In the hours after Christine Blasey Ford came forward as the woman who had accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while they were teenagers, a small group of Republican women in Washington began talking and emailing about how to help out their compatriot.
The women, many of whom worked alongside Kavanaugh in George W. Bush’s White House and are now lobbyists or consultants, thought the news coverage of the accusations was unfair.
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Many of them had already signed a letter in August to the Senate Judiciary Committee vouching for Kavanaugh’s support of women in the workplace. Now, they decided to keep up the defense of their ex-colleague with a Twitter and Facebook campaign using the hashtag #istandwithbrett.
The hashtag wasn’t trending in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, but among a certain set of Republican insiders, the messages were hard to miss.
“The Brett I know embodies goodness, kindness, & honesty,” Ginger Loper, a lobbyist who runs her own firm, wrote in a tweet on Monday afternoon that’s been retweeted more than 500 times. “His integrity and decency are beyond reproach. As a mom of 3 young daughters, I pray each has the fortune to marry someone like Brett.”
“I’ve known Brett for almost 18 years,” Colleen Litkenhaus, a lobbyist for Dow Chemical, wrote on Facebook less than an hour before Loper’s tweet. “He is extra extra smart, kind, warm, thoughtful and caring.”
She was speaking out, she added, “because, if you don’t know Brett personally, you may want to hear from those that do.”
The women rushing to Kavanaugh’s defense include Candi Wolff, the top lobbyist for Citigroup; Sara Fagen, a consultant at DDC Public Affairs; and Laura Cox Kaplan, a former lobbyist for PricewaterhouseCoopers who now hosts the “She Said/She Said” podcast.
Many of them belong to a class of connected Washingtonians who typically try to avoid upsetting their corporate clients by weighing in on Beltway scandals. But they decided to speak because of their friendships with Kavanaugh, who’s deeply integrated in the Republican social scene in Washington. Kaplan said in an interview that it was “physically painful” to watch the scandal unfold.
While the White House has reached out to surrogates asking them to defend Kavanaugh, several of the women who’ve posted messages said in interviews that they organized on their own, reaching out to the same group that signed the August letter to the Senate committee.
In leaping to Kavanaugh’s defense even after Ford revealed herself as its source of the previously anonymous allegation, the women must walk a delicate line, trying to support Kavanaugh without denigrating Ford.
“What we’re saying is Dr. Ford deserves to heard — but so does Brett,” Megan Hauck, a lobbyist who helped organize the effort, said in an interview. “Brett is being tried and convicted in the press with no evidence.”
Kavanaugh has not suffered for lack of defenders. A group of 65 women who said they had known him since high school released a letter defending his character. And a group of women from Ford’s school, Holton-Arms in Bethesda, Md., also circulated a letter online saying they believed her.
Hauck said she met Kavanaugh when he was working as Bush’s staff secretary and she was working on Bush’s reelection campaign. During a flight on Air Force One a couple of months before the election, she recalled, Bush grew irritated with a line in a speech that had been prepared for him and asked Kavanaugh to get the speechwriter responsible on the phone. Kavanaugh said no, insisting that it was his responsibility and protecting the speechwriter.
“That just always stuck with me,” she said.
Hauck referenced the moment in a tweet on Monday, writing that she’d watched Kavanaugh “take the blame to shield someone more junior” in the White House.
The women decided to use a shared hashtag but otherwise didn’t coordinate what they wanted to say. If they had hired a public relations specialist to craft a more polished message, “it wouldn’t have been as powerful,” Loper said in an interview.
Men have weighed in, too — or at least helped promote what women have written. Marc Lampkin, a prominent Republican lobbyist, reposted a Facebook post authored by his wife, Emily, a consultant, who wrote that she had “never heard a whisper that [Kavanaugh’s] behavior is or has been anything but the kind we should expect from any male colleague at work or a husband of a dear friend.”
But the core of those speaking out are women. While many of the women speaking out are influential lobbyists and consultants, they’re hearing reactions from high school and college friends, too. Kaplan, for instance, said she’s heard from friends back in Texas who appreciated the chance to hear from someone who knows Kavanaugh personally.
“It means a lot to them, even if they have different political views,” she said.