WASHINGTON — Declaring that he’s “not going anywhere,” Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh pushed back against allegations lodged against him, appearing in a rare TV interview Monday night to insist he never sexually assaulted anyone.
Kavanaugh told Fox News that he has “always treated women with dignity and respect.” He said that was a virgin during his high school years and “many years” beyond.
Kavanaugh, 53, is currently a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. He and his wife, Ashley, sat down for an interview with Fox News Channel’s “The Story with Martha MacCallum” after a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct.
Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denied he was “at any such party.” He said he did not question that perhaps Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted, “but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
Kavanaugh said it’s possible he may have met Ford at some time, but he said they were not friends and did not travel in the same social circles. He said he did not remember being at a party with her.
“I was not at the party described,” Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh was asked if there was any chance Ford misunderstood an exchange between them.
“I have never had any sexual or physical activity with Dr. Ford,” Kavanaugh said. “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise.”
Kavanaugh said while there were high school parties with beer and he wasn’t perfect, “I’m a good person. I’ve led a good life.” He said that he’d never done anything like the episodes his accusers have described and that he didn’t have sexual intercourse until “many years” after high school.
“I’m not going to let false accusations drive me out of this process. I have faith in God, and I have faith in the fairness of the American people,” he said.
The second woman, Deborah Ramirez, has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a Yale dormitory party, putting his penis in her face and causing her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.
Kavanaugh said Monday, “I never did any such thing.”
“If such a thing had happened, it would have been the talk of campus,” Kavanaugh said.
It’s rare for nominees to the Supreme Court to give interviews. Russell Wheeler, an expert on the judicial selection process at the Brookings Institution, said he is unaware of a similar media interview by a Supreme Court nominee in the past 100 years.
But there’s nothing ordinary about the stakes and circumstances of Kavanaugh’s nomination, with Republicans fighting to get him on the court by the end of September and cement a conservative-leaning court for years to come.
President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are determined to get Kavanaugh on the court, calling the allegations against him false and politically motivated. Kavanaugh was defiant as well.
“I’m not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process,” Kavanaugh said.
Democrats have accused Republicans of not conducting a thorough review in their rush to get Kavanaugh confirmed. They want the FBI to reopen its background investigation of Kavanaugh and look into the allegations against him.
Ford and Kavanaugh are set to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the Fox interview Kavanaugh got a taste of the personal questions he’ll face from senators. MacCallum asked him how long he was a virgin in college, after he volunteered that he never had sex in high school.
“Many years after. I’ll leave it at that,” Kavanaugh said.
Ashley Kavanaugh was asked whether she wondered if her husband was telling the truth about the allegations against him. “No, I know Brett. I’ve known him for 17 years,” she said, adding: “I know his heart. This is not consistent with Brett.”
Kavanaugh appeared to get emotional at the end of the interview. He said Trump called him in the afternoon to show his support.
“I know he’s going to stand by me,” Kavanaugh said.
The unprecedented interview capped a day that saw Republicans mounting a combative, coordinated drive to salvage Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination as they fought to keep a second woman’s allegation of long-ago sexual misconduct from derailing his confirmation.
Trump leapt to his defense, and the top Senate Republican accused Democrats of a “smear campaign.”
The similar tones and wording they used in defending him suggested a concerted effort to undermine the women’s claims and portray an image of unity among GOP senators while pressing toward a confirmation vote.
In the run-up to an appearance by Kavanaugh and his main accuser at a dramatic Senate hearing, Trump called the accusations “totally political” and among “the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., angrily accused Democrats of slinging “all the mud they could manufacture” and promised a full Senate vote soon, but specified no date.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., retorted that if McConnell believed the allegations were a smear, “Why don’t you call for an FBI investigation?” Schumer accused Republicans of “a rush job to avoid the truth.”
Trump has made clear he won’t order an FBI probe. McConnell said Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing would proceed, and No. 2 Senate GOP leader, John Cornyn of Texas, said the panel could vote on sending Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate as early as Friday.
In a letter to the committee, which plans the climactic hearing featuring Kavanaugh and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, the nominee accused his opponents of launching “smears, pure and simple.”
Despite the forceful rhetoric by Kavanaugh and his GOP supporters, it remained unclear how three moderate Republican senators — Maine’s Susan Collins, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — would react to the latest accusation. With the GOP’s Senate control hanging on a razor-thin 51-49 margin, defections by any two Republican senators would seal his fate if all Democrats vote “no.”
Collins said Monday she remained undecided about Kavanaugh.
Proceeding with Kavanaugh seems to give Republicans their best shot at filling the Supreme Court vacancy — and giving the court an increasingly conservative tilt — before November’s elections, when GOP Senate control is in play.
Even if Republicans lose their Senate majority, they could still have time to confirm a nominee in a post-election lame duck session, but the GOP hasn’t indicated that is under consideration. Delaying Kavanaugh’s confirmation could allow time for doubts about him to take root or any fresh accusations to emerge.
Pushing forward with Kavanaugh has its own risks, besides an embarrassing defeat for Trump and the GOP. His nomination and the claims of sexual misconduct have stirred up women and liberal voters whose antipathy to Republicans has already been heightened by Trump’s policies and his own fraught history of alleged sexual transgressions.
Dozens of people protesting Kavanaugh were arrested outside Collins’ Capitol Hill office. Many wore black “Be A Hero” shirts and chanted slogans including “We will not be silenced.”
Away from Washington, there were walkouts in support of Ford and Ramirez by dozens of liberal groups. The campaign was promoted on Twitter under the hashtag #BelieveSurvivors, and several Democrats in Congress — including members of the Senate Judiciary Committee vetting Kavanaugh — posted photos in support.
With increasing intensity, Republicans have attacked the credibility of Ford’s and now Ramirez’ accounts. They note that neither the accusers nor news organizations have found people willing to provide corroboration, even though both women have named people who they said were present at the alleged incidents.
Ramirez, who told The New Yorker that she’d been drinking at the time, was initially reluctant to speak publicly “partly because her memories contained gaps,” the magazine said. After “six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney,” she felt confident enough to go public, the report said.
The Associated Press tried reaching Ramirez at her home in Boulder, Colorado. A sign on her front door indicated she would have no comment.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway held a conference call with supporters during which she said there was a “vast left-wing conspiracy” to prevent Kavanaugh from winning confirmation, according to a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private call.
Also jumping into the fray was the attorney who represents porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with Trump. Lawyer Michael Avenatti said he was representing a woman with information about high school-era parties attended by Kavanaugh and urged the Senate to investigate.
Avenatti, who has said he’s considering a 2020 Democratic presidential bid, told the AP that he will disclose his client’s identity in the coming days and that she is prepared to testify before the committee, as well as provide names of corroborating witnesses.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Ken Thomas, Catherine Lucey, Jonathan Lemire, Padmananda Rama and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.