Debunking 5 Viral Rumors About Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s Accuser
Posted September 19, 2018 5:52 p.m. EDT
Just minutes after Christine Blasey Ford, a California-based psychologist, went public with accusations of teenage sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, internet investigators began combing her past for clues about her possible motives, and trying to cast doubt on the veracity of her claims.
Since then, Dr. Blasey, as she is known professionally, has been the subject of a torrent of misinformation online. Some viral rumors about Blasey have been quickly debunked. But false claims have continued to spread on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other social networks.
Here are several of the most visible false and misleading claims about Blasey, along with explanations of what’s really happening.
Claim: Blasey’s students left negative reviews on her RateMyProfessors.com profile, calling her “unprofessional” and citing her “dark” personality.
This viral rumor is based on a case of mistaken identity. The RateMyProfessors.com page on which these negative reviews were found is about Christine A. Ford, a professor of human services at California State University Fullerton. Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, teaches at Palo Alto University.
This story made an early appearance on Grabien, a little-known news website. It was then picked up by several right-wing media outlets, including by Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who tweeted a link to it, and the Drudge Report, which featured it on its home page. Grabien later issued a correction and published an editor’s note apologizing for the error. But the article remained online, and several other websites have since picked it up.
Claim: Judge Kavanaugh’s mother once ruled against Blasey’s parents in a foreclosure case.
Internet sleuths quickly zoomed in on a 22-year-old civil court case involving Kavanaugh’s mother, Martha Kavanaugh, a district court judge in Maryland, in which Blasey’s parents, Ralph and Paula Blasey, were the defendants. Martha Kavanaugh, some said, had ruled against the Blaseys, costing them their house and creating a revenge motive for Blasey.
There was, in fact, a 1996 foreclosure case involving Martha Kavanaugh and Blasey’s parents. But according to CBS News, the Blaseys settled with their bank, and Martha Kavanaugh dismissed the case. Citing court records, Snopes noted that Martha Kavanaugh’s ruling actually allowed the Blaseys to keep their home.
But the story nevertheless made it onto conservative news sites including Gateway Pundit, which used the headline “Bad Blood: Judge Kavanaugh’s Mother Foreclosed on Far Left Accuser’s Parents’ Home.” The story has not yet been corrected.
Claim: Blasey made similar sexual assault accusations against Justice Neil Gorsuch during his confirmation process.
This claim seems to have originated with a Twitter user, Josh Cornett, who appears to have a history of amplifying right-wing misinformation. (The user’s account has tweeted messages of support for QAnon, a sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory.)
On Tuesday, Cornett, referring to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tweeted: “According to sources Diane [sic] Feinstein’s reluctance to mention the Kavanaugh accuser’s letter during confirmation session is because the accuser sent a similiar [sic] letter directed at Judge Gorsuch last year.” In a follow-up tweet, he said he had “no idea” if the information was true, but that “my source has been very accurate in the past.”
There is no known letter sent by Blasey about Gorsuch, or any other Supreme Court justice. Still, the tweet got more than 7,000 retweets.
Claim: Blasey is a major Democratic donor with a long history of left-wing activism.
Verdict: Mostly false.
Some critics of Blasey quickly painted her as a devoted left-wing activist and donor with an ax to grind.
They have claimed that she wrote on Facebook in 2016 that “Scalia types must be banned from law.” Another variant of this claim also has her writing that “Scalia types must be banned from courts.”
Neither phrase appears in a search of public Facebook posts in 2016. It’s possible that the phrases appeared in posts that have since been deleted from Blasey’s accounts. But these claims don’t contain links to old posts, or any other form of attribution. The account of the Twitter user who appeared to originate the claim, @LodgeNixon, has since been deleted, and no evidence of the purported Facebook post has emerged.
Memes containing this dubious claim, and several others about Blasey, have gone viral on Facebook, and have been shared inside several large private Facebook groups.
It is no secret that Blasey is a registered Democrat who has given money to progressive organizations and campaigns — these facts were reported by the The Washington Post in the original story naming her as Kavanaugh’s accuser. But she appears to be far from a big-money donor. According to data from the Federal Election Commission, her donations to Democratic committees and campaigns from 2013 to 2017 total less than $100.
In addition, a photo that circulated on social media that purported to be Blasey holding a “not my president” sign at an anti-Trump rally appears to be misleading. The photo appears on a stock photo website, and the woman in the photo is not identified. Blasey did attend a California Women’s March in 2017, according to The Mercury News. But the photo was taken at a march in New York in 2016, according to Alamy, the stock photo website.
Claim: Blasey’s brother worked at a law firm with ties to the Russia investigation.
In a news release, Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group, said Blasey was an unreliable accuser because of her family ties to the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The group wrote: “Ford has a brother, Ralph Blasey, who worked for Baker Hostetler, a law firm that retained Fusion GPS, the infamous Washington company that produced the unverified Steele dossier on President Donald Trump and Russia, sparking the Russia investigation.”
The group’s theory, which quickly caught on among internet conspiracists, was that BakerHostetler, the law firm where Blasey’s brother worked, had once hired a consulting firm called Fusion GPS as part of a Russian money-laundering investigation. Several years later, Fusion GPS subcontracted with a British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to produce the infamous Russia dossier. Therefore, they implied, Blasey’s brother was connected to the Russia investigation.
It is true that BakerHostetler hired Fusion GPS as part of a Russian money-laundering investigation, and that Fusion GPS later worked with Steele on the Russia dossier. But Fusion GPS has said that there is no link between its work on the earlier case — which involved Prevezon, a Russian holding company based in Cyprus — and the 2016 presidential election.
And according to his LinkedIn profile, Ralph Blasey left the firm in 2004, more than a decade before any investigation into Russian collusion began.