NEW YORK (AP) — It began as a collection of telephone calls amongst previous high-school buddies and ended up embroiling 65 women within the firestorm over a sexual assault allegation that might form the Supreme Court docket.

In a matter of hours, all of them signed onto a letter rallying behind excessive courtroom nominee and their highschool pal Brett Kavanaugh as somebody who “has always treated women with decency and respect.” They usually signed up, whether or not they anticipated it or not, for changing into a spotlight of scrutiny themselves.

The highly effective strength-in-numbers assertion, supplied to bolster Kavanaugh’s denial of a declare that he attacked a woman at a celebration throughout their highschool years, has drawn questions from journalists, social media skeptics, even Hollywood figures.

How nicely did the women know him? How might a press release and 65 signatures come collectively so quick after outlines of the allegation first surfaced publicly? And after subsequently listening to the small print and studying that his accuser was a girl a few of them knew, do they stand by their declaration?

Sure, say greater than a dozen signers who’ve since spoken to The Related Press or different media retailers.

“Brett wouldn’t do that in a million years. I’m totally confident. That would be completely out of character for him,” stated Paula Duke Ebel. She stated she interacted with Kavanaugh tons of of occasions whereas they have been college students in a close-knit constellation of single-sex Catholic colleges round Washington within the 1980s.

Christine Blasey Ford, 51, now a psychology professor in California, stated a really intoxicated Kavanaugh cornered her in a bed room throughout a celebration within the early 1980s. She stated he pinned her on a mattress, tried to undress her and clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She escaped solely when a pal of his jumped on the mattress and knocked them throughout.

The letter was launched the morning after the allegation first received broad public consideration. The letter and its roster of supporters appeared to come back at supersonic velocity and out of the blue.

Girls who organized and signed it say it was a fast response by a social community that endures many years after they graduated. They are saying it was simple to mobilize: a series of buddies calling, texting and emailing buddies from a Washington-area world the place many nonetheless reside and see one another.

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In the meantime, tons of of alumnae of the secular non-public ladies college that Kavanaugh’s accuser attended have signed a letter supporting her and calling for an investigation of her allegations.

“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford,” they wrote.

One of many signers, Cristina King Miranda, tweeted Wednesday that the alleged assault “was spoken about for days afterward in school” and that Kavanaugh “should stop lying.” However in a Fb put up hours later, she stated she had no firsthand data of the matter and would not remark additional amid a media “circus” and a barrage of interview requests.

Whereas that letter is signed by a mixture of Ford’s friends and college students from earlier than or after her time at her college, the letter backing Kavanaugh is from women who vouch that they knew Kavanaugh, now a federal appeals courtroom decide, personally as a highschool scholar.

A number of stated they interacted with him extensively via sporting occasions, dances, events and different socializing or the telephone calls that occupied teenage weeknights within the pre-texting period.

One labored with him at a summer time camp. A second sought his assist with homework. Two dated him. Some nonetheless see him at social capabilities.

At the least one, although, hadn’t frolicked or talked one-on-one with him however nonetheless felt snug attaching her title primarily based on the social conditions they shared.

Others who signed declined to remark or did not reply to inquiries. The AP left messages for all 65.

Some have been bowled over by the eye. Many have stayed mum to keep away from “the media frenzy,” signer Maura Kane advised Fox Information, the outlet of alternative for a number of who’ve given interviews.

Julie DeVol advised the AP she did not actually anticipate the letter would provoke such intense curiosity, although she sensed Kavanaugh’s critics “would do anything” to delay his affirmation vote.

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Kavanaugh, 53, appeared to be cruising towards that vote earlier than the sexual misconduct allegation turned public.

Kavanaugh has referred to as Ford’s allegation “completely false.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has invited him and Ford to testify at a listening to Monday, though Ford’s legal professionals say she needs the FBI to analyze her allegation earlier than she testifies.

The Kavanaugh pal who she stated was within the room on the social gathering, conservative author Mark Decide, has stated he does not keep in mind any such incident.

When phrase of a high-school-era sexual misconduct allegation in opposition to Kavanaugh emerged final Thursday afternoon, Meghan McCaleb and her husband, Scott, thought they and different highschool buddies of the nominee wanted to talk out. Meghan McCaleb stated she launched the letter-writing effort after discussing it with a few of Kavanaugh’s former legislation clerks.

She stated she contacted buddies, who contacted extra buddies, they usually had 65 signatures by the subsequent morning.

The rapid-fire response sparked a flare of tweets, together with from actresses and liberal activists Debra Messing and Patricia Arquette, questioning how anybody might line up so many highschool buddies so shortly to talk up for somebody they did not really go to high school with. McCaleb says the reply is solely “how strongly all of us believe in Judge Kavanaugh and his integrity.”

A few of the signers are conservative, reminiscent of podcaster and former Republican Nationwide Committee spokeswoman Virginia Hume. Others are Democrats.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” stated one of many signers, Megan Williams. “It’s just about character.”

However it is usually, inescapably, about whether or not they credit score one other girl’s account of sexual assault.

The query is sharpened by the #MeToo motion, which seeks to vary what supporters see as a historical past of doubt and dismissal of women who converse up about sexual misconduct. The query is also all of the extra pointed for women who traveled an analogous teenage social path as Ford, and in some instances met her alongside the best way.

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McCaleb stated “I’m not certain” when requested on Fox Information whether or not she believed Ford, a pal of a pal who went to the identical native pool Ford did. “She alleges that she had this traumatic event, and I feel like it is not the Brett Kavanaugh that we know.”

Sharon Crouch Clark did not know Ford and feels effective about having signed the letter, however the allegation.

“If it happened to her, that’s horrible,” Clark stated. However she questions whether or not the incident occurred as Ford described it, noting that Ford stated she was unable to recall sure particulars concerning the date, place and different features of the alleged assault.

“I feel like I would know all that,” stated Clark, who socialized with Kavanaugh amid teams of buddies at events.

Girls who signed the letter stated they did not learn about or recall the social gathering Ford described, they usually stated her account of a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh did not jibe with their recollections of a boy who drank some beer alongside them however by no means misplaced management or crossed a line with ladies.

“There were kids who did act kind of crazy. … He just wasn’t that guy,” stated Williams, who remembers hanging out with Kavanaugh primarily in teams however typically one-on-one. “He was the kid who always did the right thing.”

That is why six dozen women have been prepared to place their names on that letter, stated signer Missy Bigelow Carr, who labored at a summer time camp with Kavanaugh and coached ladies basketball in opposition to him as an grownup.

“If there was any indication that he didn’t treat even one of us with respect or acted in a manner that disrespected girls/women,” she wrote in an e-mail, “that would not be the case.”

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Kunzelman reported from Silver Spring, Maryland. Related Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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