As soon as Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old psychology professor, stepped forward to allege that Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had tried to rape her in high school, it became clear that the forces of right-wing punditry and propaganda were not even remotely interested in the truth of the matter. In fitting with their approach to issues ranging from climate change to whether Trump cooperated with Russian agents to commit election crimes in 2016, conservative pundits clearly see facts as, at best, a distant second to the far more important question of how to spin an issue for political gain.
Subsequently, there's been a crowded and often contradictory set of defenses of Kavanaugh, poured out in record time. Let's give credit where it's due: The American right has become highly skilled at cranking out BS at a superhuman rate, and creating a grab bag of talking points such that every Fox News viewer can customize his own best route to deflection and denial. Here are some of the most popular themes, so far, coming out.
There's no evidence; the accuser must be lying
Problem with this defense: There is in fact evidence, even beyond the eyewitness testimony of the accuser herself. Ford has produced notes from her therapist from 2012 and 2013 — long before the Trump presidency and any suggestion that Kavanaugh might be nominated to the Supreme Court — in which Ford described one of her attackers as "from an elitist boys’ school" and said he had gone on to become a “highly respected and high-ranking" figure in Washington. The other man Ford has accused of acting as Kavanaugh's accomplice, Mark Judge, has a lengthy public history of trying to discredit rape allegations and repeatedly insinuating that, on some level, women are asking for men to sexually overpower them.
This is a Fatal Attraction-type situation in which a woman is angry about being rejected and out for revenge
Examples: Donald Trump Jr. tweeting out a meme portraying Ford this way; Megyn Kelly saying, "Maybe [Kavanaugh] blew her off."
Problems with this defense: If the concern is evidence, well, this accusation has none behind it. This is a common rape myth, but there's no evidence that it's a common problem — especially more than 35 years after the fact, far too long for even the most devout obsessive to nurture a crush. Also, there are two men accused, which is an odd choice for a woman supposedly trying to get revenge on one man.
Attempted rape is merely a youthful indiscretion
Examples: Fox News writer Stephen Miller saying it "was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven"; Megan McArdle arguing that people didn't take this kind of thing seriously when Kavanaugh was in high school; John Cardillo calling this alleged assault a "non-crime."
Problems with this defense: Well, did it happen or didn't it, people? This defense obviously contradicts efforts to say that Ford is lying and the whole thing didn't happen; here, the implication is that maybe it did, but it shouldn't matter. Attempted rape is not a youthful indiscretion, like smoking pot or graffiti. The difference is that there's a victim and that it's a violent crime — as evidenced by the fact that Maryland, the state where this attack allegedly occurred, reformed rape law in the 1970s to define it as a sexual offense to force sexual contact on a person against her will.
No man is safe if we take this assault accusation seriously.
Examples: "If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried," according to an anonymous lawyer in White House circles; Tom Nichols arguing that no one can meet the "spotless lives" standard.
Problems with this defense: It's understandable that rape apologists want male aggression to be seen as universal. If assault is built into male DNA, then nothing can be done and women must be told to accept such things as the price of living in the world. But research shows that sexual coercion is not universal behavior among men, and that fewer than 10 percent of men have raped or attempted to rape women.
The accuser is a Democrat!
Examples: Erick Erickson blaming a "Democrat PR firm"; Dagen McDowell complaining about "potential bias"; Ryan Saavedra harping on $72 worth of donations over 4 years.
Problems with this defense: Being a Democrat is not evidence that someone is a liar or a criminal, much as Fox News would like to suggest otherwise. Nor is there any reason to suggest that Ford felt that sharing a secret with a therapist who was legally bound to protect it in 2012 was a killer political strategy against some random judge she had no reason to believe was going to be the Supreme Court nominee six years later.
Problem with this defense: Anita Hill was almost certainly telling the truth and Clarence Thomas almost certainly perjured himself in denying her claims. The comprehensive and frankly canonical book "Strange Justice," by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, makes this quite clear through exhaustive investigative work. It's also worth remembering that Hill was far from the only woman with a story to tell. At least two other women asked to testify about Thomas sexually harassing them, and were denied an opportunity by the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. (Chaired, to his everlasting shame, by future vice president Joe Biden.)
Obviously, there's no way to know for certain what happened between Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey when they were high school students. But the evidence on record is damning, as it's ridiculous to suggest that a woman confessed something privately to her therapist as part of a plot to destroy someone's career at some indeterminate point years in the future.
What's telling is how clearly the right-wing punditry simply doesn't care if Ford's accusations are true. The fact that conservatives can't even decide whether it's best to minimize the event or deny it outright is a testament to this. After all, if these folks cared about women's health or safety at all, they would already oppose Kavanaugh, who is clearly an ardent opponent of women's rights. If they cared about sexual violence, for that matter, they might object to seating a man nominated by a man who has been recorded bragging about sexual assault.
Whether Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a girl as a teenager clearly doesn't matter to the right. The only thing that matters is kicking up enough dust that they can swiftly confirm him under the cloud cover it provides.