Months after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, Vanity Fair decided to run yet another hit piece on him by going after his alma mater, Georgetown Prep.
Titled, “‘Men For Others, My Ass,’: After Kavanaugh, Inside Georgetown Prep’s Culture Of Omerta,” the article details at length alleged bullying and drinking incidents that occurred at the school before and after Kavanaugh attended — incidents that could have occurred at any high school in America. The piece also describes a sexual abuse scandal involving a student and a priest that happened decades after Kavanaugh graduated.
The lengthy article already has three corrections. The original article claimed alumnus J.C. del Real was the school’s quarterback, but he was actually the tight end. It also claimed source Evie Shapiro “attended Potomac High School and went to Catholic University with [Mark] Judge.” Shapiro actually went to Churchill High School in Potomac, as there is no Potomac High School. She also attended the University of Maryland, not Catholic University.
Finally, the original article claimed “[a]ny female presence consisted of the librarian, the secretary in the president’s office, and perhaps two teachers.” It has since been updated to say “four teachers” during the 1982-1983 academic year. While this is an improvement it is still not entirely correct, according to information from Georgetown Prep provided exclusively first to The Daily Wire. There were actually 16 women serving on the staff during the 1982-1983 academic year, four of whom were faculty members.
“She cited a school that didn’t exist, cars that were never driven, a quarterback that never played that position, and lots of other totally false items,” Patrick Coyle, director of Marketing & Communications at Georgetown Prep, told The Daily Wire in a statement. “And the magazine’s editors did zero fact checking with us. We could have straightened all those errors out and we had asked for the chance to respond but it seems like she just didn’t care. And if she can’t even get basic facts right like that or own up to the mistakes, then why should readers take anything she says seriously?”
The only question from a Vanity Fair fact checker involved information about the “Community of Concern” (more on that later). The additional information provided by Prep was not included in the final article.
These are far from the only errors in the article, yet emails between Prep and Vanity Fair author Evgenia Peretz show the concerns of Kavanaugh’s alma mater were ignored throughout the writing process. Here are the other errors in the article:
1. Peretz, along with New York Times reporter Kate Kelly (the same Kelly who just got a book deal to trash Kavanaugh) attended a Prep alumni event (the school says they were not authorized to attend and didn’t identify themselves as reporters to security or school officials) and listened in on conversations. Kelly obtained an illegal (Maryland is a two-party consent state) recording of Prep President Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J., and cherry picked his remarks to make it appear as though he was referring to some code to protect the image of the school and alumni like Kavanaugh. “…the loyalty that you have had to each other, the way that you have looked after each other, and not just in the big stories but also a lot of small stories,” Peretz quoted him as saying. Left out was Van Dyke’s broader remarks referring to alumni with cancer or addiction. Van Dyke also “challenged the class to grow for and with others even beyond their circle of friends and to help those in need all over the world,” according to Prep.
2. While the article was originally presented to Prep as a look at the ‘80s, it included an allegation of sexual abuse by a priest against a student 15 years ago. The article claims the family of the victim, Eric Ruyak, says they first contacted the police. Prep provided Peretz with documentation showing the school contacted law enforcement on May 15, 2004, and said that if police had been contacted prior to then, the school should have been informed — which it wasn’t.
3. This same section of the article contemporaneously refers to “Father Gregory Eck,” yet Eck is not a priest, but an attorney who left the Jesuit order years ago.
4. The article includes the claim that prosecutors said Prep’s headmaster at the time of Ruyak’s allegations “dismissed the allegations as untrue.” Prep told Peretz in emails that the school conducted an internal investigation in October 2003 “in close consultation with Eric Ruyak’s parents who insisted we refrain from involving law enforcement authorities until a thorough review had been done.” Police did not charge the priest, Father Garrett Orr, but the Maryland Province Society of Jesus determined the allegations were “substantially true” and punished the priest.
5. The article claims an anonymous “alum” said members of the Prep administration reached out to him for the first time in years. “The overtures were friendly, but he interpreted the messages as reminder of the code,” Peretz wrote of the exchange. Prep said this statement is false, and that “[n]o members of the administration reached out to any alumni asking for support.” The only outreach was done via community-wide letters from Van Dyke.
6. The article claims that a reference in the 1983 Prep yearbook, “Gonzaga you’re lucky,” implied “that the Prep gang would have come to mess with the Gonzaga riffraff had the school not been surrounded by a ghetto.” The source for this claim is an unnamed “’83 Gonzaga graduate.” Members of Prep’s class of 1983, who were actually aware of the quote, said the reference was to Gonzaga winning a close football game in the fall of 1982.
7. The article also claims that at Mater Dei School, the all-boys elementary school Kavanaugh and some of his close friends attended, teachers “reported the class academic rankings on a chalkboard.” Prep contends that this only occurred in a math class.
8. This article contains the debunked claim that “Renate Alumni” — a reference in the 1983 yearbook — referred to “a girl from Stone Ridge whom the guys bragged about having sex with.” Kavanaugh and other Prep alumni refuted this assertion to the press and in sworn statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee. One alumni and friend of Kavanaugh previously told The Daily Wire that the original author of the claim, Kate Kelly of the Times, twisted the meaning of the phrase to extract an “upset” quote from the woman named.
9. The article claims the students “were mostly the offspring of conservatives,” noting the exceptions of two Kennedys and two Shrivers. Prep points out the school has had “many prominent alumni in politics who were Democrats, including but not limited to Senator Chris Dodd D-CT (Class of ’62) and Representative John Dingell, Jr. D-MI (Class of ’44), the longest serving congressman in U.S. history.”
