David Gergen urged caution and patience: Lawmakers and the public need time to "absorb this and begin to make judgments." He said, "I can't tell you how important I think it is for the future of the press in this country, if he's going to be 'brought down' -- we don't know that, but if he's going to be 'brought down' -- that the press isn't seen as complicit in that effort."

Surge of calls to sexual assault hotline

President Trump's tweets casting doubt on Christine Blasey Ford's account helped the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport go viral. The conversations may have also spurred some people to seek support.

A spokesperson for RAINN told me on Sunday that "calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline were up 42% on Friday and Saturday compared to an average Friday and Saturday." The # is 800-656-4673...

Flashbacks to 1991

It's a "he said, she said" case with the facts "still in dispute." Male lawmakers are being criticized for mishandling the allegations. "Why rush this?" And the situation is sending "an electric current of anger through women." All of those quotes could apply to today's news... but they're from a front-page NYT story by Maureen Dowd in 1991. Here's her story from back then... Plus her column from this Sunday's paper...

Abramson's view

As mentioned up above, Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson co-wrote the definitive book about Hill and Thomas. As for this moment in time, Abramson told me on "Reliable," "What I've been struck by is the anger of women that I've heard from. If they feel unheard at the end of these hearings, I think there are gonna be big political consequences..."

>> Another key point: Think of "the courage it takes," she said, "in THIS media environment, for Dr. Ford to walk into that hearing room, sit down and tell her story..."

>> Hear more from Abramson, Rachel Sklar and Charles Blow in this segment...

Just try...

Try to put yourself Christine Blasey Ford's shoes for a minute. You're living out of a suitcase. You're staring down death threats. You're thinking about testifying. Everybody on TV is talking about you. And many websites are smearing you to help Kavanaugh. Here's my essay from Sunday's show...


-- WPP's new CEO "is preparing to consolidate some of the advertising giant's major properties, as traditional agencies struggle to keep pace with the industry's digital shift..." (WSJ)

-- "With a $20 million gift from the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark," Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson are starting The Markup, "a news site dedicated to investigating technology and its effect on society." Sue Gardner will be exec director... (NYT)

-- Rethinking #Resist: "Viewed from the broad sweep of history, Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not," Michelle Alexander writes in her first NYT column... (NYT)

Week ahead calendar

-- Monday: UN General Assembly begins in NYC...

-- Monday evening: AT&T's Relevance conference begins in Santa Barbara...

-- Thursday: Texas Tribune Festival gets underway in Austin...

-- Friday, via Brian Lowry: Three new releases: The animated "Smallfoot," the Kevin Hart-Tiffany Haddish comedy "Night School," and "The Old Man and the Gun," which may or may not be -- depending on what he says this week --Robert Redford's last movie...

TV's premiere week

Brian Lowry emails: The major networks are kicking off the season with a flurry of new series starting Monday, amid a period of inordinate tumult. If only the shows, generally — including 10 premieres this week, among them CBS' "Murphy Brown" revival and "Magnum P.I." reboot — were as interesting as all the behind-the-scenes drama. NBC, meanwhile, likely received a pre-premiere promotional lift on Sunday, as Tiger Woods scored a PGA Tour victory, his first such win in five years, and almost surely a ratings magnet...

About all that behind-the-scenes drama...

Consider the state of the TV business. CBS CEO Les Moonves resigned under pressure two weeks ago. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblattis ready to step down. Fox is a big question mark, given the Disney-Fox deal. At at Disney, TV chief Ben Sherwood is "preparing to leave," Variety's Cynthia Littleton scooped on Saturday night.

Sherwood "had been considering options for a new role during the past two months after it became clear that Fox's Peter Rice is poised to take on his duties as leader of Disney's TV operations, with the exception of ESPN," per Littleton. All the details here...

What's next for Sherwood?

THR notes that "he had a contract with Disney extending until 2021." He'll remain with Disney until the Fox deal closes, then he'll have a noncompete for a while... And then what?

Sherwood sounds eager to try some entrepreneurial endeavors, per a source familiar with his thinking. He has written several best-selling books. He is interested in taking stock of options in the media biz and beyond, the source said...

Fox announcements TBD

Deadline hears that "we are about a week or so away from Disney unveiling the names of top 21st Century Fox executives who would be joining the company following the acquisition of key Fox assets." October 1 is the potential date. Rice's deal is "said to be all but done" and Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden is "negotiating hers."

Read more of Sunday's Reliable Sources newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

"Also expected to be going over to Disney-Fox after the acquisition is completed are FX Networks CEO John Landgraf and Nat Geo CEO Courteney Monroe," Deadline says. "The situation is fluid with Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman..."

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