Much of the United States spent Thursday glued to cellphones, TV screens and laptops as Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they both were in high school — and Kavanaugh insisted that he had not.
But it wasn’t only Americans watching the live stream. Around the world, from Ghana and Congo to Ireland and China, non-Americans also spent hours watching — some in fascination and some in horror — as the highly charged hearing unfolded.
The Washington Post spoke to some international viewers and collected others' opinions via social media to find out how the rest of the world saw Thursday’s hearing.
Ghana: Nana Agyei Baffour Awuah, a prominent Ghanaian lawyer and managing partner at SBA & Partners law firm in Accra, said in a phone call that he found Ford to be a very believable victim. But regardless of whether the assault occurred, he said, Kavanaugh “showed his true colors” in his responses to senators' questioning, describing him as overly aggressive.
Would Kavanaugh’s behavior have been considered acceptable in Ghana? Awuah said absolutely not. “People would have asked for him to be rejected, and I can imagine that it would have been a cross-party consensus,” he said.
He added that he thinks Kavanaugh “failed the temperament test, also the independence of the impartiality test for me." Awuah also said he was alarmed by what he saw as Kavanaugh’s politicization of the process, calling some of his comments that he saw as pitting Democrats against Republicans “very crazy."
“Is that something a judge going to the Supreme Court should say?” he asked. Awuah said he thought that if Kavanaugh were presiding in a courtroom and someone else spoke that way in front of him, there is “no question in my mind he would have convicted such a person for contempt of court.”
China: On the Chinese social media site Weibo, users were following a hashtag referring to Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegation, which had drawn 1.3 million views by Friday afternoon Beijing time. Some posters seemed to believe Ford’s testimony and commended her for coming forward, while others viewed her accusation as a political ploy. One said: “The Kavanaugh incident was entirely planned by the old witch Feinstein. Lock her up!" Another wrote that “America’s political norms have crumbled to the point where now Kavanaugh’s hysterical posture is completely unsurprising.”
Ireland: John O’Dowd, who teaches law at University College Dublin, said the hearing was widely discussed in Ireland. He said one of the most shocking details to Irish observers was that “the committee doesn’t really have a neutral investigative arm, so everything becomes reduced to a partisan conflict,” he said.
“In Ireland, although politicians have very strong views about selection of judges, no one is suggesting that politicians themselves should be involved in assessing the suitability or making determinations about their fitness, except to some extent when it gets to the level of executive,” he said, speaking by phone.
If anything, O’Dowd said, Thursday’s hearing just reinforced the conviction in Ireland that “the American system is the one not to adopt.”
India: Vrinda Grover, a high-profile Indian lawyer, wrote on Facebook that she was “hooked watching the live telecast of the hearing.”
“I wonder if some day in India, in appointments to the judiciary, there will be a strict scrutiny of the nominee’s conduct and treatment toward women? Some day will indecency, sexual misconduct be the deciding factor in appointments to the judiciary?" she wrote. She then listed examples of law interns in India claiming that supreme court judges had sexually harassed them.
France: Natasha Carleton, a Congo-born British citizen who lives in France, said in a phone call that she was “shocked” and “very emotional about” Thursday’s hearing. She said she learned only last year that her mother had been sexually assaulted as a young woman and was told at the time: “You should be happy to be alive. You have nothing to complain about.”
“That was in the 20th century, this is in the 21st century, and we still don’t listen to women,” Carleton said.
Kenya: Alex Omondi, a Kenyan Twitter user, wrote that he thinks “a candidate seeking a position before a house committee does not behave like that unless he knows he has the backing of well placed friends."
"I have a problem with people who want to be authorities but can’t subject themselves to the powers of other authorities,” he said.
Britain: Jane Williams, a lawyer in London, told The Post she fully accepts “that the allegations against [Kavanaugh] have not been (and may never be) proven to the requisite criminal standard of proof.
“But his demeanor during the hearing, his obfuscation, his attitude towards the female senators who questioned him and his poorly controlled aggression are enough in my view to make him unsuitable for the Supreme Court," she wrote.
Williams added that, speaking as a foreigner, “the political nature of the process is a fascinating (but to me, I confess, horrifying) contrast to the system we have here, and it seemed to me that Judge Kavanaugh was aiming to please Trump with his performance.”
Turkey: Banu Altunbas, a Turkish humanitarian development worker based in Congo, said it would be hard to compare the United States and Turkey because the contexts are so different. But she said she thought the hearing turned into too much of “a drama.”
“This is about establishing the character of a person who is going to be appointed for a lifetime,” she said in a phone interview. “I thought he was too defensive, I thought he was too aggressive, and I don’t know why he needed to cry all the time."
Altunbas has worked with victims of sexual violence throughout her career. “If somebody says ‘this happened to me,’ take it at face value and believe it, because it is a big deal for women to talk about these experiences,” she said. “Wherever you are, whether you’re in the Western world, in Congo, in Darfur.”
The Netherlands: Vincent van Roon, who identified himself as a city council member in the Netherlands, said in a tweet that the "demeanor of both sides in the hearing absolutely shatters ideal/fiction that judges are non-political.”
“Whatever happens next, the court will take a huge hit in legitimacy in the eyes of half the country,” he wrote.
Yang Liu in Beijing contributed to this report.