This post has been updated with the latest news.
Is it too much to ask that politicians handle an extremely delicate national debate about sexual misconduct, the credibility of women vs. powerful men and the foundational American value of one’s right to a fair trial with sensitivity and care?
Seems like it.
As Christine Blasey Ford testified to a Senate committee on Thursday that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, politicians and their staffers continued to blurt out some remarkably insensitive things about it.
Here’s a rundown of the most insensitive comments that politicians and their staffers — all men, by the way — have made about Kavanaugh and Ford.
1. Calling Ford “attractive”
As Ford was testifying that Kavanaugh and his friend allegedly had “fun” at her physical and emotional expense, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a top member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared to reduce Ford to her appearance when asked by reporters how he thought it was going.
On Twitter, one of Hatch’s staffers argued the 84-year-old senator uses this word in a different context than it’s interpreted today.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also used the descriptor “attractive” to refer to Anita Hill in her 1991 hearings accusing Justice Clarenece Thomas of sexual harassment. “What I saw was an attractive woman in a blue suit before an all-male Judiciary Committee, speaking of her experience of sexual harassment,” she said. Ford was also wearing blue.
2. Asking that if Kavanaugh did commit sexual assault, why it would disqualify him from being a Supreme Court justice
On Monday, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a Senate candidate, said that even if it’s true that Kavanaugh pinned Ford to a bed in high school and stifled her screams while he tried to take off her clothes, “Does it disqualify him?” Cramer also said that he thinks because Ford and Kavanaugh didn’t have intercourse, the allegation isn’t that big of a deal.
When The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis found him on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Cramer tried to back off that: “If it’s proven that he did this, of course it would disqualify him.”
3. Asking why Ford didn’t immediately report her alleged assault to authorities
This comes from President Trump, who has given cover for all the other politicians on this list to say what they’re saying.
The problem with Trump’s allegation, any sex-crimes expert will tell you, is that going to the police is not the way most sex-crime victims think, especially immediately after a traumatic event for which societal stigma can and often does rest on them, not the perpetrator. A 2015 study found most young assault victims don’t go to the authorities.
4. Mocking Ford’s claim by comparing it to something clearly made up — and insulting a sitting Supreme Court justice in the process.
“Did you hear about this? Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out saying she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.” — Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.)
The Post and Courier reported that Norman said this at an election debate as part of his opening remarks.
5. Appearing to suggest that Ford isn’t credible, because she can’t remember every detail of the party in question decades later
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the Senate’s No. 2, said this to The Post’s Robert Costa. After this report was published, a spokesman for Cornyn said the senator didn’t say this with the intent to question Ford’s credibility but rather that Cornyn was trying to underscore why her testimony to the Judiciary Committee would be helpful. A former sex-crimes prosecutor has said that no victim is required to remember every detail, especially about something she alleges happened decades ago.
6. Calling Ford ‘the lady’
This comes from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, who has said quite a few eyebrow-raising things that suggest he and other Republicans on the committee just wanted to hold a perfunctory hearing with Ford, then proceed as normal to put Kavanaugh on the court no matter what she says.
7. Appearing to refer to the allegation that a drunken, high-school-age Kavanaugh pinned Ford to a bed, tried to take off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream as a ‘hiccup’ in Kavanaugh’s nomination process
“We got a little hiccup here with the Kavanaugh nomination. We’ll get through this, and we’ll get off to the races.” — Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
The Nevada Independent reported that Heller said this in a conference call Wednesday with Nevada Republicans. Heller is one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in November. He issued a statement Thursday saying he was referring to how Democrats raised the allegation, not Ford herself: “No, I do not believe sexual assault allegations of any kind are a hiccup.”
8. Mocking Ford’s allegation by comparing her to a child
The president’s son, who posted this on Instagram shortly after Ford shared her account with The Post, was rebuked by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a prominent Republican in this debate.
9. Mocking a senator whose office says she’s received threats about her position on Kavanaugh and Ford
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tweeted this in the wee hours of Thursday morning and by midday had apologized.
10. Saying the Republican-controlled Senate will confirm Kavanaugh, then attacking Ford’s attorneys — who say she is facing so many death threats she can’t sleep in her own home — for not immediately agreeing to have her testify
This comes from Mike Davis, a top aide to the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He deleted the tweets and tried to say he was attacking Democrats on the committee, not Ford, even though Davis’s original tweet doesn’t once mention Senate Democrats.
11. Appearing to allege that 99 percent of #MeToo allegations are made up
“You know, I don’t fall for it anymore. I hope the American people aren’t falling for it. These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated.” — Chris McDaniel, a Republican Senate candidate in Mississippi, told the Associated Press.
12. Joking about the allegation because it allegedly happened decades ago
“This guy who’s going to be our Supreme Court justice, and he better be our Supreme Court judge, he’s a perfect candidate, and what do they say? ‘Well, in high school you did this.’ High school? Give me a break.” — Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) in an audio recording obtained by Talking Points Memo.
13. Accusing the accusers of making it up
When CBS’s Nancy Cordes asked Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Tuesday whether he thought Kavanaugh’s two accusers were making these accusations up, he indicated he thought it was possible: “They had a little help, I have a feeling,” he said. When asked to elaborate, he said he didn’t have any evidence to back that up.