Kavanaugh spokesperson/activist says it’s not clear that the incident was attempted rape as opposed to just “rough horseplay”. pic.twitter.com/cANvVNjFKX
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 18, 2018
Allies of Judge Brett Kavanaugh appear to be testing a new line of defense against allegations that the controversial Supreme Court nominee confined and then attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford at a house party in the summer of 1982.
During an interview on CNN’s At This Hour, host Kate Bolduan asked the conservative Judicial Crisis Network‘s Carrie Severino, “If Christine Blasey Ford’s story is true, if it is credible, would that be disqualifying for Brett Kavanaugh to sit on the high court? Or disqualifying for any nominee?”
The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) is the leading group which supports Republican nominees to the nation’s high court and had led the charge in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation.
In response to Bolduan’s question, Severino replied:
Well, look, her allegations cover a whole range of conduct from boorishness to rough horse play to actual attempted rape. Obviously if you go to rape, yes, that is a really serious allegation. But we don’t–that is why it will be useful to have this hearing. So we can even figure out what some of the specifics on those allegations are.
Severino then pivoted, saying, “I want to make sure though that that hearing doesn’t turn into–” at which point she was cut off by Bolduan who interjected, “One thing though, Carrie, I don’t think anywhere in there she’s saying this is ‘boorish horseplay’ at all in her letter and I don’t that’s at all what she’s suggesting.”
“She’s certainly implying that it’s attempted rape,” Severino responded. “But you have to look at–there’s 35 years of memory that we’re trying to play with here. And I’m saying that the behavior she described could be interpreted–could describe a whole range of things. I know her perception of it was one way … but Judge Kavanaugh says this didn’t happen at all.”
Twitter immediately blasted this categorization of Ford’s allegations.
The Washington Post‘s Alexandra Petri mocked the idea:
rough horse play: Equus
not rough horse play: this https://t.co/uFUPWHBAFE
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) September 18, 2018
Others were less comical:
Rough “horse play” is twister.
Rape is rape. https://t.co/hQeCr6vc1d
— Tom Joad (@JohnnyBlkshrt) September 18, 2018
Rough horse play. So, that’s what we’re calling sexual assault now. Got it.
— sabrinaobscura (@sabrinaobscura) September 18, 2018
The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) was formerly known as the Judicial Confirmation Network. The Center for Media and Democracy describes JCN as “an advocacy organization that advances a right-wing legal agenda and uses undisclosed dark money ‘issue ads’ to influence state and federal judicial appointments and elections.”
The JCN was founded in 2004 by George W. Bush‘s conservative outreach director Gary Marx and Wendy Long, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The entity is currently registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and, as such, its donors are not publicly identified. They recently announced a $1.5 million ad campaign in support of Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, liberal group Demand Justice is looking to use a campaign of their own to convince moderate Republicans to oppose the confirmation.
Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of the Talking Points Memo identified Severino as a Kavanaugh “spokesperson,” though that doesn’t appear to be technically accurate. In a post regarding Severino’s above comments on his editor’s blog, Marshall noted, “The JCN is the central campaign arm for Republican judicial nominations. The Federalist Society grooms and chooses the nominees. The JCN runs the campaigns, [and] runs political ads in Senators’ states, as necessary.”
Law&Crime reached out to JCN for comment and clarification on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]