It should have been possible to laugh at conservative activist Ed Whelan when he came up with his madcap (and defamatory) theory that Christine Blasey Ford was mistaken in accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault—and that it must have been another classmate who he said looked quite similar.
That was until the utterly unfounded theory was broadcast to millions of people—probably including the president—by the unquestioning hosts of Fox & Friends. Begging viewers to doubt Ford’s account, the hosts laid out Whelan’s flawed working theory and asked: “So, is it a case of mistaken identity?”
After the hosts mentioned Ford’s response to the conspiracy theory, in which she said she knew the difference between the two completely different men, host Brian Kilmeade quickly followed it up with: “We’ll see.”
The Fox News report came the morning after Whelan, who is president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center think thank, attracted criticism and derision from all corners of the political spectrum for his ludicrous doppelgänger theory. The Kavanaugh ally also doxxed the private citizen he was accusing of a serious crime based on a hunch, by tweeting his name, former address, and photos.
Whelan desperately tried to distance himself from the damage he’d done Friday morning, tweeting an apology and saying: “I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it.”
While Fox News neatly avoided reporting the baseless claims—which even its author has disowned—as fact, the mere act of giving them such undue prominence in a show watched by millions will give more fuel to people who want to doubt Ford’s reliability ahead of her possible testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
The hosts cast no doubt on the hunch.
Host Steve Doocy said it was now “a factor” in the case.
“[Whelan] looked at what Christine Ford told The Washington Post and figured out, OK, these people were named, these four people, where did they live?... He figured out what house it may have happened at, because it was the house closest to the golf course, and then realized whose house it was and looked at a picture of the young man who lived there at the time—a classmate of Mr. Kavanaugh’s.”
He added: “They look a lot alike.”
Ford quickly shot down the suggestion Thursday night, telling The Washington Post: “I knew them both, and socialized with them. There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”
But if Whelan’s goal, as a Kavanaugh defender, was to make as many people as possible more skeptical of Ford’s account—this morning, he may have succeeded.