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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, in a television interview Monday, said he would not withdraw his nomination for the nation's highest court and will continue to fight the accusations leveled against him by multiple women who say he sexually abused them decades ago.
"I'm not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process, and we're looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity, my lifelong record," Kavanaugh said, alongside his wife, Ashley, during a taped interview with Fox News that aired Monday evening. He said he always "treated women with dignity and respect."
In a frank exchange, the judge, a practicing Catholic, also said that he did not have sex in high school or for years afterward.
"We're talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I did not have sexual intercourse, or anything close to sexual intercourse, in high school or for many years thereafter," he said. None of the allegations against him involve sexual intercourse.
Kavanaugh, who President Donald Trump named as his nominee in July, seemed destined to cruise to an easy confirmation until the accusations thrust the process into chaos in recent weeks. The turning point came just over a week ago, when Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist in California, came forward alleging that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her while the two were in high school in the early 1980s.
On Sunday, The New Yorker published an accusation from another woman, Deborah Ramirez, who said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and caused her to touch his penis without her consent at a party in their first year at Yale University.
Kavanaugh has categorically denied both allegations. Until Monday, those denials came in the form of written statements handed out by the White House. Monday's appearance on television, ahead of an expected public hearing with Ford on Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggests a shift in Kavanaugh's public handling of the matter.
The television appearance is notable because of the appearance of Ashley Kavanaugh, who has largely been out of the limelight amid the uproar. She said the couple warned their children — they have two daughters — that the confirmation process "will not be fun sometimes."
"It's very difficult to have these conversations with your children, which we've had to have," she said.
Asked whether the accusations made her question her husband, she said "no."
"I've known him for 17 years, and this is not at all (characteristic) — it's really hard to believe," she said. "He's decent. He's kind. He's good. I know his heart."
Ashley Kavanaugh also said she felt "badly" for Ford and her family.
"I don't know what happened to her, and I don't even want to go there," she said. "I feel badly for her family. I feel badly for her through this process. This process is not right."
Republican lawmakers have been wary of the spectacle of questioning a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted, particularly as the #MeToo movement continues to energize voters, particularly women, across the country.
The GOP side of the Judiciary Committee has reportedly pushed for Ford to be questioned by a female outside counsel to avoid the prospect of an all-male lineup of Republican senators probing her account, in a scene reminiscent of the committee's infamous questioning of Anita Hill in 1991. Hill accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the high court, of sexual harassment.
Kavanaugh has spent hours since the allegations surfaced at the White House preparing for questions about his past, including his dating life, that he is likely to receive from Democratic lawmakers, according to NBC News. For her part, Ford has engaged Ricki Seidman, a communications strategist who coached Hill ahead of her 1991 testimony.
In his denial Monday, Kavanaugh said that he was "not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone at some place."
"What I know is, I've never sexually assaulted anyone," Kavanaugh said.
Amid speculation that Trump could seek out another nominee, the White House has stood firmly by Kavanaugh, and Trump has gone on the offensive to discredit the accusations. On Monday, Trump told reporters that he stood by Kavanaugh "all the way."
"There is a chance this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything," Trump said. "But I am with Judge Kavanaugh and I look forward to a vote."
"I know he's going to stand by me," Kavanaugh said in the interview. He said the president called him earlier in the day to say so.
"I'm not going anywhere," Kavanaugh said.