NBC Accused of ‘Stealth-Edit’ Attack on Kavanaugh in Story Suggesting He Committed Perjury

An NBC News report about Brett Kavanaugh trying to get out ahead of the Deborah Ramirez story is receiving some pushback on social media. Ramirez accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself decades ago at a dorm party at Yale in a story published by The New Yorker. NBC followed with a piece pointing to discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony on Capitol Hill, particularly his answers about when and what he knew about Ramirez’s allegation.

People are actively disagreeing on whether NBC has proved what it purports to — that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath.

So here’s the gist of how NBC suggested that Kavanaugh lied when he testified that he first heard of Ramirez’s allegations when The New Yorker published its story.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Kavanaugh during his Thursday testimony when he “first heard” of Ramirez’s allegations against him. Kavanaugh replied, “In the last — in the period since then, The New Yorker story.”

Enter NBC with this claim: “Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser’s claim before it became public.”

NBC referred to Kerry Berchem‘s texts. Bercham and Karen Yarasavage, both described as Kavanaugh friends, exchanged texts that NBC says suggests Kavanaugh did hear about Ramirez’s story in advance. Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked for her to come to his defense on the record. There were reportedly two other messages that showed Team Kavanaugh was in touch with classmates before the New Yorker story. Berchem says she has attempted to go to the FBI about this, but hasn’t gotten a response.

She claimed that Kavanaugh “and/or” friends of Kavanaugh “may have initiated an anticipatory narrative” as far back as July to “conceal or discredit [Ramirez’s story].”

Then this line: “Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that the first time he heard of Ramirez’s allegation was in the Sept. 23 article in The New Yorker.”

NBC has been criticized for “stealth editing” this paragraph into the story while not providing the full context of Kavanaugh’s quotes:

In now-public transcripts from an interview with Republican Judiciary Committee staff on September 25, two days after the Ramirez allegations were reported in the New Yorker, Kavanaugh claimed that it was Ramirez who was “calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered it,” adding that it “strikes me as, you know, what is going on here? When someone is calling around to try to refresh other people? Is that what’s going on? What’s going on with that? That doesn’t sound — that doesn’t sound — good to me. It doesn’t sound fair. It doesn’t sound proper. It sounds like an orchestrated hit to take me out.”

It’s worth mentioning that at the very top of the article, there is an indication that the story was updated Tuesday morning. Other than that, no, there is no additional editor’s comment.

Here was Kavanaugh’s full quote to a Senate Judiciary employee asking him questions on Sept. 25. Kavanaugh said he heard the New York Times found that Ramirez was “calling around to classmates” and said that he himself “heard about that, that she was doing that”:

They couldn’t — the New York Times couldn’t corroborate this story and found that she was calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered it. And I, at least — and I, myself, heard about that, that she was doing that. And you know, that just strikes me as, you know, what is going on here? When someone is calling around to try to refresh other people, is that what’s going on? What’s going on with that? That doesn’t sound — that doesn’t sound good to me. It doesn’t sound fair. It doesn’t sound proper. It sounds like an orchestrated hit to take me out. That’s what it sounds like. The New Yorker story discussed how Ms. Ramirez had a lapse of memory related to this incident until she had several days of conversations with her attorney. Did you read that?

He doesn’t say that he knew about the allegation in specifics, Kavanaugh defenders say.

Critics of the story were out in force. Here are a couple of the Kavanaugh defenses offered.

“I see a lot of reporters tweeting this story. NBC actually screwed this up significantly. The transcript of Kavanaugh’s interviews and testimony show he accurately answered the related questions,” conservative commentator Erick Erickson said. “NBC, for some reason, selectively missed his responses.”

“The NBC story accusing Kavanaugh of perjury has been updated—without any note, or acknowledgement of that fact—and now includes a reference to the full September 25th testimony that flatly contradicts the claim being made. And yet NBC is still pushing it,” National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke said.

The Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold chimed in, “So not only did NBC stealth-edit in Kavanaugh’s Sept 25th testimony, they cut the quote in a way that *specifically omits* his testimony he knew about the Ramirez allegation in the days beforehand.”

“This seems relevant in an article that’s tacitly accusing Kavanaugh of perjury for not revealing he knew about the story beforehand,” he continued.

The counter to this was Kavanaugh’s “no” to the question of whether he had “ever discussed or heard discussion about the incident matching the description given by Ms. Ramirez to The New Yorker?”

Griswold replied by first sharing CNN anchor Jake Tapper‘s response. Tapper said: “Kavanaugh is quoted in the New Yorker story denying the allegation so of course he had heard about it prior to publication.”

“And I think any reasonable person would interpret ‘did you hear about this allegation between college and publication’ to mean the 30 year interim period and not in the six-day lead-up to publication,” Griswold added.

Law&Crime has reached out to NBC for comment and clarification.

[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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