NBC News is at it again.
On Tuesday, it continued to push a story suggesting that Judge Brett Kavanaugh perjured himself last week during a congressional hearing. The network’s reporting claimed Kavanaugh said he had not “discussed or heard discussion about the incident matching the description given” by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged in a New Yorker report dated Sept. 23 that the judge exposed himself during a drinking game when they were classmates at Yale.
“Kavanaugh's testimony is starting to look more and more problematic,” reads the headline to a news roundup authored by Chuck Todd (Ha!), Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann.
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The Tuesday rundown is a continuation of an NBC "scoop" published Monday titled, “Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser's claim before it became public.”
“[T]he texts show Kavanaugh may need to be questioned about how far back he anticipated that Ramirez would air allegations against him. [Kerry] Berchem says in her memo that Kavanaugh ‘and/or’ his friends ‘may have initiated an anticipatory narrative’ as early as July to ‘conceal or discredit’ Ramirez,” reads the Monday report, which was authored by Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell.
It adds, “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. Kavanaugh was asked by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, when he first heard of Ramirez’s allegations. Kavanaugh answered: ‘In the New Yorker story.’”
The stories were, of course, a huge hit with reporters and pundits, many of whom shared the reports on social media with variations of "Wow!" and "It sure looks like Kavanaugh committed perjury!"
The problem here is: The Supreme Court nominee hasn’t actually said anything to contradict his testimony, NBC’s attempts to suggest otherwise notwithstanding.
First, there’s the issue that the New Yorker article itself quoted Kavanaugh as denying Ramirez’s allegations, so clearly he had heard of them before it was published. Second, and certainly more important, there’s the issue that Kavanaugh testified under oath to congressional investigators that he had heard Ramirez was looking for dirt on him prior to the New Yorker’s Sept. 23 report.
The transcript of a Sept. 25 interview between Kavanaugh and investigators contains the following lines:
[Redacted Questioner]: All right. My last question on this subject is since you graduated from college, but before the New Yorker article publication on September 23rd, have you ever discussed or heard discussion about the incident matching the description given by Ms. Ramirez to the New Yorker?
[Judge Kavanaugh]: No.
Kavanaugh also had the following exchange with investigators:
[Redacted Questioner]: Well, actually, are you aware that the New York Times passed up on this story before the New Yorker ran the story?
[Judge Kavanaugh]: That’s what I read in the New York Times.
[Redacted Questioner]: What’s your reaction to that?
[Judge Kavanaugh]: 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 key sentence here is: “I, myself, heard about that, that she was doing that.” His friends, he testified, had warned him that Ramirez was calling around and apparently trying to plant memories in the minds of his classmates. Now, fast-forward to last week’s congressional hearing with Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked the judge, “When did you first hear of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations against you?”
“In the last — in the period since then, the New Yorker story,” Kavanaugh responded.
You have to read that in bad faith on purpose to interpret that response as perjury, considering that it came two days after he told its investigators under oath that he had indeed heard that Ramirez was out trying to collect dirt on him. Far more likely, "the New Yorker story" refers not to the date of its publication, but to the entire process of reporting the piece, during which he was told of the allegation, as he had already told the committee's investigators under oath two days earlier.
The original Monday night NBC report has been amended to include details of Kavanaugh’s Sept. 25 interview with investigators. There is no editor’s note or any other sort of clarification calling attention to this update, which is actually a correction.
Perhaps more ridiculous than the stealth-edits is the fact that NBC hasn’t retracted the story yet, considering that the updates contradict the story’s main suggestion that Kavanaugh committed perjury. But the really galling thing here is that the amended version of the NBC report says, “In now-public transcripts from an interview with Republican Judiciary Committee staff on September 25 …” “Now-public” is NBC editors' dishonest way of referring to a transcript that was released on Sept. 26 in direct response to a separate and equally flimsy NBC News report alleging misconduct by Kavanaugh. In short, NBC's story would not have been published if they'd actually read an already-public transcript.
By my count, this is the third high-profile garbage story NBC has pushed in an effort to sink Kavanaugh’s confirmation. There is its irresponsible coverage of a Facebook post written by a woman who claimed she heard something about Ford’s assault (the woman later deleted her social media accounts and said she didn’t actually know if anything happened between Ford and Kavanaugh). Then, there is NBC’s story detailing anonymous allegations from Colorado that Kavanaugh assaulted his girlfriend in 1998. That story has more or less fallen apart thanks to the on-the-record testimony of a federal judge who was dating Kavanaugh at the time of the supposed incident
At this point, there are no good reasons why anyone should trust NBC's continued coverage of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight. One bad report is an accident, two is a coincidence, and three is a pattern.