The hanging parallels between Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas


What occurs to Kavanaugh subsequent shall be a take a look at of #MeToo.

It appears like 1991 once more.

That yr, Clarence Thomas was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to the Supreme Courtroom, and Anita Hill testified that he had sexually harassed her once they labored collectively a number of years prior. Sen. Joe Biden, then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, didn’t name extra witnesses whose testimony might have supported Hill’s account. Thomas has now served on the Supreme Courtroom for practically 30 years.

As we speak, the main points are completely different however the primary define is eerily related. In July, a girl reported to Democrats in Congress that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her once they had been each in highschool. He has denied the allegation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the rating Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, knew concerning the allegation however declined to share it with the opposite Democrats on the committee, in line with Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer at the New Yorker. So it didn’t come up throughout Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

Hill addressed the allegations against Kavanaugh on Friday, saying by a spokesperson that “the reluctance of somebody to come back ahead demonstrates that even within the #MeToo period, it stays extremely troublesome to report harassment, abuse or assault by folks in energy.” She added that “the Senate Judiciary Committee ought to put in place a course of that allows anybody with a criticism of this nature to be heard.”

Now the information is out, and the query is whether or not 2018 shall be a replay of 1991. The previous yr, in fact, has seen the rise of the #MeToo motion, as increasingly more People come ahead to report sexual harassment and assault. A few of these accused — although not all — have confronted vital penalties, together with the loss of their jobs or, in a couple of instances, criminal prosecution.

However the end result of the allegations towards Kavanaugh shall be a profound take a look at of the ability of #MeToo. Earlier than the motion started, a Supreme Courtroom nominee might be publicly accused of sexual misconduct and — due partly to the inaction of Democrats in Congress — be confirmed anyway. Thus far, Kavanaugh’s affirmation course of has unfolded in a lot the identical approach Thomas’s did. We’re about to seek out out if the end result would be the identical.

The parallels between the Thomas affirmation hearings and the Kavanaugh scenario are hanging

According to Farrow and Mayer, a girl wrote a letter in July to her Congress member, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), alleging that when she and Kavanaugh had been in highschool within the early 1980s, he tried to sexually assault her at a celebration. Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Preparatory Faculty in Bethesda, Maryland, and graduated in 1983, whereas the lady went to a neighboring faculty.

On the celebration, the lady stated Kavanaugh held her down and coated her mouth along with his hand, and that he and a classmate turned up the music within the room to drown out her voice. The lady stated the expertise brought on her ongoing ache and that she had sought psychological remedy in consequence.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” Kavanaugh stated in a press release to the New Yorker. “I didn’t do that again in highschool or at any time.”

Feinstein additionally obtained the letter, Farrow and Mayer report, however declined to share it along with her fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. “A supply conversant in the committee’s actions stated that Feinstein’s workers initially conveyed to different Democratic members’ places of work that the incident was too distant up to now to advantage public dialogue, and that Feinstein had ‘taken care of it,’” Farrow and Mayer write.

After contacting Eshoo and Feinstein, the lady apparently stopped attempting to talk out. “She had repeatedly reported the allegation to members of Congress and, watching Kavanaugh transfer towards what seemed like an more and more assured affirmation, she determined to finish her effort to come back ahead,” Farrow and Mayer write.

Her report may by no means have seen the sunshine of day, had Ryan Grim of the Intercept not reported on the existence of the letter on Wednesday. Now some progressive groups are calling for Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination. In the meantime, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, has launched a letter from 65 women who knew Kavanaugh in high school saying that he “behaved honorably and handled girls with respect.”

After the hearings final week, throughout which Kavanaugh provided evasive solutions to questions on abortion rights, affirmative action, and different topics, his affirmation appeared all however assured. It stays to be seen whether or not the newly revealed allegations will change issues.

President Bush Speals At Federalist Society’s Gala
Aude Guerrucci (Pool)/Getty Pictures
Supreme Courtroom Justice Clarence Thomas in 2007.

What is evident is that the parallels between Kavanaugh’s case and that of Clarence Thomas are hanging. In 1991, after Thomas was nominated, Hill instructed mates that he had harassed her when she labored for him on the Division of Schooling and the Equal Employment Alternative Fee, as Amanda Terkel notes at HuffPost. Particularly, Hill stated that Thomas had repeatedly subjected her to unwanted sexual comments, telling her about porn he watched and his sexual conduct, and making a joke a few pubic hair on a Coke can.

