Brett Kavanaugh practically embodied an ALL CAPS SCREAM on Thursday in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At first yelling, then breaking down in tears, the embattled Supreme Court nominee denied the allegations against him, attacked the partisans who raised them, and portrayed himself as an aggrieved victim.
Kavanaugh stands accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers. Two other women have also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Blasey spent the morning telling the committee her story, smiling congenially at the senators on the panel and at times herself choking up.
There were no smiles from Kavanaugh.
“This has destroyed my family and my good name, a good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of public government,” he told the Judiciary Committee.
“It’s an outrage,” he told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in response to her questions as to why he didn’t demand an FBI investigation. “A joke. A farce,” Kavanaugh said, talking about the accusations of Julie Swetnick, who claims the judge was present at a party where she was raped.
Kavanaugh’s apparent strategy is called DARVO, short for “Deny. Attack. Reverse victim and offender.” The term was coined by Jennifer Freyd, a psychologist at the University of Oregon.
She first started thinking about the formulation watching Anita Hill testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee decades ago ― a moment that clearly echoed on Thursday.
Freyd said that in her view, Kavanaugh was definitely using DARVO on Thursday. “All the parts are there,” she told HuffPost.
An innocent man, unjustly accused, but facing the job interview of his life didn’t have to react the way Kavanaugh did on Thursday afternoon ― visibly angry and emotional, clearly feeling victimized.
“He does not need to be the victim here but rather a dignified person who cares about the issue of sexual assault in our country,” Freyd said Thursday, as Kavanaugh was speaking. “He could say that this a great teachable moment for our country ― to really deal with sexual assault. Of course, there is another option too. If he wanted to stop denying he could do a profoundly healing thing for this country: acknowledge and apologize for what he did do.”
The DARVO strategy has been on display over the past few weeks as Republicans rally around Kavanaugh. Donald Trump is perhaps a master practitioner, portraying himself as the victim of smear campaigns and women being paid to accuse him of sexual misconduct.
“As you have seen, I am a victim of one of the great political smear campaigns in the history of our country,” he said during the presidential campaign, as allegations mounted against him.
Trump played the victim again on Wednesday in a rambling press conference where he defended Kavanaugh. “I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me,” he said, telling reporters he identified strongly with the embattled judge.
And before Trump, there was Bill Clinton, who famously told the country he did not have sexual relations with “that woman.” That turned out to be untrue.