How The Media’s Lies About Innocent Fathers Also Harm Their Daughters

While Justice Brett Kavanaugh made it through the confirmation process, my dad didn’t. His nomination was defeated because of completely unsupported abuse allegations.

How The Media’s Lies About Innocent Fathers Also Harm Their Daughters

October 3, 2019


While I don’t know them personally, I can’t help but feel empathy for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s two young daughters, Margaret and Liza. I’m sure it’s hard for them to understand why anyone would attempt to humiliate someone they know is a wonderful man, all based on something even the attackers know is a lie.

I suspect that, like me, Margaret and Liza never thought they would have a famous father, or that anything so terrible could happen to him as it has to all three of us. My father certainly wasn’t famous when I was growing up, but he is now. He’s Andy Puzder. He’s often in the press talking or writing about ideas to help American workers. My dad comes from a working-class background; he worked his way through law school and later became the CEO of a big company and President Trump’s first choice to be America’s secretary of labor.

While Justice Kavanaugh made it through the confirmation process, my dad didn’t. His nomination was defeated because of abuse allegations that, like those against Justice Kavanaugh, were not only unsupported but admittedly false. All of dad’s six kids knew they were false, and both dad’s wife and his ex-wife, who is my mother, knew and publicly said they were false. No one who talked to any of us or who cared about the truth would have repeated these false claims.

But that didn’t stop the mainstream media from repeating them. To everyone who has never been through anything like this but tries to make sense of what’s happening every day: If you’re looking for the truth, you can no longer trust the mainstream media. They don’t care about it. Maybe they care about money, or helping their political friends, or promoting a political agenda, or 15 minutes of fame, but they don’t value the truth for its own sake. And they don’t care about the families, including the young children, of those they falsely accuse.

The New York Times recently proved the point. This time it was a former Clinton lawyer who claimed Justice Kavanaugh engaged in inappropriate conduct while in college. The Times ran the story but failed to note that the alleged victim never substantiated the claim and her friends stated she did not recall any such incident. After publication, the Times was compelled to issue a correction that would have humbled any news organization capable of humility.

Here’s what happened to our family. My mom and dad divorced more than 30 years ago. It was a tough time. They were raising the three of us, trying to protect us while facing a failed marriage, and trying to make ends meet. Mom was afraid about the future and angry about the past. She has publicly admitted that her attorney used “‘adult abuse’ as a vehicle get leverage in our divorce proceeding,” a decision that has “haunted” her ever since.

She said that my father had been physically abusive. Mom knew that wasn’t true. We all knew it wasn’t true. I was then about the age of Justice Kavanaugh’s daughters and I remember those days vividly. Mom and dad argued a lot, but there was never any violence or threat of violence. None.

Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer recently admitted that “abortion rights” were part of what motivated her client to make her unsubstantiated allegations last year. They wanted to put “an asterisk” next to Kavanaugh’s name in case he voted to limit abortion. It sounded all too familiar to me.

My dad was involved as an attorney in the pro-life movement in St. Louis in the 1980s. He even authored part of a pro-life law the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld. My mom hired a divorce attorney who was pro-choice. She came to believe that her attorney’s political views influenced him when he encouraged her to file abuse charges against my dad.

Unlike Ford, and to mom’s credit, she recanted the charges shortly afterwards, in 1990, and she has set the record straight on numerous occasions since. After dad was nominated for the cabinet, mom did everything she could to keep her mistake from hurting dad and all of his children.

Most people wouldn’t publicly admit their private wrongs, but mom has done so on a number of occasions. She even sent a long, heartfelt letter to the Senate saying “Andy is not and was not abusive or violent. He is a good, loving, and kind man, and a deeply committed and loving father.” I can tell you for certain that is the truth.

Everyone makes bad decisions, and in divorces they can make some very bad decisions. Mom made up for her mistake more than 25 years ago, but she—and all the rest of us in the family—have had to endure the embarrassment of watching the media trot it out again and again, because they disagree with my dad, fear his influence, and don’t have the decency to stick to honest arguments against him.

Unfortunately, Justice Kavanaugh’s daughters will endure much of the same in the coming years and for many of the same reasons. Like me, they will have to live with the smears against their father and family for the rest of their lives, through no fault of their father’s or their own. But the more important thing is that they have a father with character and courage, who despite his enemies’ sickening behavior will continue to stand up for what he believes.

And, I’m proud to say, so do I.

Vanessa Puzder Kohorst is a graduate of The Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University and lives with her husband Joe in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo Wall Street Journal / screenshot


The Call to Self-Discipline in a Media-Saturated Age

Our society is addicted to spectacle. How do we keep our eyes are fixed on Christ?

The Call to Self-Discipline in a Media-Saturated Age

According to research released last summer by The Nielsen Company, American adults spend an average of 11 hours, or almost half of each day, consuming some form of media. From the moment we wake up (and instinctively check our phones), through our daily commutes (with radios or podcasts humming in the background), to the end of the day (when we binge on Netflix), we live those statistics day in and day out. According to Nielsen’s numbers, we spend more time consuming media than eating, sleeping, or any other activity.

