EDITORIAL: Republicans have learned very little since Anita Hill in 1991

SHARE EDITORIAL: Republicans have learned very little since Anita Hill in 1991

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, will respond Thursday, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, to allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in his teens. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty file

We’ve been here before.

A woman comes forward with allegations of sexual harassment or abuse by a man nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. She must testify about the abuse to other men, who are openly, even brazenly, hostile to her allegations and eager to discredit her.

How dare she accuse a powerful man of harassment and ruin his career?

Yes, America has been here before.

When law professor Anita Hill came forward in 1991 with her claim that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, Republicans champing at the bit to put Thomas on the court made it their business to discredit Hill and destroy her reputation. Democrats in the Senate, behind then-Judiciary Committee chair Joe Biden, let it happen.

America is about to find out how much progress has been made — if any — by the Senate, when Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist and professor, testifies before the committee on Thursday. Blasey Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when they both were teenagers on the raucous, booze-soaked college-prep party scene in Washington, D.C.


Blasey Ford’s allegations are just the beginning of what the FBI ought to be investigating right now.

A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, said earlier this week that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were both freshmen at Yale in the 1980s.

On Wednesday, a third woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward with more allegations: That as a teen, Kavanaugh and his friends plied girls with drugs and alcohol so that the girls could be gang-raped by a “train” of boys. Swetnick did not accuse Kavanaugh of raping anyone, but she did say that she was raped at a party that Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, attended.

On Wednesday evening, NBC News reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee was investigating an “anonymous complaint” that Kavanaugh assaulted a woman in 1998 during a night out drinking.

Yet GOP senators — eager to confirm Kavanaugh and curry favor with an irrational, abusive president and his conservative base — have refused to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote so a thorough investigation can be carried out. The Judiciary Committee is still scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday.

When Hill testified, she faced a committee of all men. Today, there are still no women among 11 Republicans on the Senate judiciary panel. Among the 10 Democrats are three women: ranking member Dianne Feinstein of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California.

The GOP is bringing in a female prosecutor from Arizona, Rachel Mitchell, to question Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. That doesn’t say much about the advancement of women in the party, but at least Blasey Ford probably will be treated better than Hill.

President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the high court, is leading his party inbehaving abominably on a daily basis. He tweeted last week, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place.”

Then there’s Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who talks as if he’s already pretty much made up his mind on Kavanaugh. “Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” he said Sunday on a Fox News program about Blasey Ford’s allegations.

As for Swetnick, it’s her fault, Graham claims: She was hanging around with the wrong crowd.

“I have a difficult time believing any person would continue to go to – according to the affidavit – 10 parties over a two-year period where women were routinely gang raped and not report it,” Graham said Wednesday. “Why would any reasonable person continue to hang around people like this?”

Of course, there’s also Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, an 84-year-old lawmaker who was on the Senate committee when Hill testified. Hatch has said of Blasey Ford, “Clearly, somebody’s mixed up.”

Clearly, Hatch hasn’t learned much since 1991. Let’s hope he and others in the GOP get some education quickly.

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