Ed Whelan is a think tank president, conservative legal blogger, and former Antonin Scalia law clerk who used to be a lawyer for the Department of Justice and was a general counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ed Whelan’s tweets on Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are causing controversy online. “Bottom line: I believe that a fair assessment of this evidence powerfully supports Judge Kavanaugh’s categorical denial,” Whelan wrote, detailing a theory that critics have called a reckless conspiracy theory. Basically, Whelan’s tweets implied that Ford may have confused a Kavanaugh high school friend with Kavanaugh, providing no concrete evidence to back that up. Through her lawyer, in a statement to NBC, Ford denied she could possibly confuse the man and Kavanaugh.
Whelan later apologized on Twitter, writing, “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. I realize that does not undo the mistake.” The Washington Post reported that Ford has evidence Whelan looked at her LinkedIn page before she went public; Whelan told the Post that he had not communicated with Kavanaugh or anyone at the White House about the Twitter thread’s topic.
One person wrote that if the man Whelan named in his speculative theory that Blasey Ford may have mistaken her alleged assailant’s identity “isn’t on the phone with a lawyer right at this very second, he’s a fool…” echoing the sentiments of others. That man is a middle school teacher in another state. Twitter soon flooded with criticism of Whelan.
The man named by Whelan, Chris Garrett, a middle school teacher, was identified by Brett Kavanaugh as a high school friend during questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On September 26, 2018, Garrett’s lawyer, William M. Sullivan, Jr., sent a letter to Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee. Contacted for comment by Heavy, Sullivan sent Heavy the letter and said he and Garrett would have no further comment. He wrote Grassley and Feinstein:
My name is William M. Sullivan, Jr. and I am a partner with the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. I represent Christopher C. Garrett.
As I indicated in my September 21, 2018 public statement on behalf of Mr. Garrett, and consistent with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s own recent statement, I write to express Mr. Garrett’s categorical denial of Edward Whelan’s baseless and irresponsible suggestions and insinuations that Mr. Garrett is somehow the subject of Dr. Ford’s allegations. In fact, Mr. Garrett has no knowledge or information relating to her claims.
I further note Mr. Whelan’s recently released statement of apology in which he acknowledges his “appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment” in attempting to wrongfully implicate Mr. Garrett in connection with Dr. Ford’s allegations.
Neither I nor Mr. Garrett will be making any further statement regarding this matter.
Sullivan also asked that his September 21, 2018 statement, and the latter, be included in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s record.
The earlier statement, as disseminated on Pr Newswire, reads as follows:
Consistent with Dr. Ford’s own recent statement, Mr. Garrett categorically denies the baseless and irresponsible suggestions and insinuations that he is somehow the subject of Dr. Ford’s allegations. In fact, he has no knowledge or information relating to her claims.
Mr. Garrett will not be making any further statements regarding this matter.
Maggie Haberman of The New York Times retweeted a tweet that passed on Whelan’s tweet thread (a Whelan thread that contained the man’s name), herself writing, “Pushing into public view what Kavanaugh supporters had privately suggested could be a case of mistaken identity,” and causing some to also criticize her for sharing the information. “unbelievably irresponsible to be sharing this. said as an admirer of your work. delete this nonsense. please,” wrote one Twitter user to Haberman. Brit Hume, of Fox News, also shared Whelan’s thread on Twitter, writing, “There is a person named in this speculative theory. Utterly improper to name that person.” Frank Thorp V, a producer and off-air reporter for NBC News, then tweeted that Blasey Ford’s lawyer had said Ford knew the man named by Whelan but wouldn’t have confused him with Kavanaugh, saying, “I knew them both, and socialized with (the man named by Whelan). I even visited (the man named by Whelan) when he was in the hospital. There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”
The Washington Post wrote, “Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.”
Who is Ed Whelan?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ed Whelan Has Been Friends With Brett Kavanaugh for Decades, Reports Say
Ed Whelan and Brett Kavanaugh go way back, which is perhaps not surprising considering the number of years both men have spent in conservative and government legal circles in Washington D.C. Politico reports that Ed Whelan and Brett Kavanaugh have a “decades-long friendship,” adding that Whelan also has “close involvement with the nomination process,” leading people close to Kavanaugh to pay attention to Whelan.
Whelan “has worked alongside Federalist Society executive director Leonard Leo advising the White House on judicial nominations,” Politico reported.
However, some conservatives have questioned Whelan’s theories. For example, writer Ben Shapiro tweeted that if Whelan “doesn’t have anything but Zillow links and Google maps…he’s going to end up in court for defaming a private figure.”
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had previously questioned whether Christine Ford might be “mixed up” and confusing Kavanaugh for someone else. His communications director wrote on Twitter in response to critics who shared a deleted tweet urging people to keep an eye on Whelan’s tweets, “Lying about what? Ed didn’t share specifics about what he was working on with anyone. What would have been coordinated?”
The theory was mentioned on Fox and Friends:
Haberman later retweeted a tweet from CNN’s Jake Tapper, who wrote, “A prominent DC conservative, trying to promote an alternate theory that someone else (and not Kavanaugh) may have sexually assaulted Professor Ford, named that person, showed photographs suggesting Ford confused the two and more. This is stunningly irresponsible.” Haberman indicated she had deleted her own tweet, saying, “Deleting tweets of my own that included his thread for that reason. This is something Kavanaugh allies had privately said could be the case for days but doing it this way, as an apparent reaction to Ford likely testifying, suggests a level of panic.”