With so much of our lives revolving around media consumption, it behooves us to develop what Tony Reinke, in his new book Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age, calls “a theology of visual culture.” Reinke, a senior writer for Desiring God and author of another tech-focused book (12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You), has emerged as a prophetic voice, one crying out in our digital wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” In Competing Spectacles, he asks an urgent question: “In this age of spectacles … how do we spiritually thrive?”

Aching to Be Awed

Reinke’s answer forms the basis of his book, which works anecdotally through various forms of spectacle that are common today. He proves a skillful cultural exegete, making observations about everyday spectacles and spectacle-makers that few of us have the eye to catch.

For Reinke, a spectacle is “a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment. A spectacle is something that captures human attention.” He gives particular attention to the spectacles generated by social media, politics, television, and pornography, among others. Along the way, he opens fascinating windows onto our culture’s addiction to spectacle, such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’s claim that his company’s biggest competitor is sleep. From Scripture, too, Reinke draws thought-provoking examples, including the story of David on the rooftop watching Bathsheba. This, Reinke states, “is a prototype for all digital pornography: a woman before the eyes of an unseen man.”

None of this means, however, that spectacle is inherently bad. As Reinke observes, human beings are “hardwired with an unquenchable appetite to see glory.” The problem with spectacles, then, is not that we crave them but that we look for glory in all the wrong places. Reinke cites a tweet from John Piper that expresses this reality well: “The world aches to be awed. That ache was made for God. The world seeks it mainly through movies.”

The week I read Competing Spectacles coincided with the release of Avengers: Endgame, the movie spectacle of the decade. Endgame shattered box office records, hauling in $357 million during its opening weekend in the US and capturing another $500 million in its first week and a half in China. It inspired more tweets than any movie before, surpassing Black Panther. In an odd but telling story, a South Korean soldier reportedly went AWOL in order to catch a screening. These metrics seem to confirm Reinke’s hypothesis, that in our quest to quench our thirst for glory, we are quicker to turn to the empty cistern of Hollywood than to the fountain of living water found in Christ.

Reinke affirms that Christ is the ultimate spectacle, the only one worthy of our undivided attention. He writes,

Christ was not merely made a spectacle on the cross; the cross became a shorthand reference for everything glorious about Christ—his work as creator and sustainer of all things, his incarnation, his life, his words, his obedience, his miracles, his shunning, his beatings, his crucifixion, his wrath bearing, his resurrection from the grave, his heavenly ascension, his kingly coronation, and his eternal priesthood—all of his glory is subsumed into his heavenly spectacle.

When we seek out glory in the passing spectacles of this world rather than in Christ, the culprit isn’t an ever-expanding buffet of shallow entertainments; our own sinful hearts are to blame. Adam and Eve didn’t have an endless selection of forbidden fruits tempting them to reject their Maker; they only needed one. And our spectacle-craving eyes have been looking elsewhere ever since. From ancient idols to the CGI-infused movies of today, people have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:23).

Reinke wisely shuns the idea of digital asceticism as a solution to our hyper-connectedness, in part because spectacle is so unavoidable in our age. But the more important reason mirrors Paul’s warning to the Colossians about captivity to “merely human commands and teachings” (2:22). Rules like “Do not watch,” “Do not stream,” and “Do not surf” are just that: rules, made by fallen human beings, and likely administered not by grace-filled hearts but by digital pharisees all too eager to accuse and condemn. Instead, Reinke provides 10 practical principles for anyone seeking to engage our visual culture in Christ-honoring ways.

When to Push Back?

Competing Spectacles, then, is not a call to give up social media or renounce our visual culture but a call to self-discipline. Reinke alludes to the early Christians who fought to abolish the Roman blood-sport industry, as well as the Puritans, centuries later, who were involved in shutting down the theaters of London. But Reinke doesn’t call Christians today to any equivalent form of protest or activism. By his own admission, Competing Spectacles is geared more toward developing a theology that helps believers think through these issues on a personal level.

But the question does remain: At what point should Christians begin considering how to push back against the spectacle industry? Take pornography, for example. While Reinke urges us to reclaim the category of sins of the eye, he doesn’t call upon Christians to work toward toppling the porn industry as a whole.

Another issue left unresolved, perhaps because it lies outside the scope of the book, is the extent to which Christians should involve themselves in the making of spectacles. Reinke touches on the debate over churches using spectacle as an aid to worship, but many other questions come to mind. If, in fact, Christians should participate in spectacle-creation at all, should they limit themselves to creating spectacles that carry a Christian message? Or does their involvement simply worsen the problem by layering more diversion atop a society already drowning in it?

In our day and age, it’s a safe bet that American media consumption patterns will keep climbing upward. After all, the already staggering 11-hour-per-day figure cited by The Nielsen Company represents a 1.5-hour jump from just four years ago. Where will we be in another four years? In another 10? Competing Spectacles can’t predict this future, but Reinke’s theological framework leaves us better prepared to sort our way through the noise and fanfare—and fix our gaze on the immeasurably greater glory to come.

John Thomas is a cross-cultural Christian worker living and serving in ministry in Central Asia with his wife and their two children. He writes regularly at You can follow him on Twitter @John_Thomas518.


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