Doing his best imitation of a liberal version of Tucker Carlson, Greg Kesich, editorial page editor of the Press Herald, wrote a facts-be-damned column May 8 accusing Sen. Susan Collins of lying when she asserted that, as Supreme Court nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh misled her into believing that they would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. With no limit on Kesich’s willingness to opine on matters of which he possesses no knowledge, he dismissed her process for vetting the nominees as nothing more than a hollow ritual.

I was one of three former Collins staffers who, at the senator’s request, assisted her in reviewing the Kavanaugh nomination, the other two being a law professor and a partner in a major Washington, D.C., law firm. Along with the senator and several of her staffers, we received six briefings on Kavanaugh’s record as an appellate court judge from lawyers from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The senator was an active participant in each of the briefings, which, in the aggregate, lasted at least 10 hours.

Those briefings were only the beginning of the process, as I and others, including Sen. Collins, read several of Kavanaugh’s more important judicial opinions, as well as some of his other writings, in connection with our group effort to formulate questions for Kavanaugh. This was all done in preparation for the senator’s highly substantive two-hour meeting with the nominee, also attended by those advising her.

But even that was not the end of the process. When new information emerged, the senator had a follow-up telephone conversation with Kavanaugh lasting about an hour. It defies logic to conclude that Sen. Collins would have devoted this much of her own time and that of her staff and have enlisted the assistance of unpaid outside advisers if her vote on Kavanaugh were, as Kesich asserts, a foregone conclusion.

Why was none of this reflected in Kesich’s column? The reason is simple. He made absolutely no effort to get the facts before branding Sen. Collins a liar and dismissing her review process as a fraud.

To the contrary, he even invented a motive for Collins’ alleged dishonesty: namely, a desire to chair the Appropriations Committee in a Republican-controlled Senate. If that were the case, why would she break with her party and become the first Republican to express support for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson?

And to correct yet another error by Kesich, Collins never said that Kavanaugh expressly assured her he would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, as that would have violated what is known in Washington as the “Ginsburg rule.” What she justifiably concluded, based on their very extensive discussion of the subject, is that reversing Roe would be inconsistent with what he indicated were his strongly held views on the importance of honoring precedent.

As unfair as Kesich’s column was to Collins, she will survive, as the people of Maine recently demonstrated their willingness to support her even in the face of the most costly smear campaign in the state’s history. The real victim here is the public interest.

We live in extremely divisive times in which facts have become a rare commodity, a phenomenon made increasingly difficult to remedy by the popularity of social media. Responsible journalism remains one of the few weapons to combat misinformation, but when the editorial page editor of the Press Herald is willing to brand someone a liar without as much as a single telephone call to test his thesis, we might as well concede that Donald Trump’s approach to the truth has carried the day.

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