Amy Chua denies telling female students to be ‘model-like’ when applying for clerkships with Brett Kavanaugh
Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has had an outsize influence in helping select clerks for Kavanaugh in her role at Yale Law School
Amy Chua, the Yale law professor and bestselling author who endorsed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, has denied allegations that she instructed female law students to exude a “model-like” femininity when interviewing for clerkships with the judge.
“Everything that is being said about the advice I give to students applying to Brett Kavanaugh – or any judge – is outrageous, 100 per cent false, and the exact opposite of everything I have stood for and said for the last 15 years,” Chua said in a letter that was sent to the Yale Law School community.
The Guardian and the Huffington Post published articles last week that alleged that Chua, the author behind the bestselling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and her husband, Prof Jed Rubenfeld, told students that Kavanaugh liked his clerks to have a “certain look”. In one case, the advice was so off-putting to one Yale law student that she declined to pursue a clerkship with the judge, according to a source who spoke to The Guardian.
Chua has had an outsize influence in helping select clerks for Kavanaugh in her role at Yale Law School. In one case, a former student told The Guardian, a prospective clerk was introduced to Kavanaugh at a party that Chua hosted at her home – and was later told that the judge wanted her to apply for the post.
The controversy over Chua’s alleged remarks comes amid allegations Kavanaugh held down a woman and groped her when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the assault took place. A lawyer for his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, said that Ford was ready to testify about her experience, but wanted to negotiate the terms of her testimony.
Chua said in the statement that, contrary to allegations that she told students that it was “no accident” that Kavanaugh hired attractive clerks, she “always” told her students to prep “insanely hard” and that substance was “the most important thing”.
But another former law student who was advised by Chua and approached The Guardian after its original story was published on Thursday said his experience was consistent with the allegations presented in the article.
The male student, who asked not to be identified, said that when he approached Chua about his interest in clerking for Kavanaugh, the professor said it was “great”, but then added that Kavanaugh “tends to hire women who are generally attractive and then likes to send them to [Supreme Court Chief Justice John] Roberts”.
It was a reference to Kavanaugh’s role as a so-called “feeder” judge, whose clerks often go on to win highly coveted clerkships at the US Supreme Court.
The student alleged that Chua then added: “I don’t think it is a sexual thing, but [Kavanaugh] likes to have pretty clerks.”
The former student told The Guardian that in the following year, he advised two female classmates who were also interested in clerking for Kavanaugh to talk to Chua.
“They got the same advice: ‘He likes girls who are pretty’,” the student said. “Another girl … she got the same advice, and [Chua told her] to wear heels.”
The allegations have caused a storm at Yale Law School. In a statement last week, the law school said it would look into the claims promptly.
“If true, this advice is clearly unacceptable,” it said.
One former student whose account was published last week in The Guardian said that Chua had advised her to dress in an “outgoing” way. She was also advised by Chua to not wear a suit. The former student told The Guardian that she had reported the remarks to a Yale Law School administrator in June 2018 as part of a broader conversation about concerns about Chua and Rubenfeld’s conduct.
Rubenfeld, who has courted controversy for his views on rape and consent, is under internal investigation at Yale Law School and not teaching this semester. He told The Guardian in a statement last week that he had been told about the review, but not been informed of the exact nature of the allegations being investigated. He also claimed that he had been advised that the allegations would not jeopardise his position as a tenured member of the faculty.
Yale Law School said in a statement that it could not confirm or deny an investigation but that – in cases when a member of the faculty is under review – all options are left on the table.
The White House did not respond to the allegations on behalf of Kavanaugh.