Biden had heard concerning the allegations however didn’t delay the Judiciary Committee’s vote on Thomas. It was solely after the vote, Terkel writes, that Hill was recognized within the press, and, below stress from girls in Congress, Biden reopened hearings to permit Hill to testify.

However Biden reportedly caved to Senate Republicans on various elements of the listening to course of. He let Thomas testify earlier than and after Hill, together with at 9 pm on a Friday when many People can be watching, Terkel writes. And as Farrow and Mayer notice (Mayer co-authored a 1994 book with Jill Abramson on the Thomas affirmation hearings), three girls had been keen to testify in assist of Hill’s account, however Biden didn’t name them.

Final yr, former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-CO) recalled what occurred when she complained to Biden that Thomas’s hearings had been being rushed. “He actually type of pointed his finger and stated, you don’t perceive how vital one’s phrase was within the Senate, that he had given his phrase to [Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), Thomas’s chief sponsor] within the males’s fitness center that this might be a really fast listening to, and he needed to get it out earlier than Columbus Day,” she told the Washington Post.

Hill needed to face testimony earlier than the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was an “erotomaniac” and lies about her within the press. The American Spectator called her “just a little bit nutty and just a little bit slutty.”

Race additionally turned an element within the hearings, with Thomas calling them “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks,” as Victoria M. Massie noted for Vox in 2016. In the meantime, Hill has requested, “how do you suppose sure folks would have reacted if I had come ahead and been white, blond-haired and blue-eyed?” Thomas was confirmed and sits on the Courtroom to at the present time.

What occurs subsequent shall be a take a look at of the #MeToo motion

Calls have been coming for months to revisit Hill’s stories within the context of #MeToo. In a cover story for New York magazine earlier this yr, Jill Abramson advised that maybe Thomas needs to be impeached for mendacity below oath about his conduct towards Hill. In an interview on Last Week Tonight this summer season, Hill stated “I’m feeling extra optimistic than I used to be 27 years in the past” and that harassers “needs to be terrified” of going through a reckoning.

However now the nation faces a take a look at of how a lot has actually modified. Like Biden, Feinstein was apparently unwilling to research allegations towards a nominee aggressively, although her causes seem considerably completely different.

“Sources conversant in Feinstein’s choice advised that she was performing out of concern for the privateness of the accuser, figuring out that the lady can be topic to fierce partisan assaults if she got here ahead,” Farrow and Mayer write. “Feinstein additionally acted out of a way that Democrats can be higher off focussing on authorized, somewhat than private, points of their questioning of Kavanaugh.”

On Friday, a Feinstein spokesperson issued a press release to media telling a considerably completely different model of occasions. “The Senator took these allegations severely and believed they need to be public,” the assertion stated. “Nonetheless, the lady in query made it clear she didn’t need this data to be public. It’s crucial in issues of sexual misconduct to guard the id of the sufferer once they want to stay nameless, and the senator did so on this case.”

Regardless of the case, as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp notes, if confirmed, Kavanaugh could cast the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and would certainly be an influential voice in various selections affecting girls’s rights. If he tried to assault a girl, even years in the past, and if he’s mendacity about that now, that data is extremely pertinent to his means to respect girls’s equality and autonomy in his selections.

If Farrow and Mayer’s reporting is right, Feinstein apparently acted in a approach that, even given her reported concern for the accuser, feels very 1991. She appears to have been banking on the concept drawing consideration to the allegations towards Kavanaugh can be a shedding transfer for Democrats. Primarily, she seems to have been betting towards #MeToo, figuring that the ability of public outcry towards sexual misconduct can be too weak a weapon towards the nominee. We’re about to seek out out if she was proper.

Thus far, it has been laborious to measure the influence of #MeToo. We are able to level to the firings of high-profile males, but it surely’s harder to inform how values and attitudes within the nation are altering. However now, senators are hurtling toward a chance both to ship a person accused of tried sexual assault to the Supreme Courtroom or to resolve that such allegations disqualify him from one of many highest places of work within the nation, one that may give him the ability to make selections with life-or-death penalties for People.

Within the coming days, Republicans and Democrats will certainly weigh how their constituents will view their motion — or inaction — on Kavanaugh’s affirmation. The place they arrive down will say so much about what’s modified, and what hasn’t, since 1991.

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