Sen. Orrin Hatch faced swift backlash Tuesday — including accusations of “slut-shaming” — after sharing on Twitter an uncorroborated account from a Utah man questioning the legitimacy and sexual preferences of one of the women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of misconduct.
The Republican senator tweeted excerpts from the signed statement of Dennis Ketterer, a former Democratic candidate for Congress and D.C. weatherman with ties to Centerville, Utah, saying the man reached out to his office this week to talk about Julie Swetnick and her allegations against Kavanaugh.
Ketterer’s comments, Hatch said, were “made under pentaly [sic] of felony” to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He then linked to the full four-page letter, released by the GOP members of the panel.
The statement includes somewhat explicit remarks about Swetnick and describes a relationship that Ketterer says the two had in 1993 after meeting in a bar. None of the details were confirmed before the committee released the unprecedented account publicly.
Ketterer wrote that his first impression of Swetnick was that she might be a “high end call girl” interested in him only “because I was on television and well known.” But she was funny, he added, and “quite beautiful.”
During their brief, weekslong relationship, he said that Swetnick told him that she preferred to have sex with multiple men at the same time.
“I asked her if this was just a fantasy of hers,” Ketterer wrote. “She responded that she tried sex with multiple guys while in high school and still like it from time-to-time. She brought it up because she wanted to know if I would be interested in that.”
Ketterer said he ended their relationship after that and that the two never had sex. He then adds that during their time together, she never mentioned Kavanaugh.
“Julie never said anything about being sexually assaulted, raped, gang-raped or having sex against her will.”
Swetnick has said, through her attorney Michael Avenatti, that she had observed Kavanaugh at parties where he and other men gave female attendees alcohol or drugs and then “gang raped” them. Two other women have accused him of directly assaulting them, including Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Avenatti tweeted Tuesday afternoon, after the committee released Ketterer’s account, that the letter is “garbage.”
“The allegations he makes are false and without any basis,” he wrote. “We demand that the FBI interview my client and him, and that anyone found to have submitted false info be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ketterer could not be reached by a Salt Lake Tribune reporter for comment Tuesday, but he told The Washington Post that he is a longtime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and felt sharing his perspective was “the right thing.”
He said one of his church leaders reached out to a former Mormon bishop with a connection to Hatch’s office. Ketterer then apparently spoke to Sen. Charles Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“They interviewed me like I was being deposed,” he told The Post. “My wife told me, ‘They’re trying to decide if you’re a credible witness.’ ”
Hatch’s office defended releasing Ketterer’s comments as an effort “to ensure transparency throughout this confirmation process.” The senator’s spokesman, Matt Whitlock, said: “The decision to make Mr. Ketterer’s letter public was made by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and because the sworn statement noted that Mr. Ketterer first reached out to the committee through Senator Hatch we felt it important to disclose.”
Hatch recently changed his background photo on Twitter to a picture of him standing with Kavanaugh and a group of young school girls. The senator has supported his nomination and dismissed allegations from the three women accusing Kavanaugh of misconduct.
He said he was “naturally suspicious” when Swetnick reported witnessing Kavanaugh harass women at a party.
The senator was met with quick criticism Tuesday after his tweet of Ketterer’s statement; there were more than 1,000 replies five hours after it was posted. Some responded by calling the message “irresponsible” and “morally gross.” One person said it was “truly despicable.”
Another said “doing something like this speaks volumes about the depths of moral corruption and ignorance and inhumanity under the surface. Do you have any idea how ashamed you should be of this tweet?”
The Alliance for a Better Utah responded Tuesday, too, suggesting that Hatch has “chosen to publicly smear” Swetnick rather than hear her out.
“Sharing salacious details about Swetnick’s personal life on Twitter is a blatant ‘slut-shaming’ attempt to discredit her character in the court of public opinion,” said Katie Matheson, the alliance’s communications director, in a prepared statement. “We would hope Hatch would be more concerned with getting at the truth than with discrediting women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.”
Ketterer told The Post that he now lives in the Salt Lake City area. He previously lived in Maryland and lost a congressional bid there in 1996. He said in his letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he reached out to Swetnick’s father when he ran for office, hoping to get in touch with Swetnick for his campaign “because of her personality, great smile and good looks.”
Her father, he said, hung up after saying she was dealing with “other problems at the time.”
Ketterer said when he heard Swetnick’s name come up with relation to Kavanaugh he had a “moral dilemma” over whether to share his experiences. He added that he, too, has been sexually assaulted. But he also said he felt bad for Kavanaugh’s wife and believed telling the committee was “the right thing.”
He wrote at the beginning of his letter: “I am neither proud of nor guiltless in the actions.” At the end: “That said, based on my direct experience with Julie, I do not believe her allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh.”
Hatch continued to tweet throughout the night, posting stories about Kavanaugh and Ford and sharing an op-ed he wrote defending the Supreme Court nominee in The Wall Street Journal.