Americans' reactions to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee split largely along partisan and gender lines.
One of the factors in determining how different groups reacted to Ford’s sexual-assault allegations against Kavanaugh was whom they were most concerned about when considering the long-term implications of the allegations. For many Republicans and conservatives, it was the effect on men that was top of mind.
That sentiment had been percolating for about a year — a common response to the conversations around the #MeToo movement has been what its effect will be on boys and men who are accused. That aspect has moved to the forefront for many in the wake of the Kavanaugh allegations. As liberal politicians, activists and trauma experts lead the charge to vocalize the importance of believing women when they share their experiences, others worry about the implications of unproved sexual misconduct allegations on men in the future.
“Right now, I’d say my sons,” said Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and a senior adviser on his reelection campaign, the Daily mail asked whom he is most worried about.
Conversations about the effect of unproved sexual assault allegations on men are becoming more widespread.
“These conversations are happening everywhere I go,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told the Fix. “Fear for their futures, combined with fear for husbands more vulnerable to unfounded claims, leads to another fear — loss of overall family privacy and reputation. . . . This leads to a new kind of heartbreaking advice we must give our sons.”
And Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, a group that supports Kavanaugh, thinks the allegations against the judge have been used by some on the left to block his confirmation, which could hurt both men and women, she said.
“If we politicize and weaponize the issue of sexual assault, we demean victims and set back the MeToo movement,” Nance said. “The standard for ending someone’s career or for losing one’s freedom cannot be just two words, ‘she said.’ Our system of justice and sense of fairness must rule the day in order to protect both men and women.”
Even President Trump, who has faced more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault, spoke to reporters Monday about the “trauma” these allegations cause a man and his family, speaking specifically about Kavanaugh.
“The trauma for a man that’s never had any accusation — he’s never had a bad statement about him,” Trump said. “It’s unfair to him at this point. What his wife is going through, what his beautiful children are going through is not describable.”
And Republican pollster Frank Luntz told The Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa that in the current political climate, many Republicans feel “guilty until proven innocent.”
The day of Kavanaugh’s testimony, the hashtags #HimToo and #DefendOurMen gained some traction among conservatives on Twitter.
Conservative activist Candace Owens tweeted about the long-term implications of Thursday’s hearing on how boys and men will be treated in the future culture wars about gender.
Kavanaugh supporter Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) attracted praise for his spirited defense of the judge and refusal to be silenced in these conversations. He said Friday before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I know I’m a single white man from South Carolina, and I’ve been told to shut up, but I will not shut up.”
And conservative media personality Glenn Beck predicted if Kavanaugh’s appointment is derailed, there will be real implications for Democrats.
“If the Democrats cram this down, I believe Americans will rise up at the polls, as we don’t want this to happen to our sons, brothers, husbands, fathers,” he tweeted.
Beck is echoing other conservatives who have said Republican voters disgusted by the treatment of Kavanaugh will turn out in support of GOP candidates this fall to prevent the Democrats from winning seats and responding to future conservative nominees the way liberal lawmakers have responded to Kavanaugh.
This discussion seemed like the latest chapter in the 2016 conversation about how Trump gave a voice to men who felt forgotten in an increasingly progressive society. Many of these men turned out in 2016 for the first time and continue to support Trump while his approval rating with women tanks. This sustained approval is rooted in part in the view that the head of the GOP is committed to defending men in a way most in society are not.
In “Fear: Trump in the White House,” a book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, a friend of Trump’s said the president told him to fight when facing allegations of sexual assault. He said Trump told him:
You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made. You didn’t come out guns blazing and just challenge them. You showed weakness. You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to push back hard. You’ve got to deny anything that’s said about you. Never admit.
Regardless of how more conservative men respond to situations involving sexual misconduct in the future, what appears to be clear is this moment has many of them thinking most about how cultural shifts will impact them. And this focus is a reminder that as omnipresent as the #MeToo movement may seem, it is not the only conversation in the most recent culture wars — at least not among the conservative men in power and the people who support them.