News & Politics

M. Todd Henderson Tells About the Brett Kavanaugh He Knew


First, let’s tell our readers who you are.
I am a law professor at the University of Chicago, where I have taught for the past 14 years. Before that, I worked for several years alongside Brett Kavanaugh at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C. (1999-2000). I have my first novel coming out on October 15th about a Supreme Court nominee charged with sexual assault. It’s called Mental State. *

Second, how do you know Brett Kavanaugh? How long have you known him?

Brett and I worked closely together on high-profile matters before the Supreme Court. We were part of a small appellate litigation group of about a dozen lawyers. I spent countless hours working by his side, traveling with him, and socializing with him at work and private events.

What’s your impression of him? How do you feel about the circus of accusations aimed at him? Do they sound remotely plausible?

My impression of Brett during this time was that he was a straight-laced, honorable, hard-working, and caring person. He was single at the time, and yet on a typical Saturday night at 2 a.m. we were more likely to be hunched over Supreme Court briefs in a conference room than partying. In bars, at ballgames, at parties, during the hours when everyone was punchy, I never heard him remark about women or sex in a way that even came close to the line. I cannot say that about everyone I’ve ever worked with over my decades as a lawyer, consultant, and law professor. I never saw him treat anyone with less than complete respect.

Brett was the guy who told the people who worked for him to mind their Ps and Qs. At one law firm party on a hot summer night in D.C., I stripped to my boxers and plunged into the partner’s pool, while Brett and the other partners stood on the deck looking at me with a mix of shock and disappointment.

He was a role model that I admired, not just for his legal mind but also for the way he carried himself and the values that he exuded. Brett and I do not agree about all legal issues. [Edit at his request:] Brett and I do not agree about all legal issues but based on what I knew of his skills as a lawyer, of his public service, and of his judicial writings, I was delighted when he was nominated. [And some of you people should be ashamed of yourself.] But based on what I knew of his skills as a lawyer, of his public service, and of his judicial writings, I was delighted when he was nominated.

Do the accusations sound remotely plausible to you?

I watched the proceedings yesterday with no pleasure and with tears for both Dr. Ford and Brett. I was raped when I was her age. Hearing her testimony brought back my own vivid memories, which I’ve recounted in my forthcoming novel about a Supreme Court nominee charged with sexual assault. I empathize with the emotions she was feeling and the situation she found herself in.

I also have been the target of left-wing social media frenzies that have irreparably damaged my reputation and caused my family to face death threats. Although what I’ve been through is trivial compared with the frankly absurd allegations leveled at Brett—gang rape training!—I know the feeling of helplessness and outrage that was written all over his face.

Unfortunately, in my view, the seriousness of Dr. Ford’s allegations has been lost in a maelstrom of disinformation leveled at Brett over fear that he will overturn Roe v. Wade. None of us will ever know what happened in that bedroom in 1982, or whenever it was. We will never know what has caused Dr. Ford’s pain or which of them is telling the truth. We won’t know because the allegations were not handled properly and because the feeding frenzy brought loons and demagogues out in force. This makes me incredibly sad. Sad for Dr. Ford, for Brett, for the law and the Supreme Court, and for our country. The stakes are simply too high in politics these days and the country too divided. We all live our lives in relative harmony, working and collaborating in countless ways, but when it comes to politics, everyone loses their minds.

*Reviews of “Mental State” by M. Todd Henderson:

“Exciting and compulsively readable, Mental State marks the entrance of a striking new talent on the thriller scene. Todd Henderson’s confident debut draws the reader into the unfamiliar worlds of academia, the law, and backroom politics, while providing a fresh take on more familiar thriller ground like the world of law enforcement. The Professor’s murder mystery delivers the rough and tumble goods, and it will leave readers wanting more.” —Kurt Schlichter, lawyer and bestselling author.

“Mental State is fascinating, detailed, and a pure page-turner. It’s a must-read if you love the country, the Supreme Court, or just a book that will keep you up at night.” —Ben Shapiro, public intellectual, talk-show host, and bestselling author.