In their statement regarding “lies” being spread about Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, her attorneys said they never told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she could not travel to Washington, D.C. due to a fear of flying.
Ford was asked to provide testimony to the committee about her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom she claimed sexually assaulted her 36 years ago. Prior to her attending the public hearing on September 27, it was revealed that Ford had a fear of flying and it was suggested that she would have to drive to the hearing because of it.
Let’s explore in detail.
On September 21, Politico published an article about Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) giving Ford and her attorneys more time to decide when, where, and how to testify for the committee. Buried in the article was the following:
“The GOP has been told that Ford does not want to fly from her California home to Washington, according to the Republican senator, which means she may need to drive across the country. Ford has reportedly told friends she is uncomfortable in confined spaces, indicating a physical difficulty in making the trip by plane.”
Politico reporter Burgess Everett tweeted the following when promoting the article:
On September 23, CNN interviewed friends of Ford who claimed she had a fear of enclosed spaces that didn’t have multiple exits, such as a plane. These friends were allowed to claim, without evidence, that this was due to Ford’s alleged encounter with Kavanaugh 36 years earlier.
Kate DeVarney, one of Kavanaugh’s friends, told the outlet that Ford “really has a hard time being in a place where there's no escape route." She added that Ford did not like to fly because an airplane was "the ultimate closed space where you cannot get away."
On September 27, Ford was asked about her fear of flying by sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. Ford said she came to Washington, D.C. to testify by taking a plane. The followed exchange occurred:
MITCHELL: OK. It’s — I ask that, because it’s been reported by the press that you would not submit to an interview with the committee because of your fear of flying. Is — is that true?
FORD: Well, I was willing — I was hoping that they would come to me, but then I realized that was an unrealistic request.
MITCHELL: It would’ve been a quicker trip for me.
FORD: Yes. So that was certainly what I was hoping, was to avoid having to get on an airplane, but I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends, and get on the plane.
Mitchell then asked a series of questions establishing that Ford flew quite often for work and vacation, including to the mid-Atlantic area, Hawaii, Costa Rica, South Pacific islands, and French Polynesia. Ford said she had flown to all those locations, but insisted it was “Easier for me to travel going that direction when it’s a vacation.”
On October 2, an ex-boyfriend of Ford’s sent the Judiciary Committee a sworn statement claiming Ford never expressed any fear of flying — even in a small propeller plane — or “a fear of closed quarters, tight spaces, or places with only one exit.”
In their statement regarding this issue, Ford’s attorneys wrote:
At no time did members of Dr. Ford’s team advise Committee staff that she could not travel to Washington, D.C., because of her fear of flying. Rather, staff was told that Dr. Ford could not travel on the schedule the Committee demanded because she was focused on taking measures to protect her family from threats, including death threats.
Her attorneys said she was meeting with the FBI regarding those threats, and said she takes medication for her fear of flying. Ford met with the FBI to discuss those threats on September 21, according to a letter from her attorney. Grassley had first asked Ford to testify the following Monday, September 24. He then moved the hearing back to September 26, before agreeing to September 27.
We may not have seen all the correspondence between Ford’s attorneys and Grassley, but from what we have seen, there is no direct message from her attorneys saying she couldn’t appear to testify earlier because of a fear of flying.