Yesterday I wrote about the weird Twitter stream of Ed Whelan, a prominent conservative lawyer and friend and ally of Brett Kavanaugh, who concocted an elaborate theory that Christine Blasey Ford was confused and that the person who sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her at a party when she was 15 was another man who was also a friend and classmate of Kavanaugh’s. Ford has flatly denied that she was confused since she said that she knew both Kavanaugh and the other man.
What is extraordinary is that while Whelan provided the name and a huge amount of identifying information about Kavanaugh’s supposed doppelgänger, he provided absolutely no evidence in support of his claim. Since that person is a private citizen, accusing him publicly of a serious crime was likely defamatory and Whelan quickly deleted the tweets when this was pointed out, though as a lawyer you would have thought he would have already known this. If you are curious about Whelan’s tweets, Josh Marshall has reproduced them in their entirety, while wisely blacking out the identifying information. It is really something to see.
This whole effort seemed driven by a sense of panic that the Kavanaugh nomination was in jeopardy. My initial reaction to this news was, as I said in my post yesterday, that Whelan had got carried away by his amateur sleuthing and become so excited that he had developed a theory that seemed to explain all the facts and exculpate his friend that he rushed to send it out without thinking things through.
But it seems that by ascribing his actions to impulsive foolishness, I was letting him off too lightly. According to this report, Whelan was by no means acting alone nor impulsively. Apparently this theory had been developed over several days by several people, some of them part of the Kavanaugh defense team. They tried to sell the theory to traditional media but when those outlets failed to bite (remember, there was no evidence at all in support of it), they developed a scheme to spread the word about and build up huge anticipation about the release of information by Whelan that would completely exonerate Kavanaugh. It was only after everyone had been primed to expect a blockbuster revelation from Whelan that he unleashed his tweets.
Here’s the background.
It turns out that the Keystone Cops detective work by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan — which set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh, only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted — was not his handiwork alone.
CRC Public Relations, the prominent Alexandria, Virginia-based P.R. firm, guided Whelan through his roller-coaster week of Twitter pronouncements that ended in embarrassment and a potential setback for Kavanaugh’s hopes of landing on the high court, according to three sources familiar with their dealings.
After suggesting on Twitter on Tuesday that he had obtained information that would exculpate Kavanaugh from the sexual assault allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, Whelan worked over the next 48 hours with CRC and its president, Greg Mueller, to stoke the anticipation. A longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, Whelan teased his reveal — even as he refused to discuss it with other colleagues and close friends, a half dozen of them said. At the same time, he told them he was absolutely confident the information he had obtained would exculpate the judge.
The hype ping-ponged from Republicans on Capitol Hill to Kavanaugh’s team in the White House, evidence of an extraordinarily successful public relations campaign that ultimately backfired when Whelan’s theory — complete with architectural drawings and an alleged Kavanaugh doppelgänger — landed with a thud on Twitter Thursday evening.
Given the large number of people involved, with undoubtedly many of them being lawyers, it is astonishing that not a single one pointed out that this plan was utterly absurd. Unlike in the case of American Animals, they cannot use the ‘stupid young men’ excuse. Meanwhile, a person working for the senate judiciary committee and advising Republicans on how to respond to the Ford charges has abruptly resigned “amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.”
Now, like the proverbial rats scurrying away from a sinking ship, everyone is disavowing any involvement in this fiasco.
Matt Whitlock, deputy chief of staff to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), directed people to Whelan’s Twitter feed on Wednesday in a tweet of his own and later deleted his tweet.
“Keep an eye on Ed’s tweets the next few days,” Whitlock wrote.
After Whelan unveiled his theory Thursday evening, Whitlock deleted the tweet, explaining that he “didn’t want to promote” anything that “dragged an unrelated private citizen into this unfortunate situation.”
“I had no idea,” Whitlock added, “what Ed was planning.”
While the person fingered by Whelan may have the legal standing to sue for defamation, he seems to be part of the same circle of right-wingers and thus may decide not to do so or may be willing to be bought off privately. Donald Trump and his cronies seem to have mastered the art of buying the silence of people.