Brett Kavanaugh got it wrong when he discussed Maryland’s drinking age in the summer of 1982 during his Monday night interview on Fox News Channel’s The Story with Martha MacCallum.
Near the end of the first segment, host Martha MacCallum ran through some of the more recent allegations leveled against Kavanaugh by attorney Michael Avenatti. Specifically, allegations of group sex or “gang rape” involving women who had been plied with extreme amounts of drugs and/or alcohol.
MacCallum asked, “Did you ever participate in or where you ever aware of any gang-rape that happened at a party that you attended?”
Kavanaugh flatly denied the gang rape charge, calling it “totally false and outrageous,” before pivoting to an admission, of sorts, about Georgetown Prep’s hard-partying culture. Kavanaugh said:
And yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion…
That’s not quite true–at least not fully.
After a nationwide pressure campaign waged by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Maryland voluntarily raised their alcohol purchase age to 21 on July 1, 1982. According to a Washington Post article from that day:
Starting today, most Marylanders must be 21 year old, instead of 18, to drink any alcoholic beverage legally.
Because the controversial new drinking-age law does not affect those who are already 18, 19, or 20 years old, the law’s immediate effect will be on those turning 18 today and in the future.
A separate Washington Post article from earlier in the year clarifies the situation:
The [state House] committee approved a compromise bill to raise the age to 21 and to “grandfather” in those persons now legally allowed to drink. Under that bill, anyone who turns 18 after July 1 would have to wait three years to drink. Anyone 18 years old before July 1 could continue to drink legally.
Would the grandfathering clause have applied to Kavanaugh? It would not have. As Law&Crime’s Matt Naham noted in a separate piece on Michael Avenatti’s recent claims regarding the Supreme Court nominee:
Either way, Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the time and not legally able to drink, as he was born on Feb. 12, 1965. Seniors who were “grandfathered in” would have been able to.
But let’s tread a bit carefully here.
Nowhere in the MacCallum interview did Kavanaugh himself admit to drinking while at Georgetown Prep. Rather, he made the above-mentioned references to “parties” and “the drinking age,” while also noting, “the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion…”
As a senior during that time, however, Kavanaugh appears to be alluding to himself. If so, he definitely got it wrong. And, in any event, he didn’t get it exactly right. Some seniors might have been grandfathered in to the legal drinking age–but Kavanaugh himself was not. And, without putting too fine a point on it, the drinking age was only 18 years old until roughly halfway through the summer in question.
And at another point in the interview, MacCallum noted and asked, “Sir, you are going to be pressed on something that you just said about people do things in high school, and you were all drinking, were there times when perhaps you drank so much – was there ever a time that you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened the night before?”
To which Kavanaugh replied, “No, that never happened.”
Again, Kavanaugh answered the question–but vaguely. And, again, he did not explicitly admit to drinking.
The controversial Supreme Court nominee seems to be categorically denying various much-discussed blackout drinking episodes which have become part of the Kavanaugh lore thanks to the writings of his longtime friend and conservative compatriot Mark Judge, but Kavanaugh didn’t confirm or deny drinking one way or another. Of course, another way to read this answer is that he tacitly admitted to underage drinking while simply denying the blackout charges.
TL;DR–if Kavanaugh drank in high school, he did so underage. And he got the law wrong about what the legal age was at the time. For almost any other political entity in the world, this would probably be a small potatoes sort of non-issue–if that. But we’re talking about a Supreme Court nominee who’s being called to account for his behavior and who has been accused of a pattern of untruthfulness, deceit and outright lying.
[Image via Fox News screengrab]
Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher
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