- Alexis GoldsteinHolton-Arms School alumna who helped organize a letter campaign in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
- Jodi Jacobsonpresident and editor-in-chief of Rewire.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday about her allegations that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was 15 years old and he was 17 years old. More than 1,100 alumnae of the Holton-Arms School, the Maryland prep school that Blasey Ford graduated from in 1984, have signed a letter in support of her sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh, saying they are grateful that she came forward to tell her story. In a letter, they wrote, “It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court. Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.” We speak with Holton-Arms School alumna Alexis Goldstein in Washington, D.C. She helped organize the letter campaign in support of Blasey Ford. We also speak with Jodi Jacobson, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a second woman has come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct, Deborah Ramirez accusing Kavanaugh of exposing himself and thrusting his penis in her face during a college party in a Yale dorm room while they were both students at Yale, Ramirez speaking on the record to The New Yorker magazine in a piece that was just revealed last night, a piece by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow. Ramirez is now calling on the FBI to investigate her accusations.
This comes as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, 10 a.m. Eastern time, about her allegations that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was 15 and he 17 years old. More than 1,100 alumnae of the Holton-Arms School, the Maryland prep school that Blasey Ford graduated from in 1984, have signed a letter in support of her sexual assault claims against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, saying they’re grateful that she came forward to tell her story.
In the letter, they write, “It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court. Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves,” they write. They delivered the letter last week to Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who also graduated from the Holton-Arms School.
For more, we’re joined in Washington, D.C., by Alexis Goldstein, one of the Holton-Arms School alum who helped organize this letter campaign to support Christine Blasey Ford.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Alexis. I know that you’re racing off to the Supreme Court. Tell us about this letter that you spearheaded.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: So, I was a group of six women who attended Holton-Arms, the class of 2005. Five of them wrote the text of the letter very quickly. I was very impressed with them. And we, as the Holton-Arms community, a large, large number of us, really wanted to say that we stood with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and that we recognize her bravery in coming forward. This is coming at great personal cost to her. As folks have seen reported, she has been forced to move out of her home. She’s facing death threats. And I think those of us in the Holton-Arms community who signed this letter really just wanted to say, “Dr. Blasey Ford, we have your back, and we stand with you, and we believe you, and we know how incredibly difficult this is, and you are so brave, and we are here for you.”
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you’re referring to in this letter when you talk about Holton-Arms and the atmosphere at the time. Again, Judge Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Prep, which was a male prep school nearby.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: So, I think this, what Dr. Blasey Ford describes, resonates a lot with the Holton-Arms community, but it’s not just about the Holton-Arms community. I think pretty much any woman in America, this probably resonates with them, with any person in America, whether you’re a survivor yourself. You probably know one, whether you know it or not. Sexual assault knows no political party. It’s not just something that happens at prep schools. It happens everywhere. But just like anywhere else or any other school, members of the Holton-Arms community, you know, some of us, unfortunately, are familiar with this, and so we know how difficult it is to come forward. We know how much bravery it took her. And so we really just wanted to stand with her to say, “Don’t mess with her,” and that we have her back.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Alexis, there was another letter that was just her graduating class, Christine Blasey’s graduating class of 1984?
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: That’s right. The class of 1984 did their own separate letter. I believe there were 24 signers the last time I checked, but there might have been more since then. We linked to their letter on the website for our letter, which is StandWithBlaseyFord.com. They did it independently, but we just asked permission to link to their letter.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you deliver the letter to Congressmember [sic] Capito, who also went to your school? She’s also an alum of Holton-Arms.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: So, we wanted to make sure that every alumna knew about this letter, that we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to sign. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is another alumna of Holton-Arms who we invited to sign. She did sign. Christine Lagarde is an alumna of Holton-Arms. We continue to invite her to sign. And Senator Capito is an alumna of Holton-Arms. And we just wanted to make absolutely sure that she saw the letter and had an invitation to sign it. So we went to her office last Thursday and hand-delivered a letter to the front desk. Senator Capito was not in the office at the time, but we just encouraged her staff to pass it along, and if she or her staff would like to meet with us in the future to just hear our invitation personally, we would be happy to do that. But we just wanted to make absolutely sure that Senator Capito knew about the existence of the letter, and invite her, like we invite every Holton-Arms alumna, to consider signing.
