NEW YORK (AP) — It started as a series of phone calls among old high-school friends and ended up embroiling 65 women in the firestorm over a sexual assault allegation that could shape the Supreme Court.
In a matter of hours, they all signed onto a letter rallying behind high court nominee and their high school friend Brett Kavanaugh as someone who “has always treated women with decency and respect.” And they signed up, whether they anticipated it or not, for becoming a focus of scrutiny themselves.
The powerful strength-in-numbers statement, offered to bolster Kavanaugh’s denial of a claim that he attacked a girl at a party during their high school years, has drawn questions from journalists, social media skeptics, even Hollywood figures.
How well did the women know him? How could a statement and 65 signatures come together so fast after outlines of the allegation first surfaced publicly? And after subsequently hearing the details and learning that his accuser was a woman some of them knew, do they stand by their declaration?
Yes, say more than a dozen signers who have since spoken to The Associated Press or other media outlets.
“Brett wouldn’t do that in a million years. I’m totally confident. That would be completely out of character for him,” said Paula Duke Ebel. She said she interacted with Kavanaugh hundreds of times while they were students in a close-knit constellation of single-sex Catholic schools around Washington in the 1980s.
Christine Blasey Ford, 51, now a psychology professor in California, said a very intoxicated Kavanaugh cornered her in a bedroom during a party in the early 1980s. She said he pinned her on a bed, tried to undress her and clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She escaped only when a friend of his jumped on the bed and knocked them all over.
The letter was released the morning after the allegation first got wide public attention. The letter and its roster of supporters seemed to come at supersonic speed and out of the blue.
Women who organized and signed it say it was a rapid response by a social network that endures decades after they graduated. They say it was easy to mobilize: a chain of friends calling, texting and emailing friends from a Washington-area world where many still live and see each other.
Meanwhile, hundreds of alumnae of the secular private girls school that Kavanaugh’s accuser attended have signed a letter supporting her and calling for an investigation of her allegations.
“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford,” they wrote.
One of the signers, Cristina King Miranda, tweeted Wednesday that the alleged attack “was spoken about for days afterward in school” and that Kavanaugh “should stop lying.” But in a Facebook post hours later, she said she had no firsthand knowledge of the matter and wouldn’t comment further amid a media “circus” and a barrage of interview requests.
While that letter is signed by a mix of Ford’s peers and students from before or after her time at her school, the letter backing Kavanaugh is from women who vouch that they knew Kavanaugh, now a federal appeals court judge, personally as a high school student.
Several said they interacted with him extensively through sporting events, dances, parties and other socializing or the phone calls that occupied teenage weeknights in the pre-texting era.
Kavanaugh has called Ford’s allegation “completely false.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has invited him and Ford to testify at a hearing Monday, although Ford’s lawyers say she wants the FBI to investigate her allegation before she testifies.
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Both parties are grappling with tremendous political risks in the midst of an increasingly messy Supreme Court fight. Republicans risked alienating women, particularly in the nation’s suburbs, by embracing President Trump’s hand-picked nominee even after allegations surfaced of decades-old sexual misconduct. Democrats, who want to delay the high-stakes nomination, risked energizing complacent Republican voters should they play politics with the sensitive allegations.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
In this Sept. 6, 2018 photo, Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh waits to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the third day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Official Washington is scrambling Monday to assess and manage Kavanaugh’s prospects after his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, revealed her identity to The Washington Post and described an encounter she believes was attempted rape. Kavanaugh reported to the White House amid the upheaval, but there was no immediate word on why or whether he had been summoned. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)