Some conservatives are citing Christine Blasey Ford’s fear of flying to raise doubts about her credibility.
The argument goes like this: Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, has told friends that the alleged encounter has left her feeling uncomfortable — even struggling — when she is in enclosed spaces without an “escape route” or more than one exit door, such as an airplane.
The fear of flying has been cited as a reason why Ford didn’t testify sooner about the allegations. But the California professor still manages to travel for work and vacations, as Rachel Mitchell, the counsel representing Republicans at Thursday’s hearing, pointed out.
“May I ask, how did you get to Washington?” Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor, inquired.
“In an airplane,” Ford replied.
“I ask that because it has been reported by the press that you would not submit to an interview with the committee because of your fear of flying. Is that true?” Mitchell said.
Ford said she “was hoping” that the committee would come to her, but added, “I realized that was an unrealistic request.”
The psychology professor told Mitchell she was finally able to muster the courage to fly to Washington, D.C. from her home in California.
“That was certainly what I was hoping was to avoid, having to get on an airplane, but I eventually was able to get up the gumption with the help of some friends and get on the plane,” Ford said Thursday.
Mitchell later asked, “In fact, you fly fairly frequently for hobbies and you had to fly for your work, is that true?”
“Correct, unfortunately,” Ford.
Ford said that she comes to Delaware once a year to visit family. She also confirmed that she has traveled by airplane to Hawaii, Costa Rica, South Pacific Islands and French Polynesia.
“It’s easier for me to travel going that direction when it’s a vacation,” Ford said.
Some Kavanaugh supporters have pointed to this exchange to cast doubts on Ford’s story.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “I’m no psychology professor but it does seem weird to me that someone could have a selective fear of flying. Can’t do it to testify but for vacation, well it’s not a problem at all.”
“Ford’s lawyers unnecessarily damaged their and their client’s credibility by manufacturing the fear of flying story,” National Rifle Association Dana Loesch tweeted.
“When they say that she wasn’t sure we were willing to to go out there, that’s a bunch of bull. I don’t know that they told Ms. Ford. But we were willing to go to California. We were told she couldn’t fly,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told reporters after Ford testified Thursday.
Ford had told committee chairman Chuck Grassley earlier that it wasn’t made clear to her that Judiciary Committee staff were willing to come out to speak with her in California.
Martin N. Seif, a clinical psychologist, anxiety treatment specialist and one of the founders of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, says Ford’s ability to fly despite her fear is “very typical.”
“People who have a fear of flying can fly — they fly with difficulty, they fly irregularly,” said Seif. “Some people fly with great difficulty, some people fly with a lots of pills and medication. Also some people can fly one day and not another.”
Kavanaugh vigorously denied Ford’s allegations later Thursday at the Senate Judiciary Committee.