The storm of controversy around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh became fodder for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” and in a monologue Sunday, the host circled back on how Seattle-based real estate tech company Zillow became part of the bizarre story.
Kavanaugh is facing allegations of sexual assault from a woman named Christine Blasey Ford that could potentially derail his nomination. The alleged assault occurred 36 years ago when Kavanaugh was a student at Georgetown Prep. Among those who came to the judge’s defense last week was Ed Whelan, a conservative lawyer who used a Twitter thread to lay out why he believed Ford’s claim may have been a case of mistaken identity.
Mashable has all the tweets neatly arranged for safe keeping, since Whelan deleted the thread on Friday because of his “appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment.”
In the thread, Whelan used Google Maps and floor plans from Zillow to identify a house which belonged to a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at the time. Whelan essentially went ahead and tweeted that Ford likely misremembered Kavanaugh for the young man who lived in the house found on Zillow.
Outrage over Whelan’s amateur sleuthing-by-internet was swift, and his apology tweet is still pinned to the top of his feed.
I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelan123) September 21, 2018
Oliver was beside himself on Sunday night (but not quite as livid as he was about Facebook).
“He used little more than Google Maps and info from Zillow, and in doing so, he baselessly accused a private citizen of a sex crime, which is a terrible thing to do, and using Zillow is just a bizarre way to do it,” Oliver said. “It would be like sending a death threat using Etsy.”
After several more minutes on Kavanaugh and the battle over his nomination, Oliver came back to Zillow. If the company had hoped to get out of the episode without getting roasted, Oliver’s writers did away with that hope, creating a fake ad for the real estate giant.
“Hi, we’re Zillow, the real estate web site. After the news this week, we just wanted to clear up what our company is really about. Zillow is actually not meant to be used to publicly accuse random strangers of sexual assault. It’s really not. No, Zillow is meant to be used for one thing and one thing only: Looking up your friends’ homes to see how much they spent, so you can either laugh at how much they overpaid or be bitterly jealous of their wealth.
“So, again, accusing strangers of sexual assault — not Zillow’s thing! Stalking and judging the financial status of everyone you know — yes, that is what we’re about. Also, for burglars casing houses they plan to rob and for very occasional masturbating, but that is it.”
“Zillow, Yes it’s for Judging People, But Not Like That.”
Zillow declined to comment about the Twitter thread or Oliver’s mention after GeekWire reached out on Monday.
Kavanaugh faces a second allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior, published Sunday by The New Yorker, stemming from an alleged incident when he was a freshman at Yale University.