Ed Whelan also wrote on Twitter, “By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful. There will be no cloud over him.”
Whelan, after detailing his theory, including the man’s name, did write, “To be clear, I have no idea what, if anything, did or did not happen in that bedroom at the top of the stairs, and I therefore do not state, imply or insinuate that (name redacted by Heavy) or anyone else committed the sexual assault that Ford alleges.”
According to Politico, “his tweet, along with the perception that he is a sober-minded straight shooter, triggered intense speculation among conservatives and even White House aides about whether he had information that could acquit Kavanaugh.”
Whelan doesn’t mince words: He is a Kavanaugh booster. The think tank where Whelan works has a page that announces, “EPPC President Ed Whelan is offering running commentary in support of the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In July 2018, Whelan wrote, “Congratulations to President Trump on his decision to nominate D.C. Circuit judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I very much look forward to Justice Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh, 53 years old, has compiled an outstanding record during his twelve years on the federal court of appeals in D.C. On what is commonly regarded as the second-most-important court in the country, he has confronted a vast array of consequential constitutional and statutory issues and has written strong, influential opinions.”
It’s not the first time that Whelan’s online tactics have caused controversy. In 2009, Whelan apologized for identifying an anonymous blogger.
2. Whelan Was a Law Clerk for Antonin Scalia
Edward Whelan once served as a law clerk for former conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Whelan “is co-editor of Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived (Crown Forum, 2017), a New York Times bestselling collection of speeches by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” according to his biography.
Whelan also served as a law clerk for Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, his bio says.
GLAAD has compiled a page on Ed Whelan. Among other things, GLAAD links to an article in which Whelan used a George Bernard Shaw quote to refer to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, writing, “But, as George Bernard Shaw would have said to Kagan for selling out her supposedly deeply held principles, ‘We’ve already established what you are, ma’am. Now we’re just haggling over the price.'”
According to his biography, Whelan “graduated with honors from Harvard College and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1985 from Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Board of Editors of the Harvard Law Review.”
3. Whelan Runs an Ethics & Public Policy Center
Ed Whelan is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “He directs EPPC’s program on The Constitution, the Courts, and the Culture. His areas of expertise include constitutional law and the judicial confirmation process,” Whelan’s bio at the center’s website reads.
The about me section for the EPPC describes it as follows:
Founded in 1976 by Dr. Ernest W. Lefever, the Ethics and Public Policy Center is Washington, D.C.’s premier institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy. From the Cold War to the war on terrorism, from disputes over the role of religion in public life to battles over the nature of the family, EPPC and its scholars have consistently sought to defend and promote our nation’s founding principles—respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government.
An article on the EPPC reviewing one of Kavanaugh classmate Mark Judge’s books was widely circulated when news of Judge’s name broke. Judge is the Brett Kavanaugh friend accused by Blasey Ford of being in the room when she alleges Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her in the 1980s. Both Kavanaugh and Judge deny the accusations.
“Then we have Mark Gauvreau Judge, hitherto known in Washington circles as the town’s most ardent Senators fan,” the article on EPPC’s website reads. “His grandfather, Joe Judge, had played for the team during baseball’s golden years; grandson Mark kept the flame of local baseball passion alive for decades, and is currently locked in an embrace of the re-commissioned Nationals. Now, outside the ballpark, Judge lowers the boom on the silliness that beset Catholic high schools and colleges in the post-Vatican II period in a feisty memoir, God and Man at Georgetown Prep: How I Became a Catholic Despite 20 Years of Catholic Schooling (Crossroad).”
In the passage getting the most attention, the EPPC article continued of Judge, “Looking back from his early forties, he knows he was cheated of a serious Catholic education at Georgetown Prep and Catholic University — and he’s not happy about it. Judge is no plaster saint; he freely admits that his own propensities for wild behavior (especially when fueled by drinking) made a circus out of his high school and (extended) college years.”
4. Whelan Has Worked in Government Positions, Including as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General & General Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee
Ed Whelan has held prominent positions in government. According to his bio, Whelan “has served in positions of responsibility in all three branches of the federal government. From just before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, until joining EPPC in 2004, Mr. Whelan was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The bio says he “advised the White House Counsel’s Office, the Attorney General and other senior DOJ officials, and departments and agencies throughout the executive branch on difficult and sensitive legal questions. Mr. Whelan previously served on Capitol Hill as General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.”
Whelan has appeared on C-Span. You can watch one of those videos above.
5. Whelan Is a Blogger on Legal Issues
According to his bio, Whelan has blogged on legal issues for National Review, a conservative news outlet. “As a contributor to National Review Online’s Bench Memos blog, he has been a leading commentator on nominations to the Supreme Court and the lower courts and on issues of constitutional law,” his biography reads. “He has written essays and op-eds for leading newspapers (including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post), opinion journals, and academic symposia and law reviews.”
“Ed Whelan is the model of careful, discerning legal analysis and commentary. It’s why all of us who know him take everything he says and writes so seriously,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, to Politico. You can read Ed Whelan’s work at National Review here. Several of his articles are headlined, “refuting anti-Kavanaugh smears” and others are headlined “This day in liberal judicial activism.”
On Twitter, Whelan describes himself as, “President, Ethics and Public Policy Center; blogger on NRO’s Bench Memos; recovering lawyer; Nats and Caps fan; co-editor of SCALIA SPEAKS.”