The New Yorker beclowned itself last month with an absurd, self-rebutting report that parroted admittedly uncorroborated allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh once exposed himself during a drinking game when he was a student at Yale.
On Wednesday, the same authors, Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, managed somehow to produce an even worse journalistic product.
The new story, titled “The F.B.I. Probe Ignored Testimonies from Former Classmates of Kavanaugh,” is an effort to help Democratic lawmakers cast doubt on the supplemental background check they had demanded, which the FBI just finished conducting on Kavanaugh.
[Click here for complete Kavanaugh coverage]
The story begins with this paragraph:
Frustrated potential witnesses who have been unable to speak with the F.B.I agents conducting the investigation into sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, have been resorting to sending statements, unsolicited, to the Bureau and to senators, in hopes that they would be seen before the inquiry concluded. … NBC News reported that dozens of people who said that they had information about Kavanaugh had contacted F.B.I. field offices, but agents had not been permitted to talk to many of them. Several people interested in speaking to the F.B.I. expressed exasperation in interviews with The New Yorker at what they perceived to be a lack of interest in their accounts.
It sounds pretty bad — until you read a bit further.
Kenneth G. Appold, whom Farrow characterizes as a “primary witness” and whom Mayer is careful to promote as a professor (hello, appeal to authority), is quoted at length as a supposedly knowledgeable source on Kavanaugh’s behavior at Yale. It is Appold who complains that the FBI won't respond to his hot scoop that he may have heard something once about Kavanaugh exposing himself during a drinking game.
The report actually reads as follows: “Appold said that he initially asked to remain anonymous because he hoped to make contact first with the classmate who, to the best of his recollection, told him about the party and was an eyewitness to the incident. He said that he had not been able to get any response from that person, despite multiple attempts to do so. The New Yorker reached the classmate, but he said that he had no memory of the incident.”
Laughably, the report then adds this line: “Appold reached out to the Bureau last weekend but did not hear back.” Gee, I wonder why.
What Appold is offering, and what the New Yorker was just itching to report, is called hearsay. Yes, shame on the FBI for not jumping at the chance to interview a guy who says he can "corroborate" an event because he thinks he remembers (or wants to remember) hearing about it second- or third-hand.
It gets worse.
As it turns out, Appold is the same person Farrow and Mayer cited heavily in their Sept. 23 report. In that story, Appold, then speaking on the condition of anonymity, acted as the New Yorker's sole “corroborating” witness to the allegations of lewd conduct that, in fact, he couldn't corroborate. He told Farrow and Mayer that he was “one-hundred-percent certain’ that he was told that Kavanaugh was the male student who exposed himself to [Deborah Ramirez].”
Again, Appold says he didn't actually witness the alleged incident, and he may have even been contacted by the supposed victim, whom certain Yale alumni claim has been reaching out recently to other classmates in an effort to implant memories of this indecent exposure episode in their minds. Now, we learn Appold's "source" has no memory of such an incident.
Just so we’re all clear on the timeline of events: Appold spoke to the New Yorker anonymously in September to “confirm” an allegation for which he had no first-hand knowledge. Even Farrow and Mayer admitted they could not corroborate the story, or even whether Kavanaugh was at the Yale party in question. The only source who said the alleged exposure definitely happened is a man who also wasn’t there to witness it.
The New Yorker published the story anyway.
Appold then went on-the-record with Farrow and Mayer for a second story, to complain the FBI won’t take his uncorroborated second- or third-hand gossip seriously. Appold claimed he has been unable to contact the classmate who supposedly told him about the Kavanaugh incident. The New Yorker got hold of the classmate, who said he has no memory of what Appold alleges.
The New Yorker published the second story anyway.
Farrow's fall from grace has been a genuinely depressing spectacle to behold. At one point, he was the gold standard of #MeToo reporting, trusted and admired by both liberals and conservatives. His investigative journalism was searing, well-researched and damning. He was the one who cracked the press' self-imposed ban on pursuing allegations that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually abused multiple women.
But now Farrow is scrounging for scraps alongside the extraordinarily unreliable and partisan Jane Mayer. No one made Farrow hitch his wagon to these deeply embarrassing and wildly irresponsible Kavanaugh hit jobs. No one forced Farrow to treat Appold as a serious and credible source. This is all of Farrow's own choosing. It was nice while it lasted, Icarus.
[Also read: Kavanaugh heading to Supreme Court? Flake: 'no additional' corroboration. Collins: 'very thorough' FBI report. Grassley: 'time to vote']