A month ago, Ed Whelan took a leave of absence from his job at the Ethics and Public Policy Center after spinning a Twitter theory about Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused then-Supreme Court nominee (now Justice) Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Whelan’s theory used Zillow maps to attempt to prove that Ford’s assaulter was not Kavanaugh, but one of his classmates. Now Whelan is back at work.
In a statement, Josh Britton, communications director for the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), told me, “The board of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has reinstated Ed Whelan as EPPC president, effective October 22.”
Whelan, an attorney and president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, has been out of the office since September 23, following a meeting of the Center’s board during which Whelan initially offered his resignation but was rebuffed.
Whelan is also a prominent figure in conservative circles and a National Review contributor, and during the board meeting, Whelan apologized for his Twitter thread, saying, “I apologize deeply and sincerely to all those whom I have harmed by my appalling and inexcusable tweet thread last week — above all, the person whose name I wrongly made public.”
Whelan was clobbered on Twitter for the ridiculous thread that amounted to, at best, potentially libelous statements made against a man who had nothing to do with the saga at all.
But in the days and weeks after Whelan unleashed his thread, his claims started seeping into the Republican mainstream. The “doppelgänger” theory provided conservatives with safe political ground during the hearings, and allowed many on the right to thread the needle and believe both Kavanaugh and Ford. During his testimony, Kavanaugh himself said he believed that “someone” had assaulted Ford, it just wasn’t him.
How the Zillow-storm Began
On September 16, Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, went public with her allegations that then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh had drunkenly assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s.
Two days later, Whelan, who became friends with Kavanaugh when both were working for the George W. Bush administration (Whelan at DOJ, Kavanaugh in the White House Counsel’s office), tweeted: “by one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter” and that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would be “apologizing” to Kavanaugh.
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.
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelan123) September 18, 2018
According to Politico, Whelan then spent two days working with a public relations firm, CRC Public Relations, to figure out how best to share what Whelan purported to be exculpatory evidence proving that Kavanaugh wasn’t Ford’s assaulter.
As rumors that Whelan had something big swirled among conservative writers and thinkers in Washington, he was reportedly so sure that his theory was correct that he “told at least three associates that his confidence level in his assertions is “close to 100 percent.”
A longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, Whelan teased his reveal — even as he refused to discuss it with other colleagues and close friends, a half dozen of them said. At the same time, he told them he was absolutely confident the information he had obtained would exculpate the judge. The hype ping-ponged from Republicans on Capitol Hill to Kavanaugh’s team in the White House…
One staffer for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) even tweeted that those interested should “keep an eye” on Whelan’s Twitter feed. (He later backtracked.)
Deleted this earlier (from yesterday) because I didn’t want to promote a thread that dragged an unrelated private citizen into this unfortunate situation
I had no idea what Ed was planning (we’ve never spoken) beyond what he had tweeted about having info exonerating Kavanaugh. pic.twitter.com/r453gdPmfo
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) September 21, 2018
But Whelan’s assertions backfired. As I wrote in September, Whelan’s theories hinged on a real estate website map of homes near where both Ford and Kavanaugh attended high school:
But then came the Twitter thread that Whelan shared on Thursday evening. In short, using a map of homes surrounding the Columbia Country Club (near where both Ford and Kavanaugh attended high school) and floor maps available on the real estate website Zillow, Whelan argued that based on Ford’s statements of what happened that night back in 1982, the perpetrator was likely not Kavanaugh. Instead, he pointed to a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep who, in Whelan’s view, looked a lot like Kavanaugh.
In doing so, he shared the address and room layout of the classmate’s childhood home, photographs of the classmate, and the classmate’s full name.
The response was immediate, as Whelan’s would-be allies (including on the Senate Judiciary Committee) either backed away from him or condemned his tweetstorm.
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.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 20, 2018
But Whelan was a guest at the White House for Kavanaugh’s swearing-in ceremony.