Ever since Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, an accusation Kavanaugh has denied, Ford has been compared to Anita Hill, and Kavanaugh to Clarence Thomas. The parallels are striking and go well beyond the general nature of the allegations.
Republicans accused Democrats of leaking Ford’s story to the press to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination—just as they had accused them of leaking Hill’s story to the press to derail Thomas’s nomination. A Kavanaugh ally, the conservative legal pundit Ed Whelan, published on Twitter an elaborate theory that Ford had mistaken Kavanaugh for another classmate. Similarly, Phyllis Berry, who worked with Hill and Thomas, suggested that if Hill had been harassed, it was by Thomas’s former chief of staff Chris Roggerson. Some conservative pundits have suggested that Ford’s accusations stem from unrequited lust for Kavanaugh, a smear some also leveled at Hill. While other women had similar stories about Kavanaugh, only Ford testified publicly, just as only Hill was called before the Senate despite the fact that other women had similar stories about Thomas.
The déjà vu with the Thomas confirmation battle is likely to continue with the FBI investigation. Even if bureau investigators are allowed to interview anyone they please, and to pursue any logical leads that arise from those interviews, the White House will have a substantial amount of control over the information the report produces. And that means the Trump administration could weaponize the bureau’s investigation against Ford—just as the 1991 FBI report was used to attack Hill’s credibility.