10. The article states that “in those days, only a handful were students of color,” while ignoring that the president of the student body in 1983 was African-American.
11. The article uses Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno as a source, but fails to mention that he’s a Democrat and was opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination from the beginning for partisan reasons.
12. The article mentions a group called “Community of Concern,” as if it is an outside group, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In reality, the group was created in the 1990s by a parent at Prep, and the school has yearly events from the group about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Prep detailed this to Peretz and her fact-checker, Brendan Barr, in emails, but those details were omitted from the final article.
13. The article notes that Eric Ruyak’s father was the son of a board member, but omits the fact that his father was the Board vice-chair and then chairman. Even after Ruyak’s allegations, his father, Robert, told The Washington Post that he still supports Georgetown Prep as an institution. Eric’s younger brother enrolled at the school even after the allegations.
In her initial outreach to Georgetown Prep, Peretz claimed her article would be about Kavanaugh’s “social milieu in the early 1980s, and how alumni of Georgetown Prep and other schools, as well as others in the community at large, are looking back at the culture 35 years later.” She claimed she wanted to present “a clear-eyed, nuanced view of the situation” and wanted her article “to be as fair, and as complete, as possible.”
Prep, understandably skeptical considering the heaps of negative press piled on the school after Kavanaugh was accused of sexually assaulting a woman as a teenager, asked for specific criticisms and more details about what was to go into the piece. Prep’s Patrick Coyle mentioned up front how “many media outlets withheld key information” from the school “which then gave readers the false impression that we had nothing to say about those particulars when they appeared in print.” Coyle asked for assurances that the school would be made aware of any assertions and be provided with a “full and fair opportunity to respond.” Peretz responded, saying they would “certainly” have such an opportunity.
What followed was a series of emails, provided by Georgetown Prep, which show Peretz not only ignored repeated requests for specific allegations, but kept giving Prep short deadlines to research decades old claims. Further, much of the information provided to Peretz was not included in the Vanity Fair article, instead only including generic parenthetical notes that Prep denied various claims.
For example, her first set of questions for Prep provides only the following vague allegations from unnamed sources about other unnamed people:
Two alums from the 80s said that during football camp, some of the priests drank with the students. One alum told me that one of the coaches invited seniors to his bachelor party where they was [sic] drinking and strippers. Is this accurate and were there any consequence?
Coyle responded, saying the allegations were about “specific incidents of misconduct,” but he didn’t know who was making the claims or how the sourcing was corroborated.
Coyle followed his specific responses to Peretz with concerns that that these would not be the only criticisms the school was asked to address.
In another example, Peretz asked Coyle for response to the claim that two teachers, Stephen Ochs and Julie Collins, attempted to portray Eric Ruyak as a liar and attempted to get him expelled. She claimed she was told the two teachers sent a letter to the community disparaging Ruyak. When she looked over the letter, it was not from these two teachers, nor did it disparage Ruyak. Still she continued to question Coyle about the teachers, claiming they pushed for Ruyak’s expulsion and started a vicious rumor (that did not receive mention in the article). Peretz also claimed the teachers had previously brought forward concerns about Father Orr’s “boundary issues,” yet in a corroborating document sent to Prep, the quote was from a prosecutor, not the teachers. Coyle also stated: “The School has no record of Dr. Ochs or Ms. Collins making any claims or communicating any concerns about Orr to school administration.” In the final article, the assertions from the Ruyaks are laid out without question, even though Coyle was able to demonstrate to the magazine numerous inaccuracies. The only pushback to the claims was a short parenthetical, “(The school says it has ‘no record’ of any such concern.)”
After a few more specifics from Peretz and repeated requests from Coyle to see the full list of questions, Peretz on December 3, 2018 (nearly a month after she initially contacted the school about its 80’s culture) now asked about the Ruyak allegations from 2003 — 20 years after Kavanaugh graduated.
Coyle pointed out how this had nothing to do with the 1980s or the “media circus” surrounding the school during the Kavanaugh hearing.
“I have to say, it’s starting to appear as though you are aiming to gather any disparagements ever made about Georgetown Prep, no matter how tangential. That’s hardly the ‘fair…clear-eyed, nuanced view of the situation [that presents] much support for Georgetown Prep’ that you assured us when you initially reached out,” Coyle said.
After several more days of back-and-forth emails, Coyle laid out the interactions with the magazine thus far, on December 6, to show how the school attempted to cooperate.
“We asked you for a chance to hear any criticizing quotes or characterizations specifically made about us by sources and you have presented only paraphrased allegations almost entirely from unnamed sources. In our response to your set of questions about several reported incidents from years ago and school procedures, we asked if that represented the full range of points aimed at Georgetown Prep. But, although we have repeated that question to you several times now, you have ignored it, despite your promise we ‘would certainly have an opportunity to [hear] the assertions made about the school,’” Coyle wrote.
Peretz responded with more questions regarding criticism of the school, which Coyle continued to answer.
After a Daily Wire inquiry, Vanity Fair provided the following statement, but did not answer numerous, specific questions asked by this author:
Vanity Fair stands behind Evgenia Peretz’s reporting on Georgetown Prep, which remains entirely consistent with the journalistic integrity the magazine is known for. Georgetown Prep, as it notes in its own response, was given extensive opportunity to respond to specific and detailed queries that arose during the course of reporting. Its replies were taken into consideration during our rigorous fact-checking process, and in a number of instances were included directly in the story.