Some found a way, it would turn out, to do them all at once. Soon after Ford came forward, so did someone else: Ed Whelan, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former clerk to Antonin Scalia, and the close friend and adviser of Brett Kavanaugh. Whelan hinted, earlier this week, that he had come into possession of evidence that would exonerate his friend (and that would, as a bonus, bring public shame to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein). On Thursday evening, Whelan made this “evidence” public, via an extended tweetstorm: Kavanaugh could not have done what Ford claimed, Whelan argued, because … someone else had. A lookalike. A doppelgänger.
To make his case, the lawyer tweeted out maps data for, and then floor plans of, the house he concluded might have been the location of Ford’s alleged assault—coupled with images of that home’s interior, lifted from the real-estate website Zillow—to conclude that the doppelgänger might have been the guilty party. Tweet by tweet, as this particular episode of CSI: Beltway wore on, the Twinkie defense gave way to an absurdity fit for 2018: the Zillow defense. And the worst of it was this: Whelan, nothing if not highly specific in his tweetstormed indictment, named the person he claimed was the real culprit in Ford’s alleged assault—a man, now a middle-school teacher, who had been a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep. (A man who was, in fact, one of the signatories of the letter a group of those classmates issued last week, defending Kavanaugh’s character.) As specific evidence of the exonerating doppelgängerism, Whelan included pictures of the man in question, placed next to images of Kavanaugh: in high school, and in the present.
“Stunningly irresponsible,” CNN’s Jake Tapper put it, in a sentiment that was widely shared. And by Friday morning, Whelan had deleted the tweetstorm and was apologizing—not for the the general claims he had issued out into the atmosphere, but for the specific way they had treated the classmate in question. “I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate,” Whelan tweeted. “I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.”
In this, he is correct: It does not. Which isn’t to say, however, that Whelan’s “revelations” aren’t, in their own way, revealing—about, in this case, the lengths to which people will go to resist negative assertions made about a powerful man who is currently in the process of seeking more power. About the desperation with which some will find facts that conform to their sense of the world—even when, summoned as arguments, those “facts” are manifestly absurd. About how deeply ingrained the impulse remains, in American culture, to doubt the memories of women, when they conflict with the memories of men.