A Catholic University dean has come under fire for asking discerning questions about the allegations of sexual misconduct that troubled Justice Brett Kavanaugh prior to his Supreme Court confirmation.
Professor Will Rainford was forced to resign from his position as the school’s dean of social service on Wednesday, losing favor with university administrators because he dared to question the narratives of two women who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
The wrong questions
Rainford was initially suspended in September following public outrage over a pair of innocuous tweets. Two months later, and even after his suspicions proved to be warranted, Catholic University President John Garvey called his employee’s questions “unacceptable” and expelled Rainford from a post he has held for more than five years.
He can still teach at the school as a tenured professor after taking a brief sabbatical.
The career educator’s skeptical remarks were posted during the climax of the Kavanaugh controversy, just before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Referring to Julie Swetnick, Kavanaugh’s third accuser who made wildly salacious accusations of gang rape, Rainford pointed out that Kavanaugh was much younger and unlikely to be in the same social circles as his accuser. He tweeted using the now-deleted @NCSSSDean account, indicating his status as the dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service:
Swetnick is 55 y/o. Kavanaugh is 52 y/o. Since when do senior girls hang with freshmen boys? If it happened when Kavanaugh was a senior, Swetnick was an adult drinking with&by her admission, having sex with underage boys. In another universe, he would be victim & she the perp!
In a sworn affidavit sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Swetnick claims that she witnessed Kavanaugh “consistently engage in excessive drinking and inappropriate contact of a sexual nature with women in the early 1980s.” She swore that she repeatedly saw women gang-raped at parties attended by Kavanaugh, before becoming a victim herself.
Kavanaugh called these claims a “joke” and a “farce” from the Twilight Zone.
But since the dean — and Kavanaugh — first challenged her assertions, Swetnick has been exposed as an unreliable witness. She and her unscrupulous attorney, Michael Avenatti, were accused of making false statements in the affidavit and during follow-up media appearances.
Swetnick’s story began unraveling after an Oct. 1 NBC interview, when she recanted an earlier claim that she personally witnessed the future judge at a party spiking the punch with an incapacitating drug. Reporters began looking into the California woman’s past and found out that she had a litigious history, including lawsuits where her ex-employers claimed that she lied about her work history and “made false and retaliatory allegations that other co-workers had engaged in inappropriate conduct toward her.”
In another tweet, Rainford challenged a crucial component of Dr. Ford’s narrative — that she originally wanted to remain anonymous regarding her accusations. She claims that a teenage Kavanaugh tried to remove her bathing suit top at a party 36 years ago, and that she only waited until after Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings to come forward because her anonymity was compromised.
“Riddle me this,” Rainford tweeted in September. “Why would the accuser of Kavanaugh take a polygraph, paid for by someone else and administered by [a] private investigator in early August, if she wanted to remain anonymous and had no intention of reporting the alleged assault?”
Good question. A Washington Post report published around the time that Ford’s accusations were first made public explained that she “engaged Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer known for her work on sexual harassment cases.
“On the advice of Katz, who said she believed Ford would be attacked as a liar if she came forward, Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August,” the report stated. “The results, which Katz provided to the Post, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.”
Ford maintains that she only came forward when her identity was already known, and has rejected charges that she intentionally delayed bringing forth her allegations to affect the timing of the Kavanaugh nomination. But Democrats used several delay tactics, including drawing out Dr. Ford’s Senate testimony for several days, in hopes of avoiding the conservative nomination until after the midterm elections, when they stood a better chance of defeating it.
Justice for all
But despite the fact that Kavanaugh was indeed confirmed to the Supreme Court and that the allegations against him were never turned into formal charges, the university president maintained that Rainford’s tweets couldn’t be forgiven.
“We should expect any opinion he expresses about sexual assault to be thoughtful, constructive, and reflective of the values of Catholic University, particularly in communications from the account handle @NCSSSDean,” Garvey said, explaining the decision to demote Rainford. “While it was appropriate for him to apologize and to delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts, this does not excuse the serious lack of judgment and insensitivity of his comments.”
It’s understandable that Garvey wants his staff to display good judgment when discussing matters of sexual assault — but the Kavanaugh hearings weren’t just about sexual misconduct. They were also about justice and due process, and Rainford’s questions — however uncomfortable they may be for a religious institution facing allegations of systemic sexual abuse — were timely, poignant, and appropriate.