Rep. Kevin Cramer, the Republican nominee for Senate in North Dakota, questioned Monday whether a sexual assault accusation against Brett M. Kavanaugh should disqualify him from the Supreme Court, even if the allegation is true.
The comments from Cramer, a top Republican recruit in a marquee Senate race, highlight the extent to which the accusations against Kavanaugh have reached the midterm campaign trail, forcing candidates to respond to sensitive questions about the revelations.
In the interview with host Chris Berg televised Monday, Cramer said that if something like what California professor Christine Blasey Ford alleges about Kavanaugh is accurate, “it’s tragic, it’s unfortunate, it’s terrible.” But, he added of Kavanaugh, “even if it’s all true, does it disqualify him? It certainly means that he did something really bad 36 years ago, but does it disqualify him from the Supreme Court?”
Berg replied that if the allegation were true, it would mean that Kavanaugh lied. “If it’s found that he knew, that he recalls it, he knew it happened, and lies about it, then I think that would disqualify him,” responded Cramer.
In a radio interview last week with KNOX, Cramer said Ford’s accusation was “even more absurd” than the 1991 allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas because “these people were teenagers when this supposed alleged incident took place.” At Thomas’s confirmation hearing, Anita Hill, an attorney who had worked for him at two government agencies, accused him of repeated sexual harassment.
“Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation,” Cramer said on KNOX of Ford’s allegations. “Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”
Berg asked Cramer about his comment that “nothing evidently happened” and added, “I think most people would say something definitely happened.”
“Right. That, I get,” replied Cramer. “My point was is that there was no type of intercourse or anything like that. That was my point, that nothing happened in terms of a sexual, um, event, beyond, obviously, the attack.”
Cramer added, “We don’t know that even what she describes happened.”
Ford told The Washington Post in an interview published last week that when she and Kavanaugh were high school students, he drunkenly pinned her to a bed, groped her and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams as he tried to take off her clothes at a house party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh has firmly denied the accusation.
Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.
The campaign of Cramer's opponent, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, criticized his remarks. “Once again, Congressman Cramer displays a stunning lack of empathy for victims and the trauma they experience,” said Julia Krieger, a Heitkamp spokeswoman.
Cramer did not immediately respond to a message seeking an interview about his latest remarks. Both Kavanaugh and Ford are slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Cramer has a history of stoking controversy with his remarks. Still, President Trump and other Republican leaders aggressively recruited him to run against Heitkamp. Party officials have said they have viewed North Dakota as the GOP’s best opportunity to flip a Senate seat from Democrat to Republican in recent months.
Republicans are defending a 51-49 Senate majority in the November midterms, making every top race critical to the battle for control of the upper chamber of Congress.
In the interview with Berg, Cramer argued that it would not have been typical for teenagers to be at parties with alcohol in the 1980s.
“Thirty-six years ago, it wasn’t that common for 15-year-olds to be at booze parties,” Cramer said.