AMY GOODMAN: Sorry, Senator Capito, that’s right. And has Senator Capito—what did she do with the letter, and has she responded to you all since? You are sister alum, after all.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: I don’t know what the senator has done with the letter, but we’ve been in communication briefly with her staff. so at least one member of her staff knows—and the front desk, they’re aware of the letter—but we have not spoken to the senator.
AMY GOODMAN: And why are you heading right away to the Supreme Court? Explain what’s happening today in the United States.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: I mean, I think this is a moment to say that this is not 1991, and that survivors must be heard and they must be believed. And I just want to be there on the steps of the Supreme Court today personally to show my support for Dr. Blasey Ford and say that we have her back, to say that we have the back of all survivors. I think that this is an opportunity to do one better than what happened with the Anita Hill hearings in 1991, although, as was unfortunately mentioned earlier in your previous segment, there has not been an FBI investigation.
That is one of the things that our letter calls for, is for there to be an FBI investigation. The Holton-Arms alumnae community wanted to echo Dr. Blasey Ford’s call for an investigation. And I think, you know, that is something that the Senate should do. So I just personally wanted to be there on the steps of the Supreme Court this morning to continue to stand with Dr. Blasey Ford and echo her call for an investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Alexis, your response to Senator Dianne Feinstein now calling for a hold on the confirmation proceedings of Judge Kavanaugh with this second person coming forward? Now, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, is alleging that there may be a third woman who will be coming forward.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: I mean, in our letter, we’ve always called for a thorough and independent investigation, and now, just as before, is as good of a time as any to do it. It seems right to me personally that we should slow down. There is no rush here. Let’s do an investigation, and let’s air all of these stories, and let’s let all of these survivors be heard and be believed.
AMY GOODMAN: A lot is being talked about, about the atmosphere of these schools. We know about Mark Judge, who Dr. Christine Ford wanted to testify. She alleges he was the third person in the room at the time that she says that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her. And it was only when Judge jumped on top of the two of them and they tumbled to the floor that she was able to escape from underneath Kavanaugh, as, she said, he was holding her mouth, trying to prevent her from screaming—Kavanaugh was—and she was able to escape. But this book that he wrote about his high school years, about Georgetown Prep, that’s called Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk, the atmosphere they’re describing, and then what we hear Deborah Ramirez in the latest New Yorker piece allege what happened to her not so long after, when Kavanaugh was 18 at Yale, talk more about that.
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: I mean, I don’t think any of this is unique to any one individual school. I don’t think—it’s certainly not unique to Holton-Arms. I mean, I can’t really speak to Yale; I was not a student at Yale. But I think, unfortunately, sexual assault happens everywhere. And it’s an issue that is deeply personal for a lot of folks. It’s an issue that deserves serious consideration and to be taken seriously. And when survivors come forward, they’re doing so at immense personal cost.
And as we saw last week with the hashtag #WhyIDidntComeForward [#WhyIDidntReport], I believe it was, there’s a lot reasons that women and other survivors don’t come forward. And so, I don’t think that this is a problem that is specific to any one institution. I mean, underage drinking happens everywhere, all across the country. Excessive drinking happens everywhere all across the country. And unfortunately, sexual assault happens everywhere. So, I think this is a problem that we as a country need to think about and contend with.
But again, the most important thing and the focus, I believe, of the Holton-Arms community letter was just, “Dr. Blasey Ford, we’re here for you, we stand with you, we believe you, you need to be heard, and there needs to be a thorough and independent investigation.”
AMY GOODMAN: Alexis, 1,100 women signed this letter. Talk about this number. What are the class sizes at Holton-Arms?
