Kavanaugh ally's bizarre mistaken identity theory about sexual assault accusation blows up in his face

Key Points
  • Conservative commentator Ed Whelan teased the revelation of "compelling evidence" that would exonerate Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault allegation, electrifying the nominee's supporters on Twitter.
  • Christine Blasey Ford rejected the suggestion that she had mistaken her alleged attacker for Kavanaugh.
  • Whelan apologizes for identifying another man in his tweet and deletes the thread.
Trump steps up Kavanaugh defense as 'mistaken identity' theory shot down

A prominent conservative commentator teased the revelation of "compelling evidence" that would exonerate Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault allegation, electrifying the nominee's supporters on Twitter.

But the argument laid out Thursday, which appeared to suggest that accuser Christine Blasey Ford had mistaken Kavanaugh for another person, was met with a backlash from many on the left and right. Some said the commentator, Ed Whelan, had opened himself up to a possible lawsuit. Ford herself rejected the notion, and Whelan apologized Friday morning.

Whelan is president of the Washington-based conservative think tank Ethics & Public Policy Center and a vocal supporter of Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's second nominee to join the high court in two years.

In the wake of Ford's explosive allegation that Kavanaugh had drunkenly pinned her to a bed and tried to rip off her clothes at a gathering when they were both in high school, Whelan had tweeted numerous times about the possibility that Ford may be accusing the wrong man.

Whelan tweet 1

The allegation against Kavanaugh was first made public last week after Ford sent a letter detailing her story, and requesting anonymity, that was obtained by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Trump casts doubt on Kavanaugh rape allegation

Kavanaugh has strongly denied the accusation, and has recently said he plans to attend a public Senate Judiciary Hearing on Monday to testify under oath about Ford's claim. After much back-and-forth with committee leaders, Ford has said through her lawyers that she also intends to testify, and would do so Thursday, provided certain conditions are met.

Public figures and politicos were quick to weigh in on the allegation, with some questioning the reliability of Ford's account of an event she said occurred in the early 1980s. Others have suggested that the decades-old incident should not affect Kavanaugh's prospects for the Supreme Court even if they were true.

But Whelan appeared to be hinting at new developments to come that would prove Kavanaugh's innocence conclusively.

"By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter," Whelan said in a tweet on Tuesday. "Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful. There will be no cloud over him."

He followed up in another message: "Senator Feinstein will soon be apologizing to Judge Kavanaugh."

Whelan's thread

On Thursday, Whelan presented his findings. In a lengthy string of tweets, Whelan compared the details of Ford's letter with Google Maps and screenshots of home layouts from online real estate site Zillow.

He also posted side-by-side yearbook photos of Kavanaugh and another man, who Whelan said was a classmate and friend of Kavanaugh's at Georgetown Preparatory School.

The high school photos show both men had similar builds and hairstyles.

Whelan included a disclaimer in his thread: "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 [the other man] or anyone else committed the sexual assault that Ford alleges."

The Washington Post reported that Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh's nomination effort. But Whelan told Post reporter Robert Costa that he had not discussed the contents of his Twitter thread with Kavanaugh or anyone at the White House.

Costa tweet

On Thursday evening, Ford pushed back hard on the mistaken-identity theory.

"I knew them both, and socialized with [the other man named by Whelan]. I even visited [the other man] when he was in the hospital. There is zero chance that I would confuse them," Ford said.

The thread gained significant attention among conservatives and media figures. Fox News morning program "Fox & Friends," a program often cited favorably by Trump, highlighted Whelan's tweets.

CNN's Jake Tapper called the thread "stunningly irresponsible."

Tapper tweet

Trump himself tweeted his doubts about Ford's allegation Friday morning, though he did not suggest that Ford had mistaken her attacker's identity.

Trump tweet

Even Kavanaugh supporters took issue with Whelan's thread.

Ben Shapiro tweet

David French tweet

On Friday morning, Whelan apologized for identifying the other man in the tweets.

"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," he tweeted.

The Ethics & Public Policy Center did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment. Whelan's thread appears to have been deleted. CNBC could not locate the other man for comment.

Editor's note: This story was updated to remove the name of the other man identified by Whelan.