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Kavanaugh Schoolmate Urges Georgetown Prep Grads to Break Silence on Sexual Assault, Party Culture

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As the FBI presses forward with a limited investigation into allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a group of alumni from his all-male high school Georgetown Prep are calling for graduates to come forward if they have information about sexual assaults committed by their former classmate. In 2015, Kavanaugh told an audience at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law that “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” But the petition implores graduates of the elite prep school, “Please do not remain silent, even if speaking out comes at some personal cost.” We speak with Bill Barbot, who was a freshman at Georgetown Prep when Brett Kavanaugh was a senior. Barbot co-authored a petition calling on fellow graduates to come forward if they have information about any sexual assaults possibly committed by the Supreme Court nominee.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The White House has authorized the FBI to partially expand its investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but the agency is still being forced to wrap up its probe this week. The focus of the investigation is on allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in 1982. But the FBI has also reached out to Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale who says he thrust his genitals into her face during a party. While the FBI has talked to Ramirez, NBC News reports agents have not followed up on claims by their mutual friends that Kavanaugh asked them to go on the record in his defense prior to the publication of an article in The New Yorker outlining her allegations. Former Yale classmate Kerry Berchem says she tried to give the FBI text messages proving that Kavanaugh and/or his friends, quote, “may have initiated an anticipatory narrative” as early as July in order to, quote, “conceal or discredit” Ramirez.

AMY GOODMAN: NBC reports Brett Kavanaugh tried to obtain a photograph from a 1997 wedding, quote, “in order to show himself smiling alongside Ramirez 10 years after they graduated,” unquote. While the two did appear in the same group photo, a friend of Ramirez said she attempted to stay far away from Kavanaugh and his friends during the wedding. Kavanaugh reportedly initiated the contact with former classmates before The New Yorker published its report about Ramirez on September 23rd. This seems to contradict his testimony Thursday, when he was questioned by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: When was the first time that the ranking member or her staff asked you about these allegations?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Today.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: When did you first hear of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations against you?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: In the last—in the period since then, in The New Yorker story.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Did the ranking member or any of her colleagues or any of their staffs ask you about Ms. Ramirez’s allegations before they were leaked to the press?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: When was the first time that the ranking member or any of her colleagues or any of their staff asked you about Ms. Ramirez’s allegations?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Today.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This comes as The Washington Post reports the slightly expanded investigation will now include a look into allegations by a third Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick, who says she observed Kavanaugh at high school parties in the 1980s joining efforts to inebriate girls so they could be gang-raped. Recently resurfaced 1983 yearbooks from Georgetown Prep show students bragging about the use of “killer Q’s” during Beach Week—a possible reference to quaaludes, the sedative Bill Cosby used to drug women in order to rape them.

AMY GOODMAN: Now a group of alumni from Brett Kavanaugh’s all-male private high school has issued a call for fellow graduates of Georgetown Prep to come forward if they have information about any sexual assaults possibly committed by the Supreme Court nominee, saying in a petition, quote, “Please do not remain silent, even if speaking out comes at some personal cost.” In a minute, we’ll be joined by one of those alumni, but first I want to turn to comments of Judge Kavanaugh made about Georgetown Prep. He was speaking at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law in 2015.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Fortunately, we had a—we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day, as the dean was reminding me before, before the talk, which is, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Bill Barbot. He was a freshman at the all-male Georgetown Prep high school when Brett Kavanaugh was a senior. After Kavanaugh’s testimony Thursday, Barbot co-authored the petition calling on fellow graduates to come forward if they have any information about any sexual assaults possibly committed by the Supreme Court nominee. Bill Barbot is joining us by phone from the Washington, D.C., area.

Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why you started this petition and how many people have signed on so far?

BILL BARBOT: Yeah. I was—we were first moved to do this because we felt that it was stunning to me that we, as a community, I believe, know so much about what was going on during the '80s in Prep's party culture and that there were many graduates of the class of '83 who were close to Brett but who have not shown their faces. They have not—they have not spoken out about what was going on, either in his defense or in Dr. Ford's defense. And so, I was stunned by that silence and felt we have to try to do something to shake my classmates and my schoolmates up and get them to think: This is an opportunity for you to do the right thing. And if our little petition and our drive to get them to speak gets even one of them to say something, then I feel it’s been a success.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bill Barbot, you were a freshman when Brett Kavanaugh was a senior at the school. Did you—how well did you know him? And when you saw the testimony, how did that jibe with your recollections of what he was like?

BILL BARBOT: Well, I didn’t know Brett personally, and I think it’s important to note that I don’t consider myself a witness in this case in any way, shape or form. Again, I was a freshman, he was a senior. He was a very big personality on campus. He was a football player. He was captain of the basketball team. It was hard, in a roughly 400-person school, not to know who the real social leaders were, even as a freshman. So I knew him and his crew more by reputation than personal observation.

