The toughest challenge facing Judge Brett Kavanaugh when he appears at a Senate hearing Thursday about allegations of a decades-old sexual assault may be reconciling the two starkly different depictions circulating about his high school and college years.
Unfortunately for Kavanaugh, both versions — one of a hard-partying, heavy-drinking frat boy and the other of a church-going athlete known from age 14 for respecting women’s dignity — come from Kavanaugh’s own words.
Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, is expected to tell the committee about what she says was a traumatic encounter in which a 17-year-old, “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams. She says she escaped when Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them and they all tumbled to the floor.
Kavanaugh says the incident did not happen. “I have never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise,” he said.
In a highly unusual move for a Supreme Court nominee, Kavanaugh turned to Fox News on Monday night to portray his teenage years as wholesome and studious, inconsistent with any of the allegations that have been made against him.
“I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday ... working on my service projects and friendships with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all-girls Catholic schools,” he said.
He spoke of a “lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality, starting with the woman who knew me when I was 14 years old.”
But Kavanaugh’s earlier descriptions of himself as a student — from high school through law school — were of someone far less strait-laced.
Four years ago, Kavanaugh returned to Yale Law School for a Federalist Society meeting and devoted a significant part of his speech to “fond” remembrances of drinking excursions.
“I’m approaching the 24th anniversary of my organizing 30 classmates in a bus to go to Boston for a Red Sox game and a night of Boston bar-hopping, only for us to return falling out of the bus onto the front steps of the Yale Law School at 4:45 a.m,” he said. He noted one of his friends had tried to study on the bus “while people were doing group chugs from a keg.”
He recalled one friend who was so drunk he stumbled and “broke a table in the Lawn Club reception area. Smashed it into multiple pieces. I actually still possess a photo of him sprawled on the floor on top of the table,” he told his audience. “Now you might think that we would have quickly left the Lawn Club after that, with some sense of shame. But you’d be wrong.” He said they kept drinking.
“Fortunately for all of us, we had a motto: What happens on the bus, stays on the bus,” he said. “Tonight, you can modify that to: What happens at the Fed Soc [Federalist Society] after-party, stays at the Fed Soc after-party.”
Kavanaugh made a similar comment about his high school days in a 2015 talk at Catholic University. “Fortunately, we had a good saying that we've held firm to, to this day … which is: What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep," he said. "That's been a good thing for all of us, I think."
In the Fox News interview, Kavanaugh downplayed his drinking in high school:
“Yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion … I think all of us have probably done things we look back on high school and regret or cringe a bit, but that’s not what we’re talking about.… I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
Maryland raised its drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1982, when Kavanaugh was 17.
Fox host Martha MacCallum asked him, “Was there ever a time that you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened the night before?”
“No. That never happened,” Kavanaugh replied.
“You never said to anyone, ‘I don’t remember anything about last night?’” she asked.
“No. That did not happen,” he said.
Yet his 1983 high school yearbook page, written by Kavanaugh, featured mostly references to parties and drinking and sexual innuendoes. He wrote that he was the “Keg City Club (Treasurer) — 100 Kegs or Bust.”
His mention of sports events often included the suggestion that he did not remember what happened the next day, such as, “Georgetown vs. Louisville — Who Won That Game Anyway?” and “Orioles vs. Red Sox — Who Won, Anyway?”
Also included are several female names. A reference to “Renate Alumnius” also appeared on the pages of several other male students at Georgetown Preparatory School that year, according to the New York Times.
Former students told the newspaper that Kavanaugh and other male students were boasting about their encounters with Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.
“I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue,” she told the paper in a statement. “I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”
Adding to Kavanaugh’s troubles is his friend Mark Judge, who wrote a memoir called, “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” which includes stories about riotous drinking. He refers to a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” being passed-out drunk in a car and throwing up.
Judge has spoken about his alcohol-related blackouts during his youth. He has said he has no recollection of the party Ford mentioned in her allegation.
Kavanaugh’s time at Yale is also likely to come up during Thursday’s hearing.
Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale student who told the New Yorker about what she described as a humiliating sexual incident with Kavanaugh when they were freshmen, said it began with heavy drinking. She said they were sitting in a circle with others, playing a drinking game, and that at one point he exposed himself right in her face.
James Roche, Kavanaugh’s freshman-year roommate, said he knew Ramirez. In a statement, he said he often observed and chatted with Kavanaugh after a night of drinking with friends.
"It is from this experience that I concluded that although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk,’’ Roche said. “I did not observe the specific incident in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”
Kavanaugh and several of his college friends have denied Ramirez’ account, noting that she acknowledged that her own memory of the night is fuzzy.
“I never did any such thing … ,” he told Fox. “The other people alleged to be there don’t recall any such thing. If such a thing had happened, it would’ve been the talk of campus. The women I knew in college and the men I knew in college [say] it’s inconceivable that I could’ve done such a thing.”
Kavanaugh took his denials a step further in the Fox interview, insisting — without being asked — that he was a virgin in high school and most, if not all, of college.
“I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter,” he said. “And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends.”