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Stand By Your Man?

Vivia Chen

September 26, 2018


Honestly, I don't know what's more awkward: Brett Kavanaugh declaring on national TV that he was a virgin through high school and "many years thereafter," or being one of his loyal female supporters in the aftermath of the sexual allegations.

First, a word about Kavanaugh's chastity. On Monday the Supreme Court contender made this declaration to Fox News interviewer Martha MacCallum: "I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter." 

Talk about uncharted territory for a Supreme Court nominee! How many have offered details about how long they kept their virginity intact on TV? 

It was a fun, cringeworthy fact—though I'm not sure what he's trying to achieve with that revelation. I hope he's not suggesting that his virginal state exculpates him from charges of sexual assault, because that would be a truly desperate argument. Plus, I wonder how "Grab-'Em-By-the Pussy" Trump will regard a guy who took so long to get laid. (One word comes to mind: Loser!)

Now that we've covered Kavanaugh's early sex life, let's focus on his devoted coterie of female supporters, particularly his former clerks. Are they still standing by their man, even as he faces more sexual misconduct allegations?

The short answer: You betcha!

You'll remember that way, way back in July, virtually all of Kavanaugh's female clerks signed a letter supporting his nomination (the seven out of the 25 who didn't signed evidently were restricted by employers from doing so). At the time, they praised Kavanaugh's promotion of gender equality, testifying that he was a friend and mentor to each of them. Beside the clerks, Kavanaugh garnered the support of other prominent female lawyers, including litigation powerhouse Lisa Blatt

Many of them were spotted at the first set of hearings, sitting behind Kavanaugh looking worried and protective. Throughout the process, he was surrounded by a pack of women–Charlie's Angels in business attire.  

The female support apparently didn't wane when Christine Blasey Ford came out with her accusation that Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her while both were in high school. According to reporting by my colleague Tony Mauro at The National Law Journal, those women stood solidly behind him,

But what about now, with fresh allegations? (Kavanaugh's Yale College classmate Deborah Ramirez alleged that he exposed himself to her. And Michael Avenatti has said that other women are waiting in the wings with other charges against Kavanaugh.)                     

Again, Kavanaugh's clerks—male and female—seem solidly behind him. One of his former clerks, Porter Wilkinson Wall, an official of The Smithsonian, says that "support among them remains steadfast." She adds, "These uncorroborated allegations, which he has categorically denied, are not consistent with the character or actions of the man I have known well for over a decade." A former male clerk, Travis Lenkner, who's in regular touch with Kavanaugh's clerks, calls the support "unwavering."

Other former Kavanaugh clerks echoed those sentiments. "He is a good man and a great judge, and it’s awful that his nomination has devolved into a political circus," says former clerk Sarah Pitlyk, now counsel of the Thomas More Society, an organization that promotes conservative causes. "The allegations are flatly inconsistent with the judge's strong character and integrity that I've witnessed throughout the 12 years that I have known him," comments Jennifer Mascott, an assistant professor at Antonin Scalia Law School. Jones Day associate Caroline Edsall Littleton simply says: "I still fully support Judge Kavanaugh." 

I hear what they're saying—that Kavanaugh was a great guy who helped their careers and became a  friend—so why wouldn't they stand by him to the world? 

But absolute certainty that Kavanaugh is the perfect choir boy at this stage? While it might be easy to brush off Blasey Ford's accusation when it first came out, how does anyone do so when so much more information has spilled out? At a minimum, Kavanaugh's loyal troops have to be curious about the stories of his hard drinking and his unruly past, particularly those corroborated by his freshman year roommate James Roche. (Believe me, you can't hide things from your frosh roommate.)

Ah, what a pickle Kavanaugh's female supporters are in. They came out supporting Kavanaugh before the messy allegations surfaced. And they'll inevitably be accused of being insensitive to women for sticking with him.

Indeed, Pitlyk says that's what she's faced: "I have received some very negative email feedback from strangers, who evidently believe that I am a traitor to my sex. It is hard for me to understand how the empowerment of women generally can require selectively silencing/shaming certain women for speaking truthfully about their personal experiences."

I don't envy the balancing act these women have do. As Kavanaugh's prized supporters, their motives will come into question. Are they careerists aligning themselves with a powerful man? Or are they useful props supporting a man who's expected to curtail women's reproductive rights?

But what would happen if some of them have a change of heart? What happens if they ditch Kavanaugh or quietly withheld their support? Undoubtedly, they will come under fire for being disloyal.

And how can a woman be good and worthy if she's not loyal to her man?

Read more:Brett Kavanaugh Was a Bad TeenagerDid I Lose My Feminist Cred? 


Twitter: @lawcareerist


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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