However, it just struck me during his testimony that given what I know about Prep’s party culture in the '80s and knowing that he bragged openly on his yearbook page about his participation in that party culture, that he would rule out categorically the possibility that something untoward or downright illegal could have happened when he was under the influence of alcohol. And that just felt wrong to me. And I know that there are—there must be people who are closer to him, closer in age and closer in social commingling, that have to know more about what was going on. And I think we've been seeing that from his Yale classmates, and I would like to see that from his Prep classmates.

AMY GOODMAN: In 1990, The Washington Post reported that headmasters from seven prestigious Washington, D.C.-area private schools, including yours, Georgetown Prep, and Kavanaugh’s, had sent a letter to warn parents about a party culture among their children which included heavy drinking leading to, quote, “sexual or violent behavior.” The article quotes the headmaster at Holton-Arms saying, quote, “[A] number of parents and kids have expressed dismay over some of the situations at weekend parties. … We’re concerned about the potential for tragedy.” Bill Barbot, can you respond to that?

BILL BARBOT: Yeah. I, unfortunately, wasn’t familiar with that article when it was printed in 1990. That was when I was graduating from college. But what I read yesterday, when it was first forwarded to me, shocked me in some way, because it was an acknowledgment on the part of the administrations of the schools that we all went to that there was a severe problem. And it was a severe problem. But what is shocking and upsetting to me is that, as I understand it, not much institutionally has been done to really put a stop to it. And I know that there is a very, very steep hill to climb for educators in managing teenage kids. I know that, as a parent of a teenager myself—my son’s 17—it’s not easy for parents to get involved. But I just feel like, wow, that was a long time ago, and we’re still fighting the same battle with underage drinking and drug use, with a culture, a party culture, that seems to be accepting of illegal behavior and dangerous behavior. And I just wish that there was something more that we could have done in the 28 years-plus that have transpired since that letter came out.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, you have close to 70 names on this letter that you issued. What do you hope to do with it? And what are you—are all the people who have signed the petition willing to go public with their names?

BILL BARBOT: Well, it’s closer to a hundred now. I actually didn’t look at the number this morning. I should have. It’s been growing since—we released it on Saturday, which is probably a tricky day to try to get people to pay attention to it. But since we’ve started to get some news coverage on it, we’ve been getting more and more signatories.

And we’ve been very judicious with how we’re going to proceed, because there are a number of folks who signed who, for various reasons, such as they’re employed by the federal government, can’t have their names released publicly, but did—they did sign it in that they wanted to indicate support. So, we’re having to be very thoughtful, and we’re contacting everyone individually to make sure that they are aware that we intend to go public with their name, make sure that they are who they say they are and that we didn’t end up with some false entries.

But the concern that I have right now is that I am not all that sure how interested the FBI is in our list. They have their hands full. And that’s what is so urgent about the situation to me, is a week is not very much time for the FBI to conduct a very thorough investigation. They have to identify, locate and interview a lot of people if they really want to get to the bottom of this. So they may have their hands full, which leads me to believe that the press may be a more effective way to get the word out and to get our letter to see the light of day and for, then, fellow Prep alumni to take the action of saying, “You know what? I do have a story, and I do think it’s important that it be heard.”

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Barbot, you said in an interview with the Washingtonian, “Consent as a concept did not even exist. It was not in our lexicon at Georgetown Prep.” Explain.

BILL BARBOT: Well, I feel, culturally, it’s important to recognize that the '80s were a very different time and place for the country at large, not just in private schools, private all-boys schools. Everywhere, we weren't talking a whole lot about the sexual dynamic between boys and girls at the high school level. It just wasn’t part of the conversation. When you compound that by having an all-boys private school that’s Catholic, the likelihood of meaningful conversations between administrators, between parents and kids, coming up to try to recognize the fact that there are thousands of shades of greys between the gentlemanly conduct, which was the shorthand at the time to tell us how we were supposed to behave around girls, and down-and-out rape, there’s so much nuance in there, and it’s a lot to cover. And there needed to be, in retrospect—hindsight is always 20/20—a more concerted effort on the parts of parents, administrators, the school itself, to lock horns with the fact that good kids do do bad things, especially when alcohol is involved. And I think it’s easy to criticize them now, through the lens of 2018, but just to be very honest about the milieu in which we were operating at that time, we weren’t talking about the subtleties of sexual dynamics. We were barely talking about the mechanics of sexuality. I learned most of what I knew about sexuality from my middle school health and sex education class, not from conversations that I was having in high school about how you know when it’s OK to have sex and how you know when and how to stop yourself when it’s not OK.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Brett Kavanaugh’s senior yearbook page refers to him as, quote, “Keg City Club (Treasurer)—100 Kegs or Bust,” and says he was the, quote, “biggest contributor to the Beach Week Ralph Club,” as well as a reference to the “Renate Alumnius.” Could you talk about these references that you saw in the yearbook and what they would mean to you, as someone who was part of the school—a part of that school?

