As a second allegation of sexual misconduct emerges against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90, 1,200 female alumni have signed an open letter as of Monday evening in support of the two women and calling for a thorough investigation into the allegations.
The petition is in response to a second allegation of sexual misconduct from Deborah Ramirez ’87, who claimed in a Sunday New Yorker report that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a suite party and thrust his penis in her face in 1983. The offices of at least two Senate Democrats are now investigating the second allegation, according to the New Yorker. Some of Kavanaugh’s classmates told the News that the Supreme Court nominee surrounded himself in a social circle whose members, which included Ramirez, often engaged in partying and heavy drinking.
Rebecca Steinitz ’86, who helped draft and distribute the letter signed by over 1,000 alumni, said she and the other organizers had expected women from Yale to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh and wrote the letter in preparation for the news to break.
“The three of us had heard that there were some women from Yale who were considering coming forth with allegations against Brett Kavanaugh,” Steinitz said. “We wanted to support them because we knew that if they did come forward, life would be very difficult for them.”
Steinitz added that members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity during the early 1980s were known for their heaving drinking and “saying a lot of derogatory things about women.” On Friday, the News reported that Kavanaugh’s fraternity waved a flag of women’s undergarments as part of their pledging process.
Kavanaugh flatly denied Ramirez’s claims in a statement to the New Yorker and said he looks forward to defending his name and “reputation for character and integrity” at a Senate hearing on Thursday.
“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen and have said so,” Kavanaugh said in the statement. “This is a smear, plain and simple.”
Ramirez, who attended Yale with Kavanaugh, said the alleged incident occurred after she played a drinking game with classmates, including Kavanaugh, at a suite party in entryway B of Lawrance Hall on Old Campus. According to Ramirez’s account in the New Yorker, she became inebriated during the game, during which a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction. Later in the night, another male student — whom Ramirez said was Kavanaugh — exposed his penis in front of her face. Other students looked on and laughed at her confusion, encouraging her to “kiss it,” according to Ramirez’s account.
Ramirez said she pushed the student away, touching his genitals in the process. Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic in Connecticut, told the New Yorker she “wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married” and felt deeply humiliated after the incident.
“Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’” Ramirez told the New Yorker. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”
Ramirez, who now lives in Boulder, Colorado, serves as co-vice chair of the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, according to the organization’s website. According to the New Yorker, Ramirez hesitated at first to name Kavanaugh in the alleged incident, as she had “significant gaps” in her memory due to intoxication. However, after six days of assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said she felt confident enough in her memories to share her story publicly. She is now urging the FBI to investigate her claim.
No eyewitnesses of the incident have confirmed that Kavanaugh was present at the party, according to the New Yorker.
Still, two classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh interviewed by the News said that her allegation against Kavanaugh seemed credible, considering the dominant drinking culture of the time.
Victoria Beach ’87, lived in the same entryway as Ramirez during their first year. While Beach said she did not know Kavanaugh and was unaware of the alleged incident, she always admired Ramirez as a “lovely and kind person.” Beach said that as an outsider, she always considered Ramirez’s group of friends at Yale — which partied often with Kavanaugh — as too kind to even “hurt a fly.”
“I could certainly see how they might even want to protect the guys they were going to parties with,” Beach told the News.
Karen Painter ’87, who lived in the same freshman dorm as Kavanaugh, recalled the “absolutely heinous amount of drinking” that occurred in their dorm building. Kavanaugh — a member of DKE and the secret all-male society Truth and Courage at Yale — belonged to a crowd notorious for heavy drinking, partying and pushing boundaries, Painter said.
“The awful thing is it isn’t even that shocking to me that [the alleged incident] happened,” Painter said.
The allegation fits into Kavanaugh’s “general trend” of disrespect toward women, according to Painter. She said her husband, who worked with Kavanaugh in George W. Bush’s ’68 administration, told her at the time that men in the White House would frequently use the term “eye candy” to describe female associates. In 2004, Kavanaugh married Ashley Estes, Bush’s personal secretary from the start of his presidency until 2004.
Still, Helen Rice ’87 disagreed with such a characterization of Kavanaugh. Rice said she did not know Kavanaugh and Ramirez as a first year but became a close friend of Kavanaugh after graduating from Yale. Rice emphasized that she holds Ramirez in high regard but that Kavanaugh is “literally the last person in the world I would expect to have these allegations” against him. Rice added that DKE and fraternities in general were “not a big deal” at Yale.
Ramirez’s allegation was published exactly one week after Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s. The FBI is currently investigating Ford’s claim.
The second allegation has intensified calls for a third-party investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Sunday urged the committee to cancel Kavanaugh’s scheduled hearing on Thursday until the FBI investigates both allegations.
50 Yale Law faculty members released a press statement on Friday calling for a “fair and deliberate” confirmation process.
Alice Park | firstname.lastname@example.org