By Dean Arrindell
Sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh could slow and possibly stall his appointment to the high court.
On Sunday, the Washington Post spoke to Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, who said that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in the early 1980s.
Ford sent a letter in late July detailing the allegations to her local representative, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., and to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ford said that when her identity began to be revealed and inaccurate information about her began circulating, she decided to come forward. She told the Washington Post, “Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”
Kavanaugh calls the charge a “false allegation.” In his second denial statement, he said, “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone.”
The allegations and their revelation show certain similarities to Anita Hill’s 1991 allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Twenty-seven years ago, Anita Hill, then a professor at the University of Oklahoma, alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed her when the two worked together at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Hill said that Thomas repeatedly asked her out, and that when she refused, described pornographic movies to her in graphic detail.
Hill sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the allegations during Thomas’ confirmation process. At first, Hill did not want her name used publicly.
After the all-white, all-male committee voted 7-7 to push through Thomas’ nomination, Newsday and NPR revealed Hill’s allegations, and she changed her mind and came forward. “Here is a person who is in charge of protecting rights of women and other groups in the workplace, and he is using his position of power for personal gain,” she said in an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg. “And he did it in a very — just ugly and intimidating way.”
Both Hill and Thomas testified before the committee. Hill said that at first she was initially reluctant to come forward, but felt a “duty to report” the allegations to the committee.
Thomas has consistently denied the allegations, and at the time, called the hearings “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Thomas was voted in by the Senate by 52 votes to 48, with the help of 11 Democrats.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote Thursday on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but several senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, have said that Ford should be heard.
Despite the similarities between the two cases, many factors have changed since 1991: The judiciary committee is more diverse, the #MeToo Movement has captured the public imagination, and Congress is far more partisan.
Responding to the allegations against Kavanaugh, Hill said Friday that a “fair and neutral” process should be set up to investigate the allegations. “The Senate Judiciary Committee should put in place a process that enables anyone with a complaint of this nature to be heard,” Hill said.
“I have seen firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized against an accuser, and no one should have to endure that again.”