Editorial: Kavanaugh sexual assault investigation necessary



Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5. (Christy Bowe/Globe Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Since the dawn of the #MeToo movement, hundreds of women have levied sexual assault allegations against prominent men in Hollywood, Washington and major corporations. President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, joined the list of the accused last week after Christine Blasey Ford said in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in the 1980s.

Although Ford’s allegations appear credible, Republicans have decided to forego an investigation, instead issuing Ford an ultimatum — she can testify before the Senate by Friday, or the Senate will move forward with a vote as if no accusations were made.

This is an extremely negligent decision — in light of the #MeToo movement, which has shown that sexual assault is quite commonplace in the upper rungs of society, Republicans should know to take sexual assault accusations seriously. Yet they dismiss Ford’s allegations for political purposes — because that’s the only reason to rush to a confirmation vote.

The Senate can vote on a Supreme Court justice following the committee’s vote, if their chairman decides to hold one. So if Republicans sincerely believe Kavanaugh is innocent, then they should demand a full investigation, not fight it.

But instead, the party has tried to undermine Ford’s sexual assault allegations by accusing Democrats of trying to mount a smear campaign against Kavanaugh at the last minute.

“Senator Feinstein has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

While it’s true that Feinstein has known about the sexual assault accusations for a couple of weeks, Ford requested that her name be kept confidential, so bringing up her accusations during the hearings would’ve disrespected her wishes.

Republicans’ unwillingness to accommodate a probable victim of sexual assault is appalling — but it’s nothing new. Anita Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual assault in 1991 when he was undergoing confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court — and Senators on all sides didn’t take her accusations seriously.

Sen. Howell Heflin D-Ala., a conservative democrat, even asked Hill if she was a “scorned woman” out for revenge. She subsequently received death threats from complete strangers and was nearly fired from her job.

The treatment of Anita Hill was unacceptable in 1991, and in light of the #MeToo movement, the treatment of Ford is even more unacceptable today.

“I think it’s ironic that we have senators who are deciding about who is going to sit on the highest court, but they can’t really put partisanship aside long enough to put together a fair hearing to get to the truth about this situation,” Hill said.

If Republicans keep favoring their political interests over the rights of alleged victims of assault, it won’t matter who they put on the Supreme Court, they’ll always be on the wrong side of history.