Smearing Blasey Ford: Right-Wing Media Finds Messaging Bonanza in ‘Prosecutor’ Memo

At the September 27 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rachel Mitchell was tapped to poke holes in the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while the two were in high school. Kavanaugh is President Donald Trump’s nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Perhaps because Mitchell did not fare well in the court of public opinion, she issued a memorandum yesterday on U.S. Senate stationery that appears to be an attempt to redeem herself with her client, the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee. Because the senators comprising that majority are all men, Mitchell was chosen to question Blasey Ford in their stead, apparently for the sake of the optics. And Mitchell’s memo is serving perhaps an even more important purpose: seeding a false narrative for pick-up and amplification by right-wing media. (Deanna Paul, a former New York City prosecutor, refutes Mitchell’s claims here.)

Mitchell’s memo focuses on what amount to quibbles with Blasey Ford’s recounting of the assault, and related events of which she was uncertain about details. For instance, she couldn’t recall whether she was administered a polygraph test of her account on the day of her grandmother’s funeral, or the day after. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one can attest to how the perception of time can be altered during the grieving period.

In other instances, Mitchell simply misrepresents the events that resulted in Blasey Ford’s appearance before the committee, falsely stating that Blasey Ford had never revealed her attacker’s name to anyone prior to talking earlier this month to Washington Post reporter Emma Brown. In fact, Blasey Ford had identified Kavanaugh as her attacker in a 2016 email to a friend, and had told others that her assailant was now a federal judge.

The errors and misrepresentations that riddle Mitchell’s memo have nonetheless provided fodder to right-wing media, whose writers and editors rushed to amplify them. Fast out of the gate was Michelle Malkin, who tweeted that she doesn’t buy how Blasey Ford’s inability to recall certain details comports with having endured such an assault. “Blasey Ford conducts high-stakes data analysis for drug companies…Can’t remember basic facts from 30 yrs ago or 2 months ago about biggest events in her life. Does not compute.”

Of course, Blasey Ford presumably does not conduct that “high-stakes data analysis” while being sexually assaulted. That might make a difference. It is well-known science that trauma victims remember particular details of their experience of the traumatic event, while losing recall of other circumstantial details. Malkin is trying to change the subject away from who Brett Kavanaugh is. During a segment on CRTV, Malkin said, “While so many others mindless coo and slobber over Dr. Ford’s ‘sincerity,’ I call sincere bullcrap.”

At The Daily Signal, published by the Heritage Foundation, you’ll find multiple attempts to debunk Blasey Ford’s testimony, including a piece by Rachel Del Guidice drawn directly from the Mitchell memo. In her article, “7 Inconsistencies or Gaps Identified by Christine Blasey Ford’s Questioner,” among the many citations Del Guidice makes from Mitchell’s spin is this claim:

“Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event, and those witnesses either refuted her allegations or failed to corroborate them,” Mitchell, chief of the Special Victims Division of the Maricopa County, Arizona, Attorney’s Office, says in the memo.

Actually, the first part of Mitchell’s assertion is worse than just spin; it’s simply not true that any of the witnesses named by Blasey Ford “refuted” her allegations–unless you’re counting Kavanaugh himself as one of the witnesses. He’s the only one who has “refuted [Blasey Ford’s] allegations.” The other witnesses she named, aside from Kavanaugh and Mark Judge (the alleged participants in the assault), did not corroborate them, simply because they said they did not remember attending that particular gathering. And since they weren’t the ones being assaulted and the party seemed to be otherwise generic in its particulars, it’s not surprising that they wouldn’t remember such a get-together 36 years after the fact. Blasey Ford said she told no one about the incident at the time, a common behavior for survivors of sexual assault. Mitchell fails to mention that one of those non-corroborating witnesses, Leland Keyser, says that she believes Blasey Ford.