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: So, Holton-Arms is a very small school. I would say the class size is about 80 to 100, and the farther you go back in time, the smaller those class sizes are. So 1,100 women on a letter is a very, very large chunk of our community. So this is not a small portion of our community; this is a very significant chunk. So it shows you just how large of a presence within the Holton-Arms community there is standing with Dr. Blasey Ford and saying, “We support you.”
AMY GOODMAN: Alexis, I want to thank you for being with us. Who are the other people who will be a front of the Supreme Court today, as you head off?
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: I believe there’s is a whole slew of different organizations. To be honest with you, Amy, I just saw this on Twitter, so I just wanted to be there in person with them and show my support. But it’s multiple groups, and I’m not sure of the name of all of them. But I—
AMY GOODMAN: And—
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: Yes?
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Alexis, this is the seventh anniversary of Occupy, and you were very involved with Occupy Wall Street and really involved with giving economic analysis to the economic meltdown that took place in this country. I was wondering how you compare the Occupy movement to what we’re seeing today, the whole #MeToo movement around this country, and especially that is expressing support like your school has. And by the way, has the management of the school expressed support for Dr. Ford? But if you could compare the two?
ALEXIS GOLDSTEIN: Well, I will say briefly that the head of the Holton-Arms School, Susanna Jones, did issue a statement saying that they were proud of Dr. Blasey Ford for coming—excuse me—for coming forward.
And then, I was a part of Occupy as someone who worked on Wall Street. I had firsthand knowledge of what it was like to work on Wall Street. I worked on Wall Street for seven years at Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. And in some ways, I guess that is the parallel that I would draw. The #MeToo movement is about women and survivors with personal experience with sexual assault and telling their own stories and speaking their truth about what happened to them. And I suppose that, at least for me personally, is the main parallel, is it’s about folks with personal experience coming forward and saying, “Here is my truth.”
But I would say the other parallel, I suppose, is just people standing up and speaking their beliefs and trying to say, “This is how we want to build a better world,” whether it is a better world that has more economic fairness or a world without sexual assault.
AMY GOODMAN: Alexis Goldstein, thanks so much, Holton-Arms School alum who is one of the women who spearheaded a letter, now signed by 1,100 Holton-Arms School alum, that went to West Virginia Senator Capito, who also is a Holton-Arms School alum.
We’re going to turn back now to Jodi Jacobson, and then we’re going to turn to professor Barbara Ransby in Chicago, who was involved with support for Anita Hill in 1991. But, Jodi Jacobson, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire, there is so much to talk about here. So much news has come out.
In The New Yorker piece that came out last night that detailed the accusations of the second woman to say that Brett Kavanaugh, in his first year at Yale, sexually assaulted her, pushed his genitals in her face, humiliating her and assaulting her—in that same New Yorker piece is a quote from Mark Judge’s ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Rasor. I’m not sure—or Rasor—how do you pronounce her name? R-A-S-O-R.
Now, Mark Judge was a friend of Kavanaugh. He wrote the book Wasted about his high school years. In it, there is a person called Bart O’Kavanaugh, which is clearly a thinly veiled reference to his friend. And The New Yorker piece quotes Mark Judge’s ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Rasor, saying Rasor recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual. She said Judge did not name others involved in the incident, and she had no knowledge Kavanaugh participated, but Rasor was disturbed by the story and noted it undercut Judge’s protestations about the sexual innocence of Georgetown Prep. Rasor stressed, “Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t reveal information that was told in confidence.” But, she said, “I can’t stand by and watch him lie.”
JODI JACOBSON: Yeah. So, Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh, I believe, are still friends. They’ve been friends for a very long time. Mark Judge has written prolifically, not just in the one book you mentioned, but in others, about his alcoholism throughout his teen years and how wild his life was. He has refused to come and testify on the Senate Judiciary Committee. GOP has refused to subpoena him. Now, he’s been identified by this woman in The New Yorker as having told her stories of what are effectively gang rapes, because, as the story is told, they get a woman drunk and gang rape her.
