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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

Brett Kavanaugh arrives as damaged goods

As it stands now, Kavanaugh got to the Supreme Court but his reputation has been shredded, perhaps beyond repair.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before testifying

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September in Washington. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / WIN MCNAMEE

Call me naive or insensitive, but in all the years I’ve been in this business — at Newsday, the New York Post, The Associated Press, Detroit News and Time magazine — I’ve known only one male boss who openly and repeatedly exploited his position to take advantage of women.

Christine Blasey Ford testified that she was held down by Brett Kavanaugh and feared he might inadvertently kill her in an attempt to rape her. My former boss, however, took advantage of women in other ways.

That didn’t make his actions less egregious or appalling. I can’t begin to count the female reporters and editors he supervised and with whom he had affairs. He and I were close friends, and I repeatedly confronted him over his behavior, to no avail. He was a brilliant editor, but had he acted this way today, he’d be fired.

Yet at the same time that he was taking advantage of women, he was more supportive of women writers than any editor, male or female, I’d ever known. He encouraged and nurtured many of them. Some of these women are writing today. Some are well-known.

All of which suggests that there are complexities to male-female relationships, which returns us to the Ford-Kavanaugh story, one that has transfixed the nation.

I believe Ford’s testimony 100 percent. On the other hand, despite her certainty that Kavanaugh intended to rape her, I am not so certain. Grinding, fumbling to remove her clothing, placing his hand over her mouth to silence her as a drunken 17-year-old is one thing. Raping her is another. As traumatic as Kavanaugh’s actions might have been to Ford, they may have been a macho adolescent prank gone over the top rather than a sexual attack.

So what we have here, in my opinion, is not merely “he said-she said.” It’s also one of perception: what Ford thought Kavanaugh intended to do to her as opposed to what she said he actually did.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be far more sympathetic to Kavanaugh had he acknowledged what appears to have been his chronic and boorish adolescent drunkenness, apologized to Ford for terrifying her and then raised the question of whether one’s actions as a 17-year-old should follow him for the rest of his life.

As it stands now, Kavanaugh got to the Supreme Court but his reputation has been shredded, perhaps beyond repair.

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