President Donald Trump took the stage in Southaven, Mississippi, for a campaign rally on October 2, 2018, at a fraught moment in American politics. Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been accused of committing sexual assault as a teenager, and his nomination now appeared to be in peril. The confirmation battle had consumed the country, the national temperature was running hot—and everyone was waiting to hear what the president would say.
Republicans on Capitol Hill had been trying to tread lightly with Kavanaugh’s most prominent accuser, Christine Blasey Ford—inviting her to testify in the Senate and mostly refraining from personal attacks on her character. Trump had grudgingly gone along with this strategy of restraint. But gazing out at a roaring crowd of red-capped superfans that October evening, he just couldn’t help himself.
His voice dripping with contempt, Trump began ridiculing Ford’s memory of the alleged assault—even going so far as to imitate her testimony: “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”