So, I think this alone merits investigation. And I think it’s part of the reason that Judge doesn’t want to come before the committee, because he would be under oath and be questioned about these things, and he’s got his own lengthy written record of all of these activities. I think also, you know, you’ve got this hint by Michael Avenatti. It’s not corroborated. I don’t know whether or not he has actual evidence or he’s sort of trying to get into the drama on this. I don’t know. But he—
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go into—
JODI JACOBSON: Yeah, I’m sorry, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —when you’re talking about Michael Avenatti—
JODI JACOBSON: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: This is very important—the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. This is the list of questions that Michael Avenatti says should be asked of Brett Kavanaugh. And these were released in a series of emails he had with the person you were talking about earlier, Mike Davis—
JODI JACOBSON: Right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: —the staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is what Michael Avenatti says should be asked of Judge Kavanaugh. One, “Did you ever target one or more women for sex or rape at a house party? Did you ever assist Mark Judge or others in doing so?” Two, “Did you ever attend any house party during which a woman was gang raped or used for sex by multiple men?” Three, “Did you ever witness a line of men outside a bedroom at any house party where you understood a woman was in the bedroom being raped or taken advantage of?” Four, “Did you ever participate in any sexual conduct with a woman at a house party whom you understood to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs?” And five, “Did you ever communicate with Mark Judge or anyone else about your participation in a, quote, 'train' involving intoxicated women?” Six, “Did you ever object or attempt to prevent one or more men from participating in the rape or taking advantage of a woman at any house party?”
JODI JACOBSON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: These are the questions Michael Avenatti says the senators must ask.
JODI JACOBSON: Yes. He’s implying that he’s got information about this. Again, it’s uncorroborated. He hasn’t brought forth any person. But it connects back to the story that Rasor told in The New Yorker, and it also connects back to other pieces of The New Yorker story and other reporting around Kavanaugh at Yale. He was part of a fraternity that was known for very heavy drinking. It had a somewhat—I won’t repeat the name on TV, but its sort of colloquial name was very offensive to women. He’s part of the fraternity that marched around saying, “No means yes, and yes means anal,” and used to walk around with a flag made of women’s underwear and bras. So, his life trajectory, at least through—
AMY GOODMAN: The all-male secret society was Truth and Courage. And it was that “T” and “C” that was—
JODI JACOBSON: Right, that was turned into—
AMY GOODMAN: —colloquially referred to an insult to women.
JODI JACOBSON: Yes. So, again, there’s sort of a bigger pattern here that if you were really interested in investigating—let’s just remind ourselves that Brett Kavanaugh does not have a great deal of credibility anyway, because several people knowledgeable about his testimony on other issues have claimed that he perjured himself, like Lisa Graves, who was chief counsel during the time that he was at the White House in the Bush administration.
He somehow pulled out calendars from high school this weekend but couldn’t find emails that he was copied on during his relationship with Judge Kozinski, who was widely known for harassing women and sending pornographic material around to his clerks. So, there are very selective memories going on here with—you know, talk about selective memory? Brett Kavanaugh seems to have a very selective memory and only brings forth those things that seem to hold up his end of the story.
AMY GOODMAN: There is so much that continues to be revealed. I want to thank you, Jodi, for coming, and especially our condolences on the death of your brother.
JODI JACOBSON: Thank you. Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you for coming here in this difficult time. Jodi Jacobson, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire. We will link to her latest piece, ”GOP Wants 'Aunt Lydia' and Attack-Dog Staffer to Question Dr. Blasey Ford.”
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be joined by a professor, Ransby, professor Barbara Ransby, who will talk about her role in gaining support, particularly of African-American women, for Anita Hill, back during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. News that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will testify Thursday about her sexual assault allegation against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh has prompted many to warn senators not to repeat the same mistakes made during the confirmation process of Justice Clarence Thomas back in 1991, when Anita Hill was questioned by an all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations that Thomas sexually harassed her when he was her supervisor. This is Republican Senator Howell Heflin questioning Anita Hill back in 1991.
