I hate to keep harping on the poisonous effects of false stories that surface on talk-radio shows and elsewhere, spreading lies about people and events in the news, but those stories keep bubbling to the surface of the cesspool of deceit that passes for “information” in the internet age. It causes those of us involved in the business of actual, fact-based news to waste precious time debunking the falsehoods.
What set me off this week? You may have heard about the California college professor who has come forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting when they were both high school students. Of course you have.
What you may not have heard is that the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was motivated to accuse Kavanaugh out of revenge for a 22-year-old civil case in Maryland, in which Kavanaugh’s mother, Martha, then a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge, supposedly ruled against Blasey Ford’s parents in a foreclosure case. Sound far-fetched? That’s because it’s not true. In fact, it’s the opposite of what actually happened.
Judge Martha Kavanaugh did in fact rule in a foreclosure case involving Blasey Ford’s parents, Ralph and Paula Blasey of Potomac, Maryland, in 1996. But here’s what actually happened: The Blaseys, who had been facing foreclosure, were able to refinance their mortgage, and the mortgage company filed a motion with the court to dismiss the foreclosure petition. Judge Martha Kavanaugh granted that motion, and the Blaseys kept their house.
Why should the facts of a routine 1996 court proceeding matter to anyone in 2018? They shouldn’t, unless those facts are being turned upside down to smear a person making an allegation against a Supreme Court nominee.
This isn’t the only false story about Blasey Ford making the rounds. The New York Times reports that Grabien, a little-known news website, reported that Blasey Ford’s students left negative reviews on her RateMyProfessors.com profile, calling her “unprofessional,” and saying she had a “dark” personality. The ratings were actually for a different Christine Ford, who teaches at a different university. Grabien posted a correction and published an editor’s note apologizing for the error. But not before it was picked up by several right-wing media sources, including Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and Drudge Report. The Grabien article remained online, and other websites have picked it up.
There are still more examples, not worth repeating here. My point is that, no matter what you may think of Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford or her allegation against him, false claims, sloppy reporting and a willful disregard for the truth serve only to deepen the divide in this country and the distrust of all information sources, even those who do their best to get it right.
Reach Editorial Page Editor Gary Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.