“What Happens on the Bus Stays on the Bus” — The Hard-Drinking Life of Brett Kavanaugh
Explosive allegations of a sexual assault perpetrated by Brett Kavanaugh have also turned a spotlight on the Supreme Court nominee’s use of alcohol.
Brett Kavanaugh was allegedly “stumbling drunk” as a teenager at a party when, according to his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom,” pinned her down on a bed, covered her mouth, and attempted to remove her clothes. (Ford ultimately escaped and locked herself in a bathroom.) Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation.
Kavanaugh’s alleged underage inebriation is a side note to the alleged assault, of course. But it fits with a pattern of hard drinking by Kavanaugh — and Kavanaugh bragging about that hard drinking — that continued long after he left Georgetown Prep.
An examination of the public record, below, is not definitive. But it raises serious questions: Does the nominee for the highest court in the land have a problematic relationship with alcohol? Does it impair his judgment?
High School. Georgetown Prep. Graduated 1983.
The allegation that Kavanaugh carried out a sexual assault in a “highly inebriated state” is not the only indication of underage drinking during Kavanaugh’s days at the all boys private school outside of D.C. In his senior yearbook entry, Kavanaugh refers to being the “treasurer” of the “Keg City Club.” There’s another reference to: “100 Kegs or Bust.”
A classmate who listed the same “100 Kegs or Bust” challenge is Mark Judge. Ford identified Judge to the Washington Post as being in the room with Kavanaugh during the alleged assault. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama) has called for Judge to be subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a letter to the committee, asking not to testify, Judge wrote: “I have no memory of this alleged incident,” adding: “I do not recall the party.”
Judge has written an addiction memoir titled, Wasted: Takes of a Gen X Drunk. In the book, according to a review by Mother Jones, Kavanaugh appears to make a thinly veiled cameo: Judge refers to a high school friend named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who vomited in a car where he “passed out on his way back from a party.”
In a 2015 speech to Columbus Law School at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Kavanaugh made light of his high school misbehavior: “Fortunately, we’ve had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day,” Kavanaugh said of his friends from the time. “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”
College. Yale. Graduated 1987.
At Yale in the mid-1980s, Kavanaugh was a DKE brother. The fraternity is notorious for hard drinking and bucking political correctness. (The Yale chapter was banned from campus for five years in 2011, after brothers marched about campus chanting: “‘No’ Means “Yes!’; ‘Yes’ Means ‘Anal!’”) During Kavanaugh’s years in DKE, according to the Yale Daily News, brothers were alleged to “ransack women’s rooms while they were in class to collect undergarments.” The paper has republished a photo of pledges — “fondly known as ‘buttholes’” — waving a flag fashioned of bras and panties outside of Yale’s administrative building.
According to BuzzFeed, Kavanaugh also joined a hard-partying, all-male Yale secret society with links to the frat scene called Truth and Courage. The society was reportedly known also as “TNC” and, more vulgar, “Tit and Clit,” and it initiated members through “elaborate drinking games.” In the words of one Yalie, TNC was “organized around having sex with coeds”; a Kavanaugh contemporary at Yale described TNC members to BuzzFeed: “They just drank a ton. They got drunk… All I remember is them drinking.”
The New Yorker report on the allegations of Deborah Ramirez, who claims Kavanaugh waved his penis in her face at a drinking party on campus, offers new context on Kavanaugh’s behavior. A classmate recalled Kavanaugh as “relatively shy” when sober but “aggressive and even belligerent” when drunk. James Roche, a roommate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, said Kavanaugh was “frequently, incoherently drunk.”
Law School. Yale. Graduated 1990.
Hard drinking did not end in college for Kavanaugh. During a Yale Law School Federalist Society banquet in 2014, he regaled the audience with numerous drinking tales from his days at the law school.
Kavanaugh described one dinner party at which, he said, “it is fair to say we had a few drinks. Indeed… we had more than a few beers before the banquet.” Kavanaugh went on to describe a “friend of mine who shall remain nameless — and this is a story that is really about a friend of mine, not about me where I am describing myself as a friend of mine” who had gotten trashed and broken a table he was dancing on “drink in hand” at the Lawn Club.
“Now you might think that we would have quickly left the Lawn Club after that, with some sense of shame. But you’d be wrong,” Kavanaugh said. Instead, the friend returned to the bar to get another drink. When the bartender cut him off, a Yale Law professor stepped up, saying, “I’ll take your case,” and “got my friend some more beers.” The moral of the story, Kavanaugh said: “Don’t ever let it be said that Yale Law professors are not there when you need them most.”
Kavanaugh also recalled a bus party he’d organized for 30 classmates to go to a Red Sox game in Boston, followed by a night of Boston bar-hopping, “only for us to return falling out of the bus onto the steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.” On the bus, he recalled, “people were doing group chugs” from a keg. “Fortunately for all of us, we had a motto,” Kavanaugh added: “What happens on the bus stays on the bus.”
George W. Bush Administration. Served 2001–2006.
As recorded in White House emails, recently released by Judiciary Committee member Sen. Cory Booker, Kavanaugh and a group of friends organized a 2001 boat trip out of Annapolis, Maryland. The humor of the email chain is both fratty and racist. One Kavanaugh buddy, whose name is redacted but who identifies himself as “your cruise director” writes an email with the subject line “Su Ching is booked.” The email reads in part: “Although you may be hoping that I’ve lined up a hostess for a rub-n-tug massage session, ‘su Ching’ actually is the sailboat (a Tayana 55) we’ve got … out of Annapolis.”
In an email dated September 10, 2001, Kavanaugh records his satisfaction with the adventure: “Excellent time. Apologies to all for missing Friday (good excuse), arriving late Saturday (weak excuse), and growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice (don’t recall).”
The email does not mention alcohol specifically, but the combination of aggression and memory lapse is consistent with heavy drinking. At this time Kavanaugh was in his mid 30s. Whatever happened on the boat, Kavanaugh was insistent that it stay on the boat, warning his friends: “Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”
In answers to written questions by Senators, Kavanaugh insists he was asking his shipmates to stay quiet about a pending first date with the woman who subsequently became his wife: “In the email, I was asking my friends not to share my interest in and upcoming date with Ashley with their spouses,” he wrote.
Federal Judge. 2006 to present.
As he delivered his 2014 Yale speech, Judge Kavanaugh appeared to anticipate his law school pals would return to form that evening. Referring to a favorite motto, Kavanaugh told the crowd: “Tonight you can modify that to, What happens at the Fed Society after-party stays a the Fed Society after-party.”