There has been nearly universal support for having Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding her accusation against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Republicans on the committee joined with Democrats in urging she be heard, and they treated her respectfully during her testimony.
In New Hampshire, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently called for Dr. Ford to be given a fair hearing, and after her testimony he released a statement urging the Senate to “think carefully about the next steps in the process.” Democrats like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (“Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was detailed, emotional and credible. I believe her. #BelieveSurvivors” ) and Rep. Annie Kuster (“As a survivor who didn’t share my own assault for 40 years, I believe Dr. Ford”) spoke out on her behalf.
The same cannot be said, however, regarding the shocking–and many say ridiculous–allegations made byJulie Swetnick.
“I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys. I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room,” Swetnick claims.
Her claim that, as a teenager, Brett Kavanaugh helped run “gang rape” parties–but somehow nobody in these small, private Catholic school communities knew about it, remembered it, or ever mentioned it in any of Judge Kavanaugh’s six FBI background checks–is not being given the same standing as the credible (if not confirmable) allegation made by Dr. Ford.
The fact that Ms. Swetnick is represented by porn-star attorney Michael Avenatti isn’t adding weight to her already difficult-to-believe story. Most Democrats have simply declined to discuss them seriously.
Most. But not all.
New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan has embraced Swetnick and her claims, tweeting:
“Today, a third woman came forward and bravely shared a credible allegation involving Judge Kavanaugh. The FBI needs to investigate. Tomorrow’s hearing should be postponed. This is very simple – the Senate needs to take survivors seriously.” [emphasis added]
Unlike Sen. Shaheen, who merely suggested that Swetnick’s allegation “underscores the need for an FBI investigation,” Sen. Hassan goes “Full Avenatti”–calling the bizarre charges “credible” and the accuser “brave.” In fact, Sen. Hassan’s handling of the Kavanaugh controversy has been much more aggressive than her fellow Granite State senator all along.
While Sen. Shaheen has only posted a few tweets and statements about the Kavanaugh case, Sen. Hassan has posted a litany of tweets claiming that Dr. Ford specifically–and alleged victims of sexual assault generally–are being “silenced” and denied justice. That’s an interesting argument to make at the very moment that a woman whose allegation has no supporting evidence and contradicts the testimony of her only alleged witnesses was repeating her uncorroborated allegations on national television at the invitation of the GOP-controlled Senate.
And while Sen. Hassan was insisting that “survivors are still not being listened to and taken seriously,” Sen. Shaheen was expressing her concern over “the threats made to both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and their families,” calling them “deeply regrettable.”
“We all must do better,” Shaheen said. Such sentiments are notably absent from Sen. Hassan. Instead, Sen. Hassan complains that “too many of my colleagues are focusing on what is at risk for Judge Kavanaugh. They should focus more on what these women are risking by speaking out.” [emphasis added]
Is it possible to focus on both?
In the fight between “innocent until proven guilty” and “all women must be believed,” Sen. Hassan has come down clearly and solidly on the side of the latter–even when the woman in question is making claims about gang-rape parties that are difficult to believe. Sen. Hassan has apparently made the determination that the force of the #MeToo moment is more powerful than people’s concerns about due process or fairness for the accused.
And that strategy makes sense–in California or Massachusetts. It will be interesting to see how it plays in New Hampshire.