Sabrina Rojas Weiss
September 16, 2019 9:23 am

Trigger warning: This story discusses an incident of sexual assault.

Nearly a year after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, more stories about his alleged sexual misconduct, retaliatory accusations, and insensitive commentary are making headlines. An excerpt from a book by two New York Times reporters has politicians from the left calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, while President Trump wants the Justice Department to “come to his rescue.”

According to the Times, Max Stier, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s, recalled seeing Kavanaugh expose himself at a dorm party as friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. This is a different occasion and accusation than the one recalled by classmate Deborah Ramirez, who is the focus of the book.

Ramirez accused Kavanaugh of something very similar to this new allegation. As she told The New Yorker, Ramirez remembers Kavanaugh exposing his penis to her, waving it in her face, and laughing while the two were at a Yale dorm party.

Stier reportedly told senators and the FBI about this other incident, but the FBI declined to investigate. The woman herself refused an interview with the Times, but friends say she doesn’t remember it happening (which, we have to point out, does not mean it’s not true, especially if alcohol was involved).

The piece, published in the NYT Book Review section, is an excerpt from Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly’s forthcoming book The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.

This particular essay discusses how Ramirez initially experienced the alleged assault as part of the bullying, elitist culture of Yale in the early ’80s. According to her account, she was a sheltered, Puerto Rican girl from a working-class background, and many of her classmates made fun of her “innocence.”

The story also includes some very serious accusations about the rushed investigations into Kavanaugh’s past before his confirmation hearings last fall. When The New Yorker broke Ramirez’s story in September 2018, senators and the FBI were already aware of her allegations. This seemingly led Republicans to call for the vote to be moved up instead of pausing for a more in-depth look at what may have happened.

And it seems like they successfully prevented the FBI from doing its job. While the FBI interviewed Ramirez, the Times says that it did not contact any of the 25 corroborating witnesses her legal team gave the bureau.

Her lawyer, Bill Pittard, said that agents were apologetic as they told him, “We have to wait to get authorization to do anything else.”

When an investigation into sexual assault or misconduct fails to include witnesses, it conveniently keeps everything in he-said/she-said territory. Add in the fact that this all reportedly happened at alcohol-fueled college parties, and it’s very easy to discredit the women involved. Nevermind that others like Stier were around to back up the story.

Over the weekend, several Democratic presidential hopefuls took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the matter.

“I sat through those hearings,” Senator Kamala Harris wrote on Sunday.  “Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren had similar thoughts. “Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing,” she tweeted. “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

Senator Bernie Sanders and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro also called for impeachment. Those on the right continued to defend Kavanaugh and called the accusations against him, including those of Christine Blasey Ford, a smear campaign.

Twitter was also the site of a disturbing aside to the story, coming, strangely enough, from the New York Times Opinion account.

“What the hell is going on at the NYT?” author Roxane Gay asked, sharing a screenshot of the tweet.

NYT deputy editorial page editor James Dao later said the tweet “was clearly offensive and never should have gone out and we sincerely apologize.” The paper’s PR account also said that it was reviewing “the decision-making with those involved” in posting it.

If you are a sexual assault survivor and need help, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to speak to a trained counselor. You can also chat online with a counselor here. Both services are available 24/7.

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