Democrats sat on a fact-lite accusation of sexual assault against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, then summoned US media allies for a last minute pile-on. From this melange of innuendo and pearl-clutching horror, the ABC’s Zoe Daniel extracted only the worst to ‘inform’ her Australian audience
Zoe Daniel is the ABC’s Washington-based North America bureau chief. In other words, her ABC daily mission is to bash Trump using the Democrat storylines. She sometimes finds a storyline of her own, such as interviewing her own children, Arkie, 10, and Pearl, 8, when Trump was elected. That story began, “Donald Trump’s victory has provoked fear and concern for some children…”
Her ‘shocked’ Arkie thought Trump should be given a chance despite his alleged racism, sexism, assaults on gay people and Latinos, “and all those people who have done nothing in their life for Trump to hurt their feelings that way,” he continued, claiming to quote his primary-school pals. Pearl, who had switched from backing Bernie Sanders to Hillary, was convinced Trump was going to “kick out” Mexicans en bloc, including her Mexican school buddies, which would “just be mean”. Pearl found consolation and inspiration in Hillary’s concession speech.
To get inside the mind of Daniel mère, pull on the gumboots, as you’ll be wading in ABC progressive-left-liberal mush. For example, on Friday Daniel was writing on ABC News about embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, 53. “Can he really sit on the US Supreme Court dishing out morality now?” said the headline, under the ABC’s standing banners “Trump’s America” and “Planet America”. (There was never a standing ABC banner “Obama’s America”).
Scene-setting is that the minority Democrat senators want to delay Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court until the mid-term elections on November 6, when they might attain a majority and be in position to block’s Trump’s current pick and foil any further nominations of conservative jurists.[i] If the Democrats can’t block Kavanaugh appointment they face the prospect of a right-leaning SCOTUS for the next 30 years. Daniel speculates this could mean anti-abortion rulings.
The Republican majority could simply ram his appointment through. Instead, they are being fastidious about protocol (as is Trump in this case) to avert any female voting backlash over perceived disrespect to the sex-assault claimant, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, 51, a registered Democrat and donor. She claimed, initially anonymously and this month on the record, that a drunken Kavanaugh groped and assaulted her at a school-brat party 35 years ago, about summer 1982, when she was about 15 and Kavanaugh 17.
Daniel’s arguments are hard to follow (do Supreme Court judges “dish out morality” or just interpret the law?). She supposes that even if, as is likely, Christine Ford’s story is never verified, her mere allegation taints Kavanaugh forever and would make him look a moral hypocrite on the bench. Daniel claims her inane supposition is “roiling the nation”.
Daniel knows the big question about senior Democrat panel senator Dianne Feinstein producing the allegation a fortnight ago is that she’d had the material since July but never mentioned it despite many opportunities during the regular hearings. This manifest abuse of process is, in Daniel-speak, “some superb timing in all of this for the Democrats”. She uses the oft-practised ABC reporters’ trick of reciting anti-Trump material with the ABC’s authority, but putting contrary and unwelcome facts into quotes from the malign president and his supporters.[ii] In this case, she says Trump is “joining a GOP chorus suggesting that Democrats are using the allegation to delay confirmation hearings”.
Well they are, as they all but openly admit, so she got that bit right.
Daniel makes no secret of her partiality towards the complainant. After the “alleged” assault, she writes, the young Ford “got away but has provided medical notes from therapists showing she’s struggled with men and relationships since. A polygraph test found she was telling the truth.” Two points: Ford didn’t “get away”, she alleges she got away from the alleged assault. And the polygraph didn’t find she was “telling the truth”, it found that she believed her own story, whether it was truth, fiction or anywhere in between.[iii]
Another hallmark of ABC bias is strategic omission of key facts. Sure, there are word limits but Daniel might also have mentioned the 65 women who knew Kavanaugh at school and thereafter and have attested on the record to his good character.
Instead, Daniel provides a link to purported corroborative “detail and worth a read” from the anti-Trump Los Angeles Times. The link, in fact, is to an opinion piece by a Clara Hall who pushes even more strident anti-Kavanaugh lines than Daniel and provides no corroborative detail whatsoever for Professor Ford’s case. That case, so far, has scant or no detail anyway — no date, no certainty of place, or how she arrived there and made it back home. Democrat Senator Feinstein herself says she doesn’t know how much of the complaint is true. Feinstein is 85 and tends to make embarrassingly contradictory remarks. The LA Times’ Hall says that Ford’s allegation includes graphic detail about her ordeal. “That doesn’t make her story automatically true,” she writes, “but the details make the allegation serious enough to be worth investigating [by the FB I].” A fallacy there, surely? Hall then cranks up the dial to 11:
“Am I setting too high a bar?…All you men out there – when you were in high school, how many teenage girls did you pin down on a bed after a pool party and cover their mouths so they couldn’t scream? Right. Doesn’t sound like something you’d do.”
