Kavanaugh Champion Who Advanced “Mistaken-Identity” Theory of Innocence Takes Leave From Ethics Job

Ed Whelan acknowledged his “appalling and inexcusable” error.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh leaves his home on September 19, 2018.Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ed Whelan, the conservative judicial activist who was criticized last week for a series of tweets asserting that Christine Blasey Ford had confused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with one of his high-school classmates, has been placed on leave by an ethics-oriented nonprofit he led for years.

Here is the group’s statement

“The board of the Ethics and Public Policy Center convened a special telephonic meeting on Friday, September 21, 2018. After the meeting, Edward Whelan, who has led EPPC with integrity and excellence for many years, offered his resignation in light of what he described as an “appalling and inexcusable” error in posting online a series of comments that he has now deleted and for which he promptly publicly apologized. After deliberation, the board declined to accept Mr. Whelan’s resignation, but determined that he will take a leave of absence from the organization during which time Yuval Levin, EPPC’s Vice President and Hertog Fellow, will be in charge. The board will meet in a month to review the situation.”

Ford says that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party when they were both in high school in 1982. After several days of hinting that that he had found evidence disproving Ford’s claims, Whelan, a prominent conservative, on Thursday evening unleashed a now-deleted tweetstorm that theorized that one of Kavanaugh’s classmates had actually attacked Ford. Citing yearbook photos, Whelan argued the man, whom he named, resembled Kavanaugh at the time. Ford quickly responded, noting she had known both men. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them,” she said.

Whelan’s theory flopped. On Friday morning he apologized.

Whelan’s decision to step aside from his leadership at the Ethics and Public Policy Center came as Republicans, including some who had begun touting his theory earlier this week, distanced themselves from him. But Democrats on the Judiciary Committee still want to know where Whelan, who cited facts that demonstrated knowledge of Kavanaugh’s social circle in 1982, got his information.

Politico reported Friday that CRC Public Relations, a conservative firm helping advocate for Kavanaugh’s confirmation, had helped Whelan frame and promote his theory. Democrats have said they will press Kavanaugh on whether he was involved in this effort. 

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate