The Media Today

Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer drop a Kavanaugh bombshell

September 24, 2018

Rumors of a New Yorker exposé percolated throughout the day. By the 6pm hour, The Drudge Report was running a headline claiming that Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow were on the case. Then, on the eve of a week in which the eyes of the nation were already set to be focused on a Capitol hearing, the story published. A second woman, another allegation, and a new twist in the confirmation battle.

Farrow and Mayer report that Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Brett Kavanaugh’s at Yale, “remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.” They write that Ramirez was “at first hesitant to speak publicly,” but that “after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections.”

Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, denied the allegation, telling The New Yorker, “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple.” But Senate Democrats are investigating the allegation, and Judiciary Committee member Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, said, “This is another serious, credible, and disturbing allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. It should be fully investigated.”

The powerhouse dual byline once again paired Farrow, working on one of the most impactful reporting years in memory, with Mayer, one of the most accomplished investigative journalists working today. The duo had previously collaborated on the exposé that brought down New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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RELATED: Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh, and a nomination in limbo

Just before the story broke, Christine Blasey Ford had committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when both were high school students in the 1980s. The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos report that California Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley requesting “an immediate postponement of any further proceedings related to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh” after Farrow and Mayer’s story went live. As of Monday morning, Thursday’s hearing is still scheduled to go forward.

Below, more on the Farrow, Mayer, and Kavanaugh’s uncertain future.

  • Thomas-Hill redux: The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd sees echoes of the Anita Hill allegations in the current moment. “We haven’t forgotten our history,” Dowd writes. “But we still seem doomed to repeat it.
  • 1998 redux: The Times’s Maggie Haberman was just one of several observers who noted that the Drudge headline teasing the story was reminiscent of 1998, when the outlet reported that a story was in the works about an affair involving President Clinton.
  • Crediting Mayer: Farrow has been all over numerous stories of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men, which has led some to credit Sunday’s scoop solely to him. But as journalist Tanvi Misra points out, Mayer has her own long track record of work: “Not to be annoying bc I love Ronan Farrow’s work…but the new New Yorker story has two bylines and the other is Jane Mayer, who has a really long investigative track record incl, and this is relevant, co-authoring a whole book on the Clarence Thomas hearing.”
  • A note of caution: CNN’s Brian Stelter highlighted this comment from network commentator David Gergen on Sunday evening: “I can’t tell you how important I think it is for the future of the press in this country, if he’s going to be ‘brought down’—we don’t know that, but if he’s going to be ‘brought down’—that the press isn’t seen as complicit in that effort.”
  • More from Mayer: In the new issue of The New Yorker, Mayer reports on a new book by a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania that, in Mayer’s estimation, “may well reignite the question of Trump’s electoral legitimacy.”


Other notable stories:

  • Until Mayer and Farrow’s story dropped, the weekend’s main topic of conversation in media circles was Friday’s New York Times report on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Times’s Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt reported that, shortly after President Trump fired James Comey, Rosenstein considered the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment and discussed wearing a wire to secretly record the president. The story kicked off a guessing game about who leaked the information and how Trump will react.
  • The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Lachlan Cartwright investigate the company culture overseen by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack. In the first of what is expected to be several stories about the network, Tani and Cartwright depict a workplace in which accused sexual harassers thrived while facing few repercussions. NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke told the Beast that Lack “has my complete support.”
  • Vox Media is expected to miss its revenue goal for this year by more than 15 percent, report The Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullin and Amol Sharma. The digital media field has seen several prominent sites come under financial pressure in recent years as growth has slowed.
  • Speaking of which, CJR’s Mathew Ingram reports that Mic, once a member of that high-flying digital startup cohort, is looking for investors amid cash woes.
  • Michelle Alexander’s debut column for The New York Times recharacterizes the idea of #resistance. “Viewed from the broad sweep of history, Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not,” Alexander writes.
  • With a $20 million gift from the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson are starting The Markup, a new outlet dedicated to investigating technology and its effect on society, reports the Times’s Nellie Bowles. Angwin and Larson had been at ProPublica, building reputations as watchdogs over the tech industry.

Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter erroneously credited Maureen Dowd with co-authoring a book with Jane Mayer on the Clarence Thomas hearings. Mayer’s co-author was Jill Abramson. 

ICYMI: Dallas Morning News reporter reveals staggering amount of stories she filed in one week

Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.