Conservative commentator and think tank boss Ed Whelan, a longtime friend of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, made a disastrous case on Twitter that a woman’s claim that a drunken teen Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her is a case of mistaken identity
A conservative commentator has stepped down after tweeting a bizarre theory that a sexual-assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ – and suggesting who the Supreme Court nominee’s accuser actually meant.
Ed Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics & Public Policy Center, had predicted earlier last week that ‘compelling evidence’ would exonerate Kavanaugh from a woman’s claim that he groped her at a high school party in 1982.
‘A horrific incident similar to the one the accuser alleges may well have occurred. But if so, she’s got the wrong guy. Kavanaugh wasn’t present,’ he tweeted Wednesday.
Instead of clearing Kavanaugh it has cost amateur sleuth Whelan – at least temporarily – his position as president of the conservative center after he issued a groveling apology.
The center said in a statement from its board that Whelan ‘who has led EPPC with integrity and excellence for many years’ offered to quit for his ‘appalling and inexcusable’ tweets.
Instead the board put him on a leave of absence and said it would review the situation in a month.
The move offers him some hope that he can come back next month but will hardly lift the self-generated cloud over what had been a glittering conservative legal career, which included being a clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia.
It is still not known if the man he accused of being who Ford actually meant was her alleged attacker will sue for being named.
If he were to do so, damages could be substantial.
Whelan is also facing questions over how much Kavanaugh and the White House knew about his theory in advance, after Politico reported that he used a prominent conservative public relations firm to help him publicize it.
The firm, CRC Public Relations, also represents the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network, the conservative cheerleading groups.
The Federalist Society gave Kavanaugh’s name to Trump as one they had ‘vetted’ for the Supreme Court and the Judicial Crisis Network has lobbied heavily for his confirmation.
Whelan’s lengthy Twitter thread hypothesized about why the new suspect’s home could have been the location of the party, and used online real estate tools to make his case.
He also named the man, who is now a middle-school teacher, and tweeted his yearbook photo alongside Kavanaugh’s to hint they could be doppelgangers.
Kavanaugh denies ever groping Christine Ford and says he was never at a party in 1982 like the one she described this summer in a letter to her congresswoman
Ford says Kavanaugh once pinned her to a bed in a locked room, put his hand over her mouth, and tried to undress her while he groped her through a one-piece swimsuit
Whelan tweeted then-and-now photos of Kavanaugh and a high-school classmate, suggesting they look so much alike that Ford could have mistaken one for the other; she insisted that she knew them both and would never have made that mistake
‘Folks who knew both Kavanaugh and [NAME] in high school have commented on how much they resembled each other in appearance,’ he wrote.
Moments later Whelan tweeted their adult pictures side-by-side. DailyMail.com is not identifying the Kavanaugh classmate.
Whelan blamed Senate Democrats for forcing his hand by turning a summertime letter into a last-minute September media circus.
‘It is regrettable that private citizens are being drawn into this,’ Whelan tweeted. ‘But that is the product of Senator Feinstein’s shockingly shoddy handling of the whole matter.’
Hours later, amid a torrent of online suggestions that a defamation lawsuit was in order, Whelan tacked on a qualifier.
‘To be clear, I have no idea what, if anything, did or did not happen in that bedroom at the top of the stairs, and I therefore do not state, imply or insinuate that [NAME] or anyone else committed the sexual assault that Ford alleges,’ he wrote.
By Friday morning the entire tweet storm was gone; in its place, an apology.
‘I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate,’ Whelan wrote.
‘I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.’
Ford had already dismissed Whelan’s theory.
Whelan came up with a scenario where the infamous party occurred at the home of his alternate villain, whom he named multiple times.
Using real estate photos and floor plans, he laid out an argument that was later picked apart on Twitter and deleted
Christine Blasey (now Ford) is pictured in her high school yearbook
Referring to Kavanaugh and Whelan’s target, she said in a statement that ‘I knew them both, and socialized with’ them.
Recalling that she had visited the other classmate in the hospital, she told The Washington Post that ‘there is zero chance that I would confuse them.’
Whelan’s solution to the did-he-or-didn’t-he dilemma was unusual in that it exonerated President Trump’s Supreme Court pick while allowing that Ford wasn’t lying.
But as the details emerged, Republicans in Washington wanted to part of it.
Garrett Ventry, a Senate Judiciary Committee communications adviser, tweeted that the committee ‘had no knowledge or involvement’ in Whelan’s amateur gumshoe work.
Whelan insisted Friday that he had not shared his suspicions with President Trump’s inner circle.
‘I have not communicated at all with Don McGahn or anyone at the White House, or Judge Kavanaugh, about the topic of the Twitter thread,’ he told the Post.
But it’s likely the West Wing was aware days ago that one avenue of escape from Kavanaugh’s predicament would be to say Ford confused one boy for another.
On Monday, hours after Ford outed herself in a Post interview, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board observed that ‘[e]xperts know that human beings can come to believe firmly over the years that something happened when it never did or is based on partial truth.’
‘Mistaken identity is also possible,’ their editorial continued.
On Tuesday, a Washington Post columnist wrote that ‘it seems possible to believe both that Ford was assaulted just as she has described – and also that Kavanaugh didn’t do it.’
Whelan had predicted earlier in the weekthat Kavanaugh would be exonerated, and relied on adoppelganger theory
‘In a case without evidence, witnesses or corroboration, mistaken identity would provide a welcome resolution to this terrible riddle.’
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Judiciary Committee member, said on CNN that ‘clearly somebody’s mixed up.’
His spokesman Matt Whitlock told the Deseret News on Monday that Kavanaugh had called Hatch, suggesting Ford ‘may have mistaken someone else for him.’
Whitlock went on to tweet that Americans should ‘[k]eep an eye on Ed [Whelan]’s tweets the next few days. He later deleted it, saying he ‘had no idea what ed was planning,’ and ‘we’ve never spoken.’
The Ethics & Public Policy Center has been at the center of Kavanaugh’s elevation from federal judge to would-be Supreme Court justice.
Its board of directors includes Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo, who played a significant role in assembling a Supreme Court short-list for Trump to release during his White House run.