Alleged victim Ford says she told no-one of the alleged assault because her parents would discover her forbidden partying. She first disclosed the matter in marital counselling in 2012, but she did not name Kavanaugh. In further therapy a year later, she referred to an alleged traumatic rape attempt.
A classmate of Ford, Christina Miranda, in an attempt to bolster the case, came out saying, “This incident did happen. Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However Christina’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.” The friend scuttled back into the woodwork when she realised she was contradicting Ford’s version — ie., that she had told no one. When this contradiction was noted and began to cop pushback on Facebook, she deleted her post and admitted she didn’t really know what had taken place. She explained that she had felt “empowered” making the post, but couldn’t defend it as TV interview requests poured in.
Complainant Ford alleged that Kavanagh classmate Mark Judge had watched and laughed, then jumped drunkenly on Ford and Kavanaugh and thus terminated the alleged sexual assault. Daniel never raises a sceptical eyebrow, instead directing her readers to a Washington Post character-assassination of Mark Judge. Post reporter Avi Selk combed Judge’s high school yearbook of about 1983 and finds Judge put a caption on his page, “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.” It’s a quote from the gay Noel Coward’s Private Lives (1930). In pre-Google 1983, Judge had a better handle on theatre than I did (zero) at his age. What 17-year-old boy in that era wouldn’t be a smart-arse about females? And why do women still flock to Coward’s comedies at the theatre?
If Daniel wants mature-age men to be held accountable for schoolboy misdeeds, she could also monster her colleague, ABC science guy Robyn Williams, who in his 1950s London state-grammar school beat up a “weak” and “hopeless” boy, who was “as pugilistic as Bambi”. Williams “hit him hard in the face. He turned without resistance and so I pummeled his kidneys as if to break his back, simulating a cold frenzy.” Williams’ pals, initially gloating, got frightened and intervened at last to rescue the collapsed and coughing student. Williams never apologized to his “miserable, crushed victim” but did resolve to eschew such shameful violence henceforth. [iv]
I’m not judgemental about Williams as a teen and he was brave to make the cathartic disclosure. But this whole distasteful Kavanaugh accusation involves schoolboy teens. All civilised states have separate, anonymous and sealed court jurisdictions for children (usually to 18th birthday) because of their immaturity and better prospects as adults. That said, it is arguable that a Supreme Court nominee is a special case, if the assault allegation is correct.
Post reporter Selk’s desperate search for incrimination also finds in Judge’s yearbook, “’Ebony and Ivory’ beneath a photo of a white and a black student”, and “’Do these guys beat their wives?’ beneath a group photo of several boys.” Judge, a recovered alcoholic, wrote two memoirs about high school hi-jinks, where students attended “masturbation class,” “lusted after girls” from nearby Catholic schools and drank themselves into stupours at parties. No sexual assaults are mentioned. The worst to be found about Kavanaugh (dubbed “O’Kavanaugh”) is that he got drunk, puked and passed out as a car passenger.
However, Judge became a columnist and the Post has found much in those columns to complain about. In what might be called “SafetyRazor-gate”, it found that in 2006 (yes, 2006) Judge had written in a piece, “Shaving like a man”, that safety razors were “girly” and he liked using the masculine classic razor. For the Post this was rampant misogyny. The paper then collapsed on itself – it had to correct that Judge’s “girly” reference was to disposable razors, not safety ones.[v]
Getting back to the ABC’s Daniel, she finishes with a circular flourish that if Kavanaugh is guilty of that nasty assault, he would also be guilty of having “simply denied it ever happened”. Hence he would not have learnt from his mistake.
“The whole thing has cast doubt on his character, and that will be hard to shake when the allegation will be impossible to fully prove or disprove so long after the event,” she writes. “In short, the judges need to be squeaky clean to dictate everyone else’s behaviour.”
To get inside Daniel’s head, as well as wearing the gumboots, maybe take a torch. It’s dim in there.
Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be pre-ordered here. To get tickets to the launch in Carlton at 6pm on October 10, click here.
[i] 35 of 100 senate seats will be contested.
[ii] Sub-text: Well they would say that, wouldn’t they.
[iii] The Washington Post story breaking the news said, “The results concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.”
[iv] Williams, Robyn, Turmoil – Letters from the Brink. UNSW Press, 2018. Kindle 1583/2500.
[v] “An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Judge considered safety razors too feminine. He took issue with disposable razors, and considered safety razors very masculine.”