BILL BARBOT: Sure. As with many private schools that have a whole page dedicated to each kid, it is a place for you to commemorate your time at school. It’s your way of writing your name in the wet cement so that you’re, for all eternity, locked down. It’s a way to commemorate inside jokes that you have with your friends and just to basically have a laugh. Because we didn’t have Instagram or Facebook then, so you couldn’t go back and take a look at the old photos by any other means besides looking at your yearbook. So, collectively, we all made up a lot of stuff. Some of it could have been exaggerated. Some of it could have been entirely faked.

But what I saw on Brett’s page was a championing of the drinking culture. And you don’t, if you’re an innocent choirboy who occasionally likes to have a beer, call yourself the captain of keg city, or whatever it was that he said. These are things that just don’t sit right with me and struck me as very much at odds with how he portrayed himself in his interview on Fox and how he portrayed himself in front of the Senate on Thursday.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Barbot, the editors of America magazine, the national weekly published by the Jesuits of the United States, called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn. Your school, Georgetown Prep, where Kavanaugh was a student when he allegedly assaulted Christine Blasey, is a Jesuit high school. Can you talk about what that meant to you when the Jesuits came out against Kavanaugh?

BILL BARBOT: I felt it was a very powerful statement. I think that there are a lot of folks who are probably listening to me speak right now who are saying, “Why are you doing this? Why are you trying to take down your school?” I’m not trying to take down my school. From my perspective, I’m trying to stand up for my school. I’m trying to stand up for all the good men who have gone through that school. I’m trying to stand up for what I believe were the values that were instilled in us as students there, of truth, of honesty, of integrity.

And so, I felt vindicated, in a way, by the Jesuits choosing to withdraw their nomination, because I think they recognized, as do I, that, in Brett, we have, like all of us, a flawed human being, but he’s not acknowledging those flaws, and he’s not embracing the fact that we all have pasts, we all have the ability and capacity to make mistakes, but you atone for them, you lock horns with them, you acknowledge them, you realize that you could have caused pain for another human being. You don’t run away from it. You don’t hide behind verbal gymnastics, as he was doing on Thursday. And I felt proud that the Jesuits chose to recognize that and realize that we, as a community of students, and coming from that history and that legacy, can do better and should do better.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bill Barbot, you’ve gone out publicly with this petition. You’ve done interviews. But you’re declining to be on air or seen publicly. Can you talk about why?

BILL BARBOT: Well, Dr. Ford has received death threats. And she is obviously the key person in all of this, so I don’t like to overstate that I’m somehow on equal importance as she is. But I am very concerned that this battle for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is seen by many in the community as a proxy battle for other larger wars, such as the war against Roe v. Wade. And there are, obviously, numerous historical precedents for violence being done to those who are willing to speak out against these things. I’m a parent of three kids. I’ve got a teenager and two small children. I’ve got a wife who I love dearly. And putting them in danger simply because my face needs to be seen on television just doesn’t seem wise. And I’d really rather my voice carry the message that we’re trying to get across.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Neil Gorsuch was also a student at Georgetown Prep—is that right, Bill?—between you and Brett Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh a senior, you a freshman. Was Gorsuch a year above you?

BILL BARBOT: Yes. He was a sophomore when I was a freshman.

AMY GOODMAN: Any comments?

BILL BARBOT: When Neil was first nominated and then put onto the court, I accepted it as a pretty vanilla nomination on the part of the president. He wants to pack the court with reliable conservatives. And for as long as I’ve known Neil, he was a conservative. He made no bones about that when he was in high school.

I think that the process through which Neil was nominated and the words that he used to describe his past and his experience are very different from how Brett has been acting and what he’s been saying. And I am no fan of Neil’s. I really would love to see a much more progressive Supreme Court, personally, but I accept the fact that we didn’t win the election, and it’s the prerogative of the president to nominate whoever he wants. But what I do want to see is someone of the deepest and most unimpeachable character and integrity on the court. And I feel that Neil can embody that, even if his politics differ from mine, in ways that I have very big concerns about Brett’s.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Bill Barbot, freshman at the all-male Georgetown Prep high school when Brett Kavanaugh was a senior. After Kavanaugh testified Thursday, Bill Barbot co-authored a petition, now of over a hundred names, calling on fellow graduates to come forward if they have information about any sexual assaults possibly committed by the Supreme Court nominee.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the ACLU rarely takes a position on a Supreme Court nominee. When Brett Kavanaugh was first nominated, they wouldn’t take a position. We had them on, and they were clear. They’ve changed their mind. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “I Believe Her” by Emma’s Revolution. The band launched the song on Thursday in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all sexual assault survivors.

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ACLU Formally Opposes Kavanaugh, Citing Credible Sexual Assault Allegations & Partisan Temperament

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