SEN. HOWELL HEFLIN: Now, in trying to determine whether you are telling falsehoods or not, I’ve got to determine what your motivation might be. Are you a scorned woman?
AMY GOODMAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden has been sharply criticized for his role in questioning Anita Hill as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 1991.
SEN. JOE BIDEN: Can you tell the committee what was the most embarrassing of all the incidences that you have alleged?
ANITA HILL: I think the one that was the most embarrassing was his discussion of pornography involving these women with large breasts and engaged in a variety of sex with different people or animals. That was the thing that embarrassed me the most and made me feel the most humiliated.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was then-Senator Biden questioning Anita Hill. She was also questioned by Senator—well, the late Senator Arlen Specter.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: You testified this morning in response to Senator Biden that the most embarrassing question involved—this is not too bad–women’s large breasts. That’s a word we use all the time. That was the most embarrassing aspect of what Judge Thomas had said to you.
ANITA HILL: No. The most embarrassing aspect was his description of the acts of these individuals, these women.
AMY GOODMAN: In the weeks after that hearing, black feminists organized a manifesto titled “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves” that was signed by nearly 1,600 women who raised $50,000 to publish it as an ad in The New York Times. It read in part, “We are particularly outraged by the racist and sexist treatment of Professor Anita Hill, an African American woman who was maligned and castigated for daring to speak publicly of her own experience of sexual abuse. The malicious defamation of Professor Hill insulted all women of African descent and sent a dangerous message to any woman who might contemplate a sexual harassment complaint.” That was 1991.
Now, Anita Hill has issued a statement on the sexual allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, writing, quote, “Given the seriousness of these allegations, the government needs to find a fair and neutral way for complaints to be investigated…I have seen firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized.”
In a moment, we’re going to go to Chicago, where we’re joined by Barbara Ransby, who was one of the initiators of “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves” in 1991. She is now a professor of African American studies, gender and women’s studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, author of the award-winning biography Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement and now a new book, just out, titled Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century. We’re going to go to break, and then we’re going to come back.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. In a moment, we’re going to go to professor Barbara Ransby, involved with the Anita Hill hearing. But I wanted to go back to Jodi Jacobson for a moment, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire.News, her latest piece, ”GOP Wants 'Aunt Lydia' and Attack-Dog Staffer to Question Dr. Blasey Ford.” Again, just to refresh people’s memory, if you haven’t been up on the news all weekend, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify 10:00 Thursday morning, 10 Eastern Standard Time, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But I wanted to ask you one last question. Rewire particularly focuses on reproductive rights.
JODI JACOBSON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to ask you, Jodi, about what you see as the connection, about if you see there is a connection between, well, what Kavanaugh is being accused of and also his views on issues like Roe v. Wade and, what surprised many in his hearings, talking about contraceptives as drugs that induce abortions.
JODI JACOBSON: Right. So, as we all know at this point, it’s been a project for 40 years of the far right to get rid of Roe v. Wade and to eliminate abortion in this country. And if you recall, Trump promised on the campaign trail to put judges on the court that would do that. And Kavanaugh has a very solid record of being against abortion rights. He was the sole judge that tried to stop a young girl from getting an abortion, who was in—an immigrant girl in custody. He was overridden, but he personally tried to stop that abortion from happening. He’s very anti-choice.
And he also repeated a right-wing talking point, which is that contraception, which prevents pregnancy so it can’t be an abortifacient, because you can’t have an abortion if you are not pregnant—that contraception is an abortifacient. And this is—you know, the original fake news system is the right-wing anti-choice movement, because they have used so much fake information—it’s not science, it’s fake information—as a sort of counter to real science and evidence around abortion and contraception. And by repeating that trope, he shows exactly how little he knows and how ideological he is about what the CDC calls one of the greatest public health achievements of the past century, which is contraception. So, he’s very anti-choice and anti-contraception.