Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee came under fire Tuesday night after releasing a bizarre, sexist letter from an ex-weatherman who claimed he had a fling with one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers more than two decades ago.
The head-scratching missive penned by Dennis Ketterer and released by Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley took aim at Julie Swetnick, who has alleged that a teenage Kavanaugh attended a party where she was gang-raped in the 1980s.
In the letter, Ketterer suggested that Swetnick cannot be trusted because: one, she picked him up at a bar even though he was extremely overweight; two, she mentioned that she enjoyed group sex; three, she never brought up Kavanaugh during a two-week dalliance; and four, her father later told him that she had psychological problems.
Ketterer’s letter was sent out by Grassley as at least four classmates or colleagues who once supported Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court removed their names from endorsement letters, and as Republican Sen. Jeff Flake criticized the nominee’s “sharp and partisan” temperament during last week’s confirmation hearing.
Swetnick’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, denounced the letter as “complete garbage” and demanded once again that the FBI interview his client before it wraps up a weeklong extension of its background check of Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by two other women.
Women’s advocates, meanwhile, were aghast that the committee would release a letter that seemed to have little relevance beyond making Swetnick appear promiscuous and mentally unstable.
“She’s not important enough for them to interview her, but it’s OK if they smear her?” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Carly Mee, an attorney and interim Executive Director of SurvJustice, a nonprofit that assists victims of sexual violence, criticized the release of the letter as irresponsible.
“[Members of the committee] don’t have control, obviously, over that person writing it, but they do have control over how they disseminate it to the public. And to just put it out there as though that means that she’s lying is insulting to all survivors,” she said.
Ketterer, who once worked as a meteorologist for a Washington, D.C., station and now lives in Utah, said when Swetnick went public with her accusation against Kavanaugh last week, he told a church leader about his history with her. The church leader then reached out to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who is also on the Judiciary Committee, and he wrote the letter.
In the note, he claims Swetnick approached him at a bar in 1993. “She was alone, quite beautiful, well-dressed and no drink in hand,” he wrote. “Consequently, my initial thought was that she might be a high-end call girl because at the time I weighed 350lbs so what would someone like her want with me? But, there was no conversation about exchanging sex for money, so I decided to talk with her a few minutes.”
Ketterer said that even though he was married with children and “having marital issues,” he decided to keep seeing Swetnick and that while they did not have sex, there was “physical contact” because, he wrote, “she was very sexually aggressive with me.”
In his telling, he decided to stop seeing her when she brought up the idea of group sex and said she had first tried it in high school. Nevertheless, he claims, when he decided to run for Congress three years later, he tried to contact Swetnick and ended up on the phone with her father. “He told me that she had psychological and other problems at the time,” Ketterer wrote.
Even if his account is accurate, it doesn’t mean she wasn’t the victim of an earlier assault, Mee pointed out.
“It's entirely possible she has had mental health issues as a result of experiencing sexual violence, she said. “Many survivors are diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression—sexual violence can cause so many mental health issues.”
Mee added, “I think it’s incredibly victim-blaming to claim that because someone consensually engaged in sex with more than one person that they then would have consented to absolutely anything. People are entitled to consent to whatever they want.”
Ketterer could not be reached for further comment on the letter. Several feminist leaders and survivors’ advocates contacted by The Daily Beast said they were so disgusted by it they did not want to comment.
“The GOP must really be desperate,” Avenatti said. “And the release of this bogus letter is highly inappropriate.”
Jackie Kucinich contributed reporting.