If you missed this story, you really need go here and read all about how Ed Whelan, head of a conservative think tank, released a thread of astoundingly irresponsible tweets Thursday afternoon. The short version is that he employed some very sloppy investigative techniques to out a middle school teacher named Chris Garrett and imply that he—not Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—had committed the assault on Christine Blasey Ford. It was an insane thing to post, and Whelan deleted the tweets this morning with a limp apology.
For her part, Ford quickly put the kibosh to the “theory” in a statement to the Washingotn Post even before Whelan had deleted it:
Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement late Thursday: “I knew them both, and socialized with” them, Ford said, adding that she had once visited the other classmate in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”
It was clear from the outset that Whelan’s treats were wildly, flagrantly inaccurate, just as it was clear that he’d be forced to delete them. What’s less clear is how they came about.
We know that Whelan is a personal friend of Kavanaugh, as the Post explained:
Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with both Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society who has been helping to spearhead the nomination. Kavanaugh and Whelan also worked together in the Bush administration.
And we also know that he’s been teasing his misguided Twitter sleuthing since at least Tuesday:
But who else knew this was coming? As the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein noted, the biggest question remaining is whether Whelan concocted this by himself, or whether he worked with the White House, any Republican senators, or even Kavanaugh himself before releasing it to the world.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo pointed out that the wording of the WaPo story seems to hint at broader involvement, might lead Kavanaugh being implicated in the scheme:
“Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident happened to Ford, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh,” the Post writes.
Who exactly are those allies? That question may be answered, in part, by this tweet:
Orrin Hatch, the senior U.S. Senator from Utah, is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The fact that his communications director Matt Whitlock knew on Wednesday that Ed Whelan was about to make some serious allegations on Twitter is particularly damning.
Even more damning? The fact that he knew he should delete it.
In fact, that’s not the first time Whitlock addressed the idea of mistaken identity. Here’s what he told the Washington Examiner on Monday:
“Senator Hatch spoke to Judge Kavanaugh earlier, and Judge Kavanaugh continued to categorically deny Dr. Ford’s allegations,” Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock told the Washington Examiner. “He told Senator Hatch he was not at a party like the one she describes, and that Dr. Ford, who acknowledged to the Washington Post that she did not remember some key details of the incident may be mistaking him for someone else.”
So, to summarize:
1. Kavanaugh apparently started the “mistaken identity” theory in a conversation with Orrin Hatch.
2. Certain friendly media personalities ran with it, most notably Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post, who wrote a piece titled “Is there a Kavanaugh Doppelganger?”
3. Ed Whelan, Kavanaugh’s friend, linked to every possible story promoting the “mistaken identity” narrative, including Parker’s. Meanwhile, he cryptically predicted that Kavanaugh would be vindicated, and “privately discussed a defense” with his “allies.”
4. Orrin Hatch’s spokesman knew that Whelan’s thread was coming on Wednesday morning, more than 24 hours before it was posted. (Again, this whole thing seems to have started via Kavanaugh’s conversation with Hatch.)
In short, there’s a direct line from Kavanaugh to Hatch to Whelan, and while we don’t have a smoking gun indicating that Whelan specifically colluded with a senator and a Supreme Court nominee to concoct a wild, accusatory, and probably defamatory Twitter rant, we have everything else. Unlike Whelan’s thread, there’s no need for baseless implication here—the dots are hiding in plain sight, just waiting to be connected.