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Brett Kavanaugh offers deeply personal defense in Fox News interview

| Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, 8:21 p.m.
Brett Kavanaugh, with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, answers questions during a FOX News interview, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee.
Brett Kavanaugh, with his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, answers questions during a FOX News interview, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in Washington, about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee.

WASHINGTON — A defiant and at times emotional Brett Kavanaugh sat for an extraordinary television interview with his wife Monday to try to save his embattled Supreme Court nomination against charges of sexual misconduct as a teenager.

"The truth is I've never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise," Kavanaugh said on Fox News Channel's "The Story with Martha MacCallum," according to excerpts released by the cable network.

As his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh looked on, the federal judge added: "I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity and I know I'm telling the truth, I know my lifelong record and I'm not going to let false accusations drive me out of this process. I have faith in God and I have faith in the fairness of the American people."

It is unheard of for a Supreme Court nominee to give interviews during the confirmation process. But Kavanaugh, a 53-year-old judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, apparently believed the charges against him required an unprecedented defense, and he responded Monday with the interview and a fierce letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

"I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process," Kavanaugh wrote. "The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. The last-minute character assassination will not succeed."

Kavanaugh will appear before the committee on Thursday, along with Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while both were teenagers in Maryland.

On Sunday, The New Yorker magazine reported an allegation by a second woman. Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh's at Yale University, said he exposed himself at a party when they were both first-year students.

In his letter, Kavanaugh said that those who are alleged to have witnessed the two events say either they have no recollection, or that they simply did not happen.

Kavanaugh went even further in the Fox News interview. In one deeply personal exchange with MacCallum, Kavanaugh said that he was sexually inexperienced as a teenager.

"So you're saying through all these years that are in question that you were a virgin?" she asked.

"That's correct," he answered.

"And through what years in college, since we're probing into your personal life here?" MacCallum asked.

"Many years after, I'll leave it at that," Kavanaugh said. "Many years after."

Neither of Kavanaugh's accusers have said their encounters with him included sexual intercourse. Ford said Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed and unsuccessfully sought to remove her clothes. She said he put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.

Ramirez said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drinking game in their freshman year at Yale.

Kavanaugh's decision to gave a television interview sent Supreme Court experts back to the history books.

Lori A. Ringhand, a law professor at the University of Georgia and an expert on the confirmation process, noted that Felix Frankfurter became the first Supreme Court nominee to testify in public to counter criticism that surfaced during his hearing.

And Justice Hugo Black gave a national radio address after he was confirmed to denounce his past association with the Ku Klux Klan.

"In some ways it isn't surprising that this type of interview is the next step," Ringhand wrote in an email.

But she added that by appearing on Fox News, a favorite of conservatives, Kavanaugh "is making his appeal on what many perceive as a highly partisan platform. That is risky, in that it can make the nominee himself appear overly partisan (as opposed to the partisanship surrounding the selection process itself)."

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