Poking a Hole in Professor Ford's 'Fear of Flying' Excuse

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Last night’s 10:00 pm deadline for Christine Blasey Ford’s team to agree to come to testify came and went, and unfortunately, Senator Chuck Grassley has given her yet another extension—until 2:30 pm ET today—to reach an agreement.


Personally, I don’t think Ford has any intention of testifying, and I don’t believe Democrats actually want her to either. Ford’s demands have been crazy and absurd, and the entire negotiation circus feels more like a stalling tactic than a negotiation in good faith on Ford and her team’s part.

One of Ford’s recent excuses was based on the claim that she couldn’t possibly make it to the hearing in time because she has a fear of flying (aviophobia) and would have to drive. Now, let’s put aside the fact that Republicans have literally offered to come out to California to accommodate her, and look into this claim. According to a report from ABC News, we get the following nugget of information.

Meantime lawyers for Ford are asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to schedule a hearing for her to be heard on Thursday, allowing time for Ford to make the drive from California to Washington D.C. Ford’s friend, Kate Devarney, told CNN this week that Ford’s fear of flying is directly related to her allegation of assault, and that an airplane is “the ultimate closed space where you cannot get away.”

Isn’t that convenient? Not only does she have a fear of flying, but she’s basically claiming the alleged attack caused it. An interesting detail likely included to evoke sympathy and make it more difficult for people to question.


But, attributing the flying phobia to the attack is curious. Prior reports have only indicated that the alleged assault primarily impacted her ability to have healthy relationships with men—Ford first brought up the assault in couples therapy in 2012.

Years later, after going through psychotherapy, Ford said, she came to understand the incident as a trauma with lasting impact on her life.

“I think it derailed me substantially for four or five years,” she said. She said she struggled academically and socially and was unable to have healthy relationships with men. “I was very ill-equipped to forge those kinds of relationships.”

She also said she believes that in the longer term, it contributed to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms with which she has struggled.

One could argue that “anxiety” could cover a fear of flying, but a fear of flying (or confined spaces in general) for 35 years seems like an incredibly debilitating phobia that seems likely to have been called out specifically prior to this new fear of flying claim. Has Ford, for example, been unable to ride in an elevator for 35 years? Assaults in elevators are certainly more common than assaults on airplanes.  Further, Ford herself went to a private all-girls prep school. Her family must have been fairly well-to-do, and probably went on expensive vacations more than once during her teen years. If she suddenly developed a fear of flying because of the attack, are we expected to believe her family didn’t notice she suddenly couldn’t join them on a family vacation? Is it possible they never flew to go on vacation? Sure, but I consider that unlikely.


But, let’s give Ford the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume her family never went on vacation together requiring her to fly after the alleged assault, and concede that she may, in fact, have had a genuine fear of flying for the past 35 years. Well, clearly the New York Times didn’t get the memo. This was written in a profile of Ford on September 19th:

Dr. Blasey developed a passion for surfing, which she shares with her husband and two sons. “She’s been chasing waves,” said Beth Stannard, a friend and former co-worker, who said Dr. Blasey’s decisions to teach at Pepperdine, in Malibu, Calif., and to complete an internship at the University of Hawaii were at least partly informed by the campuses’ seaside locations. She and her family live in Palo Alto — where she has volunteered for her sons’ schools and junior lifeguard training, has restored her midcentury modern home with an eye toward historical preservation, and has attended Stanford football and basketball games with her family. The family also has a house in Santa Cruz, famed for its beaches and breaks.

Did Ford swim to Hawaii for that internship? Did she ride a pontoon? Are we expected to believe she took a boat?

There are only two possible conclusions here: Either she’s lying about the phobia, or can (and has) successfully managed it with medication. Both conclusions here don’t reflect well on Ford’s credibility.


The bottom line here is that there is enough reason to believe that Ford’s claim of aviophobia was just another stall tactic, that Ford has no genuine desire to testify, and likely, Senate Democrats don’t want her to testify either. We’re being thrown all sorts of excuses that are either absurd (like her crazy demands for the hearing) or don’t hold up under scrutiny, like this fear of flying excuse. Grassley shouldn’t have given Ford this latest extension. We’ve been getting bogus stalling tactics for a week now. It’s time to stop the circus and confirm Kavanaugh now.


Matt Margolis is the author of the book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis


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