Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) took to the Senate floor Monday to respond to a 'New York Times' article that accuses Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual assault.
Last year, we on the Judiciary Committee conducted an incredibly thorough review of a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States. We dug into Justice Kavanaugh’s personal and professional life and discussed concerns openly in front of the public. Allegations were raised against the Justice, but none could be corroborated or verified. I know because I had a team of dozens of lawyers and investigators chasing down each allegation we received.
My team spoke with 45 individuals and took 25 written statements. Anyone can review the 414-page investigation summary report that I released last November. We laid out the information we received, including some of the ugliest claims. In the end, there was no credible evidence to support any of the allegations. Brett Kavanaugh was duly confirmed to the Supreme Court by this body as prescribed in the Constitution.
Fast forward to this past weekend. The New York Times published a book excerpt about Justice Kavanaugh’s younger days that has fueled a fresh rumor from someone whose friends claim contacted senators on the committee. This person, Mr. Stier, did not reach out or provide information to the committee’s majority. Apparently, he also did not provide any information to these writers. It’s only on the word of two anonymous sources that his name and accusation comes up in this story.
And again, my office never received anything from Mr. Stier or his unnamed friends, and we never received an allegation against Kavanaugh like the one referenced in the report over the weekend. After interviewing eight people related to the Ramirez allegations, not once was Mr. Stier’s name mentioned.
Had my staff received substantive allegations or had he approached me or my staff, we would have attempted to take a statement or interview him. But, the alleged victim—who also didn’t speak to these writers—apparently does not recall this incident. That’s a point that the New York Times failed to include in its initial coverage.
Accountability is a cornerstone of democracy. I welcome scrutiny of my work. I frequently refer to reporters as the police of our democratic system. But today I’m reminded of the old adage: Who will watch the watchmen?
This weekend’s report included some embarrassing, irresponsible missteps. Mistakes that warrant serious self-reflection.
A year ago, after interviews with dozens of people, the New York Times could not corroborate the allegations laid out by Ms. Ramirez and declined to report on them. With nothing but a year of time and another interview with Ramirez herself, the paper thought those unverified claims were suddenly worthy of printing. No more corroboration. No more verification. Coming only days before the release of their book, I can’t help but wonder if that timing had anything to do with the decision to run this story.
They also laid out what commentators are now calling a “new allegation.” Let me be clear: this is not an allegation. It’s barely a third-hand rumor. These writers did not even speak to the man who they claim originally recounted this rumor. What’s left are only layers and layers of decades-old hearsay. Not more corroboration. Not more verification. Nothing from the accuser himself. And nothing from the person who was allegedly involved.
The most shameful piece of this episode is that it took more than a full day after publication for editors to intervene and provide critical context. An editor’s note added to the story last night reads: “The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident.”
“…she does not recall the incident.” That’s the alleged victim.
That’s the opposite of corroboration and verification!
In the legal world, this sort of thing is called exculpatory information. When it’s not laid bare to provide greater context, it creates serious credibility problems. In this case, the New York Times withheld crucial facts that undercut its own reporting.
We now have an uncorroborated accusation, rooted only in unnamed sources, with no direct knowledge of the event, and that the alleged victim doesn’t even remember. Since when did that become something “fit to print” by the supposed American paper of record?
The sad consequences of this article are a misinformed public, a greater divide in our discourse and a deeper lack of faith in our news media.