The Internet Archive Publishes Brett Kavanaugh’s 1983 Yearbook, a Key Document in Nomination Battle

The Intercept
October 3, 2018
(Co-written with Alice Speri)

AS SCRUTINY OF Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s high school years intensifies amid accusations of sexual assault, much has been written about a series of allusive references to alcohol and girls that Kavanaugh and his classmates made in their 1983 yearbook at Georgetown Preparatory School. Now, the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital archive, has published the “Cupola” yearbook — only a few pages of which had been made public before.

The yearbook has been pivotal in raising questions about Kavanaugh’s truthfulness when he described his high school years as largely filled with church, studying, and football practice. “I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, a Jesuit high school, where I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship,” Kavanaugh told Fox News. Although he later admitted, during dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, to some drinking, he insisted he did not drink so much that he would forget what he did or lose control. But the picture that emerges from the yearbook is that of a student who aggressively drank and partied, and was at the center of a social group whose crude inside jokes stand in sharp contrast with the altar boy image Kavanaugh has attempted to portray.

Before today, only some of the yearbook pages — like Kavanaugh’s and that of his close friend Mark Judge — were published by a small number of news organizations, including The Intercept and the New York Times. “By providing access to the 1983 Georgetown Prep yearbook, the Internet Archive is serving its mission as a library, helping people more fully understand the context of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” said Mark Graham, the director of the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, which provided a statement to The Intercept to explain the decision to publish the yearbook (which is unredacted, but not a complete copy — some pages relating to faculty and lower classes are missing).

Kavanaugh has sought to downplay the yearbook’s relevance to his nomination, denouncing the public’s interest in it as “absurd.” But journalists and politicians have suggested the yearbook paints a more frank picture of Kavanaugh’s high school years than his testimony, or even his calendars, do.

During last week’s hearing, an aide for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., held up a printout of the judge’s yearbook page as the senator asked Kavanaugh, “Does this yearbook reflect your focus on academics and your respect for women?” Kavanaugh replied, “If we want to sit here and talk about how a Supreme Court nomination should be based on a high school yearbook page, I think that’s taking us to a new level of absurdity.”

“Have at it, if you want to go through my yearbook,” he later told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who also quizzed him on his yearbook references. “If you are worried about my yearbook, have at it.”

The yearbook has been at the center of what many news articles have pointed out appears to be untruthful testimony by Kavanaugh. The New York Times reported on Kavanaugh’s reference to himself as a “Renate Alumnius” and pointed to several other people who shared a similar reference. Kavanaugh implausibly said during the hearing that the reference meant “she was a great friend of ours.” However, Renate Schroeder, the woman in question, told the Times that the references were “horrible” and “hurtful.”

Much has also been made of references on Kavanaugh and Judge’s pages to “boofing” (which Kavanaugh claimed related to flatulence), “beach week” parties, drinking games, and a challenge Kavanaugh and his friends had set for themselves to drink 100 kegs of beer before the end of the school year. The Intercept found that more than three dozen Georgetown Prep alumni who signed a letter in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee also listed themselves in the yearbook as partaking in some of Kavanaugh’s “extracurriculars,” like the 100 kegs challenge. While not on Kavanaugh’s senior page, references among some in his circle of friends to a “Ridge Klux Klan” and “Killer Q’s” have also raised questions, many of which remain unanswered.

Author: Peter Maass

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I went to Brussels as a copy editor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. I left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia I moved to Budapest to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.