How else to explain the categorically dishonest video hit job by a far-right outfit that labels Ms. Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, the No. 3 Justice Department job, a “dangerous appointee”? In fact, that is an apt characterization only for those terrified at the prospect of expanding justice for the most vulnerable in American society.
Even in an era of florid mendacity, the ad, an $800,000 buy sponsored by the Judicial Crisis Network, is a doozy, mainly notable for the magnitude of the lies and distortions it crams into 30 seconds.
It states that Ms. Gupta, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under the Obama administration, supports defunding the police. Awkwardly, there’s zero proof of that, including in the ad’s own footnoted citation. The ad states she “led a group that wants to reduce punishments on white supremacists, even terrorists.” In fact, Ms. Gupta and the group she led until her nomination, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, are simply opposed to capital punishment, in line with 25 states that have ended it, including 10 since 2007. (Virginia is now on the verge of eliminating it, too.) In the absence of executions, federal death-row inmates would likely spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Finally, the ad charges that instead of supporting law and order during last summer’s violence following the killing of George Floyd, Ms. Gupta advocated “to let convicts out of jail.” As “evidence,” it cites her factually accurate tweet, in August, that the pandemic was “killing people in federal prison who could be released” — a stance then-Attorney General William P. Barr had embraced months earlier.
The idea that Ms. Gupta is a radical police-hater is risible given the positive reviews her nomination received from an alphabet soup of law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Donald Trump twice. In HuffPost, the FOP’s director, Jim Pasco, blasted the Judicial Crisis Network ad as “partisan demagoguery.” And on its Facebook page, the FOP praised Ms. Gupta, who led efforts to reform police departments in her time at the Civil Rights Division, as having “worked with us to find common ground even when that seemed impossible.”
The smears against Ms. Gupta are of a piece with attacks on another woman of color, Kristen Clarke, nominated to lead the Civil Rights Division. In Ms. Clarke’s case, the allegations concern antisemitism — so what if the evidence is tissue-thin and there is no record she has ever uttered an antisemitic remark?
In another era, we might have opted not to dignify these attacks with a rebuttal. But in a time when elected officials have been known to embrace lies and conspiracy theories, it’s worth stating sooner rather than later: Both these nominees have serious, distinguished track records as champions of civil rights. For their opponents, that is the real rub.