Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Page Is ‘Horrible, Hurtful’ to a Woman It Named

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and several classmates at Georgetown Preparatory School referred to themselves as “Renate Alumni” in the 1983 yearbook.CreditCreditJustin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
Sept. 24, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh’s page in his high school yearbook offers a glimpse of the teenage years of the man who is now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: lots of football, plenty of drinking, parties at the beach. Among the reminiscences about sports and booze is a mysterious entry: “Renate Alumnius.”

The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.

Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.

“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”

Judge Kavanaugh’s years at Georgetown Prep, in a Maryland suburb of Washington, are under intense scrutiny because of allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her during high school. Judge Kavanaugh has denied the allegation. He and are scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judge Kavanaugh’s peers have given different accounts of what he was like. But his yearbook provides a contemporaneous glimpse of the elite Catholic school’s hard-drinking atmosphere — Judge Kavanaugh’s personal page boasts, “100 kegs or bust” — and a culture that some describe as disrespectful to women.

This month, Renate Schroeder Dolphin joined 64 other women who, saying they knew Judge Kavanaugh during their high school years, signed a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is weighing Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. The letter stated that “he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

When Ms. Dolphin signed the Sept. 14 letter, she wasn’t aware of the “Renate” yearbook references on the pages of Judge Kavanaugh and his football teammates.

“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” Ms. Dolphin said in a statement to The New York Times. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”

Alexandra Walsh, a lawyer for Judge Kavanaugh, said in a statement: “Judge Kavanaugh was friends with Renate Dolphin in high school. He admired her very much then, and he admires her to this day.

“Judge Kavanaugh and Ms. Dolphin attended one high school event together and shared a brief kiss good night following that event,” the statement continued. “They had no other such encounter. The language from Judge Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook refers to the fact that he and Ms. Dolphin attended that one high school event together and nothing else.”

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Judge Kavanaugh mentioned Renate Dolphin on his yearbook page, his lawyer said, because of one high school event they attended together “and nothing else.”

Ms. Dolphin said she had never kissed Judge Kavanaugh. “I think Brett must have me confused with someone else, because I never kissed him,” she said through her lawyer.

In an interview on Fox News on Monday, Judge Kavanaugh defended his high school behavior in general terms. “People might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school — I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit,” he said.

A White House spokesman, Raj Shah, declined to comment beyond the statement from Judge Kavanaugh’s lawyer.

Four of the men who were pictured with Judge Kavanaugh in a photo captioned “Renate Alumni” said it was simply a reference to their dating or going to dances with Ms. Dolphin.

An elite Catholic boys’ high school founded in 1789, Georgetown Prep is known for its motto, “Forming men for others,” a reference to its many alumni who have gone into public service. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch of the Supreme Court is a graduate, as is Jerome H. Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Judge Kavanaugh, a member of the football team and the captain of the basketball team, played a prominent role in Georgetown Prep’s firmament in the early 1980s. The school’s culture was one of heavy drinking and at times insensitivity.

The 1983 yearbook, for example, includes multiple apparent references to the Ku Klux Klan (but not on Judge Kavanaugh’s page). His page, in addition to the “Alumnius” entry, mentions his role as “treasurer” of the “Keg City Club.”

“The vast majority of the time I spent in high school was studying or focused on sports and being a good friend to the boys and the girls that I was friends with,” he told Fox News on Monday.

Some of Judge Kavanaugh’s high school peers said there was a widespread culture at the time of objectifying women.

“People claiming that they had sex with other people was not terribly unusual, and it was not terribly believable,” said William Fishburne, who was in Judge Kavanaugh’s graduating class and was a manager for the football team. “Not just Brett Kavanaugh and his particular group, but all the classmates in general. People would claim things they hadn’t done to sort of seem bigger than they were, older than they were.”

Bill Barbot, who was a freshman at Georgetown Prep when Judge Kavanaugh was a senior, said Judge Kavanaugh and his clique were part of the school’s “fratty” culture. “There was a lot of talk and presumably a lot of action about sexual conquest with girls,” Mr. Barbot said.

Ms. Dolphin was a subject of that braggadocio, according to Mr. Hagan and another classmate, who requested anonymity because he fears retribution. They said Judge. Kavanaugh and his friends were seeking to memorialize their supposed conquests with the “Renate” yearbook references.

Judge Kavanaugh, far left, and eight football teammates in a yearbook photo. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means,” Ms. Dolphin said. “I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.”

“She should be offended,” Mr. Hagan said of Ms. Dolphin. “I was completely astounded when I saw she signed that letter” on Judge Kavanaugh’s behalf.

Some women who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time defended his conduct.

“These guys weren’t any different than other boys high schools across the country,” said Suzanne Matan, a friend of Judge Kavanaugh’s from their high school days. “And I chose to hang out with those boys and many other girls did, too, because they were fun, and they were safe, and they were respectful.”

The Georgetown Prep yearbook’s personal pages were designed and written by the individual students, according to Mr. Madaleno and other alumni. A faculty adviser reviewed the pages.

Judge Kavanaugh was one of 13 graduating seniors who referred to Ms. Dolphin in some way on their personal pages. Some gave themselves titles — DeLancey Davis, for example, listed himself as “chairman of the Bored” of the “Renate Club.” Another football player, Tom Kane, mentioned on his page “Renate’s Suicide Squad.”

The group photo, with Judge Kavanaugh and eight fellow football players in pads and uniform, grinning, was captioned “Renate Alumni.” Mark Judge, the commentator and author who has written about his alcohol-fueled years at Georgetown Prep, stands next to Judge Kavanaugh in the photo.

Barbara Van Gelder, a lawyer for Mr. Judge, declined to comment.

Four of the players in the “Renate Alumni” photo — Mr. Davis, Mr. Kane, Tim Gaudette and Don Urgo Jr. — said in a statement that they had “never bragged about” sexual contact or anything like that with Ms. Dolphin. The statement, issued by Jim McCarthy, a public-relations representative, said the yearbook’s “Renate” references “were intended to allude to innocent dates or dance partners and were generally known within the community of people involved for over 35 years.”

“These comments,” the statement continued, “were never controversial and did not impact ongoing relationships until The Times twisted and forced an untrue narrative. This shabby journalism is causing egregious harm to all involved, particularly our friend, and is simply beneath contempt.”

Michael Walsh, another Georgetown Prep alumnus, also listed himself on his personal yearbook page as a “Renate Alumnus.” Alongside some song lyrics, he included a short poem: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”

Mr. Walsh, a bank executive in Virginia, was one of scores of Georgetown Prep alumni who signed a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders vouching for Judge Kavanaugh’s “sharp intellectual ability, affable nature, and a practical and fair approach devoid of partisan purpose.” He did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Dolphin was aware that members of Judge Kavanaugh’s clique were reciting that poem, according to a person familiar with her thinking. She told the football players that she found it offensive, believing it made her seem like a cheap date, and she asked them to stop.

Some of Judge Kavanaugh’s peers said they doubted that the yearbook notations were good-natured. “Those guys weren’t big on crushes,” Mr. Fishburne said. “I think they felt that if a girl didn’t want to date them, then they must be gay. I’m serious.”

A high school friend of Ms. Dolphin’s, who also signed the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that while she stood by the letter’s contents, as a friend of Ms. Dolphin’s she was “sickened” by the yearbook’s “Renate” references. She and a second friend of Ms. Dolphin’s denied that there was any sexual contact between Ms. Dolphin and Judge Kavanaugh or anyone else in his circle.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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