Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. NBC significantly edited a story which claimed that Kavanaugh had lied under oath during his hearing. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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NBC News published an article attempting to show that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had lied under oath during his testimony Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the original version of the article ignored part of the transcript from Kavanaugh's hearing that contradicted their allegations of lying.
The network would later edit its initial story to include the missing text. While the dateline for the story noted that it was "Updated
What was Kavanaugh's testimony about?
On Sept. 23, The New Yorker ran a story publicizing allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh from Deborah Ramirez. Ramirez accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct while they were both attending Yale.
During his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh was asked about these accusations, as well as accusations brought against him by other women.
What was NBC's original argument?
The original NBC article, which was published Monday, focused on the following portion of Kavanaugh's questioning during Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the Ramirez story, the transcript of which is available online:
[REDACTED]: All right. My last question on this subject is since you graduated from college, but before the New Yorker article publication on September 23rd, have you ever discussed or heard discussion about the incident matching the description given by Ms. Ramirez to the New Yorker?
Judge Kavanaugh: No.
NBC contrasted this with texts between Kerry Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, friends of Kavanaugh. These texts reportedly prove that Kavanaugh was aware of Ramirez's accusations before the New Yorker article came out.
Berchem told NBC News that while she had "no direct or indirect knowledge about any of the allegations against him," she believes that the text messages are relevant to the investigation. Berchem attests that Kavanaugh “and/or” his friends “may have initiated an anticipatory narrative” as far back as July to “conceal or discredit” Ramirez's story.
Texts by Yarasavage showed that Kavanaugh had asked her if she could come forward and deny the Ramirez accusations when they went public.
Berchem has sent a memo and screenshots detailing the texts to the FBI.
Based on solely the portion of the transcript included above, this would indeed contradict Kavanaugh's testimony. However, there is more to the official Senate transcript.
What did the updated story say?
During the same round of questioning, Kavanaugh mentioned that he was aware that Ramirez was calling classmates to see if they could corroborate her story.
[REDACTED]: Well, actually, are you aware that the New York Times passed up on this story before the New Yorker ran the story?
Judge Kavanaugh: That’s what I read in the New York Times.
[REDACTED]: What’s your reaction to that?
Judge Kavanaugh: They couldn’t — the New York Times couldn’t corroborate this story and found that she was calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered it. And I, at least — and I, myself, heard about that, that she was doing that [emphasis added]. And you know, that just strikes me as, you know, what is going on here? When someone is calling around to try to refresh other people, is that what’s going on? What’s going on with that? That doesn’t sound — that doesn’t sound good to me. It doesn’t sound fair. It doesn’t sound proper. It sounds like an orchestrated hit to take me out. That’s what it sounds like.
In now-public transcripts from an interview with Republican Judiciary Committee staff on Sept 25, two days after the Ramirez allegations were reported in the New Yorker, Kavanaugh claimed that it was Ramirez who was “calling around to classmates trying to see if they remembered it,” adding that it “strikes me as, you know, what is going on here? When someone is calling around to try to refresh other people? Is that what's going on? What's going on with that? That doesn't sound — that doesn't sound — good to me. It doesn't sounds fair. It doesn't sound proper. It sounds like an orchestrated hit to take me out.
This update, however, still leaves out a crucial line: The one where Kavanaugh mentions that he had heard that Ramirez was calling up classmates and asking them if they could back up her story before the story itself was published. In fact, NBC uses quotes from each side of this line while omitting it entirely.
So not only did NBC stealth-edit in Kavanaugh's Sept 25th testimony, they cut the quote in a way that *specifically omits* his testimony he knew about the Ramirez allegation in the days beforehand pic.twitter.com/cbphtjB4YL
— Alex "Squee" Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) October 2, 2018
CNN's Jake Tapper also pointed out on Twitter that Kavanaugh is quoted in the original New Yorker story, so it's easy to determine that he would have known about the New Yorker story was likely coming before it was published on Sept. 23.
Kavanaugh is quoted in the New Yorker story denying the allegation so of course he had heard about it prior to publication. https://t.co/oVWmyC3lcv
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 2, 2018
National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke argued that the words “incident matching the description” could indicate that Kavanaugh may have known that accusations were forthcoming without knowing the specific details of them.
A spokesman for Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told NBC News that “the texts from Ms. Berchem do not appear relevant or contradictory to Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony."
Of course, what Kavanaugh did or did not know at the time is difficult or impossible to prove without further evidence. But if NBC has such evidence, they did not present it in this article. They also failed to clearly note how the article had been updated.
NBC is not the first news outlet to significantly edit a Kavanaugh story. On Sept. 23 and 24, the New York Times published stories that noted that it was unable to confirm Ramirez's account as presented in The New Yorker. This admission was later edited out of the Sept. 24 story. Despite the reporter's insistence that this portion of the story had never been there in the first place, TheBlaze was able to retrieve earlier copies of the story which included this admission.
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