“He’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy,” Lynne Brookes, a former pharmaceutical executive who attended Yale, told The Washington Post on Tuesday of her onetime classmate Brett Kavanaugh. “You can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out, he’s gone too far.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein cited Brookes’s quotation at Thursday’s hearing about sexual-assault allegations against Kavanaugh, making for yet another use of the term choir boy after the Supreme Court nominee gave a Fox News interview on Monday in which he denied ever blacking out from drinking and mentioned being a virgin in high school and college. “People keep saying that Kavanaugh has lost all credibility by portraying his young self as a ‘choir boy’, which is true,” the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tweeted. The liberal judicial advocate Nan Aron reflected to Politico that some of the judge’s peers “certainly don’t remember … Brett Kavanaugh as being a choir boy.” In response, National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke has argued that Kavanaugh’s supposed “choir boy” image is actually a fabulation by the left: that the nominee himself has not used the term and has, in fact, acknowledged rowdiness in his past.
Whether Kavanaugh was ever a boy in a choir is, well, beside the point. The allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and now Julie Swetnick are being publicly litigated, to a significant extent, through archetypes: Does Kavanaugh fit the category of the kind of man who’d do what he’s been accused of? Similarly, other specifics of the Kavanaugh saga are being universalized as women keep recognizing their own stories in those of the accusers. Labels like choir boy—and its apparent inverse in this case, frat boy—are thus not simple rhetorical flourishes. They are the lenses through which the court of public opinion is conducting its inquiry.