On September 30, a day before Mitchell’s memo was released, Breitbart’s John Nolte published a list of what he deemed reasons not to believe Blasey Ford, some of which seemed to find their way into Mitchell’s memo. (Could just be [Make America] Great [Again] minds thinking alike, I suppose.) But instead of simply noting “discrepancies,” as Mitchell does, Nolte calls Blasey Ford a liar. For instance, he writes, “She straight-up lied about being afraid to fly,” a conclusion he draws because Blasey Ford does get on an airplane from time to time—something that untold numbers of people who experience fear of flying also do.

Before getting to his list of reasons not to believe Eve Jezebel Christine Blasey Ford, however, Nolte lights into Fox News Channel for allowing two of its leading personalities, Chris Wallace and Andrew Napolitano, to deem Blasey Ford a credible witness. From Nolte’s piece, Fox News Cowards Spread Fake News that Blasey Ford Is ‘Credible’”:

But here is Fox News—Fox FREAKIN’ News—fashionably proclaiming uncorroborated and unsubstantiated testimony from a woman accusing a fellow human being of an attempted sexual assault—not just as credible, but as “extremely credible” and “exceptionally credible.”


This is monstrous behavior, unforgivable, un-American—the stuff of lynch mobs, of quislings—and it is the fakest of fake news.

The next day, Nolte followed up with a piece based on Mitchell’s memo (which, you’ll recall, looks a lot like Nolte’s September 30 piece, minus the invective and Fox News critique), titled “Prosecutor’s Senate Report Outlines 9 Reasons Why Christine Blasey Ford Not Credible.”

Here, in Nolte’s examination of the Mitchell memo, the writer seems to think he’s found a smoking gun:

Mitchell moves on to lay out how Ford’s version of what happened has been every bit the moving target as the timing of the event. “When speaking with her husband,” Mitchell writes, “Dr. Ford changed her description of the incident to become less specific.”

  • “Dr. Ford testified that she told her husband about a ‘sexual assault’ before they were married.”
  • “But she told the Washington Post that she informed her husband that she was the victim of ‘physical abuse’ at the beginning of their marriage.”
  • “She testified that, both times, she was referring to the same incident.”

Now it is an attempted sexual assault.

Note that it is not uncommon for survivors of sexual assault to use a euphemism to describe their experience, a fact that Nolte ignores.

Over at Townhall, Guy Benson thinks he found a “gotcha” in the Mitchell memo, which notes that, initially, Blasey Ford said the assault took place in the mid-1980s, and later revised it to say it happened in the early ‘80s, before narrowing it down to 1982. He seems a little chagrined by his own parsing, and writes:

This may all seem like preposterous nitpicking, but we have very little actual evidence to review in this case, hence the media’s heavy emphasis on the emotional impact and optics from last week’s performances before the judiciary committee.

He also repeats Mitchell’s misrepresentation of the number of people Blasey Ford said were involved in the attack against her at the party; she never said there were four boys involved, only that a total of four boys that she knew were in attendance at the party, two of whom were Kavanaugh and Judge. (The confusion stems from notes taken by Blasey Ford’s therapist, which were shown by Blasey Ford to The Washington Post.)

Conservative writer and attorney Margot Cleveland also jumped, via Twitter, to amplify the same misrepresentation, which was then further amplified by Phil Kerpen, former vice president of Americans for Prosperity and a Koch-network utility player. (His current employer, American Commitment, receives its funding through sources that are part of the network of donors developed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who also founded Americans for Prosperity.) Kerpen is leading a charge to require Blasey Ford to provide her therapist’s notes to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Even from the very cursory description of the therapist notes in the first WaPo story it is clear they are exculpatory, and that’s why neither the Senate nor the FBI will ever see them,” Kerpen tweeted.

But, of course, they are likely not “exculpatory,” regardless how many times a right-winger claims that they are. And should you wonder where the Koch brothers stand amid this mess of a Supreme Court nomination, Kerpen is running a special campaign: As you might surmise, it’s not Christine Blasey Ford they claim is being smeared. After all of that berating of Blasey Ford, Kerpen’s website declares: “Democrats and their media allies are running the most obscene, vicious smear campaign we’ve ever seen.”