It has been a little more than a month since the first of three women came forward to accuse Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
It has also been 12 days since the U.S. Senate confirmed the judge to the Supreme Court.
In all that time, between the publication of the first accusation and his confirmation to the court, the press’ interest in the completely uncorroborated allegations against Kavanaugh has gone from fever pitch to casual disinterest, even though the judge has since been made one of the most powerful men in America.
That the decline in interest also coincides with Kavanaugh’s Oct. 6 confirmation is enough to make a cynical person wonder whether the press’ wall-to-wall pre-vote news coverage was more about blocking his nomination than seeking justice for the alleged victims.
The name Christine Blasey Ford first appeared in print on Sept. 16 when she alleged in an on-the-record interview with the Washington Post that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her when they were both in high school. The next accuser, Deborah Ramirez, first appeared on Sept. 23 in a New Yorker article, alleging Kavanaugh once exposed himself during a drinking game when they were students at Yale. The third accuser, Julie Swetnick, claimed to have witnessed Kavanaugh orchestrating mass gang-rapes when he was 15 years old. She was first named on social media on Sept. 26 by celebrity attorney and cable news enthusiast Michael Avenatti.
Taken together, the misconduct allegations sparked a merciless media feeding frenzy. The public heard from outraged anti-Kavanaugh reporters, outraged anti-Kavanaugh commentators, outraged anti-Kavanaugh lawmakers, outraged anti-Kavanaugh political activists, alleged victims of sexual abuse, and many more. The misconduct accusations and negative media coverage very nearly derailed the judge’s confirmation.
But the Senate voted 50-48 anyway on Oct. 6 to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Since that time, the press’ near-obsessive interest in the sexual misconduct allegations has not just declined — it has all but vanished. The names Ford, Ramirez, and Swetnick are fast fading into distant memory, just one month since the public first heard from them.
For example, between Sept. 16 and Oct. 6, Ford averaged 572 mentions per day in U.S. newspapers and wire stories, according to Lexis-Nexis, and 6,045 mentions per day on radio and cable and network television, according to data compiled by TVEyes.
Although she enjoyed a resurgence in interest over the weekend following President Trump’s mention of her on "60 Minutes," Ford has been mentioned just 91 times in print and 66 times on radio and TV in the last 24-hour cycle.
The press’ approach to the Ramirez allegation looks very much the same — she went from 162 daily mentions before the confirmation vote to just one mention in print and not a single mention on radio or television in the last 24 hours.
Swetnick is the only real standout insofar as the press’ coverage of the Kavanaugh allegations is concerned. Reporters mostly stayed away from her wild accusations. Although she averaged roughly 107 mentions per day in newspapers and wire stories between Sept. 26 and Oct. 6, mentions of her story in media were already falling steadily even before the vote.
Interestingly enough, so far as news radio and television are concerned, Swetnick received more attention from the press following the Senate vote. This is because several post-mortem reports rightly noted her flimsy and absurd allegations might have actually helped put Kavanaugh over the finish line, as Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, suggested in an Oct. 5 floor speech announcing her support for the judge.
It only stands to reason that the accusers should get less coverage after leaving the limelight. But that doesn't mean it's natural for their names or stories to vanish so quickly. Newsrooms really seemed to go all in on the Ford and Ramirez allegations prior to the Senate’s Oct. 6 vote, only to abandon them almost immediately after Kavanaugh’s confirmation could no longer be prevented.
If there were truth to any of the accusations, and Congress just put a psychopathic sex criminal on the Supreme Court, it would be hard for editors to justify letting the issue die so completely. But that appears to be exactly what they plan to do, even after so many members of Congress promised repeatedly that further investigation would blow the case wide open.