COLUMBIA, S.C. — As the Senate is divided on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, so too are women across the country.
Female voices have echoed throughout the U.S. Senate this week demanding male senators justify their support for Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination despite an allegation of high school sexual assault.
But other women have spent hours calling Senate offices in support of Kavanaugh, condemning what they saw as an anti-Republican ploy that’s damaged not only Kavanaugh’s reputation and livelihood but also his accuser’s.
To Hannah King, a college senior from Bristol, Tennessee, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of a drunken attack by Kavanaugh at a 1982 party when both were in high school were jarring and scary. But while King expressed empathy for Ford, she also said she’s concerned about the timing of Ford’s allegations, which surfaced publicly only after Kavanaugh — already a federal judge — was nominated to the Supreme Court.
“It was too timely and strategic,” said King, 21. “Anything like that makes you question how true it is.”
King spoke Friday after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. Hours later, Trump ordered an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh upon Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s insistence. Flake’s demand came after two women who said they had experienced sexual assault confronted him on an elevator at the Senate and demanded he take action against Kavanaugh. Two other women besides Ford have also lodged public sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.
“A lot of times, you cope by suppressing and forgetting,” said King, who leads the King University College Republicans. “But someone’s promotion isn’t something that should prompt someone to come forward.”
That sentiment was shared by Sarah Round, 69, a retired elementary school teacher of Newport Center, Vermont, who felt empathy for Ford but not at the expense of Kavanaugh’s reputation and future.
“Possibly something happened to her,” Round said. “But I think she embellished what happened, or she would have gone to some authority or said something about it years ago.”
Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel and a Republican state representative from Daniel Island, South Carolina, said she had been sexually assaulted as a teen herself. She expressed sympathy for Ford, but said Kavanaugh deserved protection, too.
“I’m very empathetic to women who’ve been through this type of situation,” said Mace, 40. “But on the other side, we have laws in this country that protect individuals from being wrongfully accused.”
Emma Scott, an 18-year-old University of South Carolina freshman from Charleston, South Carolina, said that, while she doesn’t doubt Ford endured a trauma of some kind, she wasn’t convinced it could be tied to Kavanaugh.
“If you’re going to use sexual assault to slow somebody down, it had better be the truth,” Scott said. “Even if Brett Kavanaugh is innocent, he is still going to live with this the rest of his life.”
Mace said that she viewed the testimony as an “at all costs” effort by Democrats to win back control in Congress and possibly hold the seat open until a future Democratic president can fill it.
“Ford is political collateral, and they do not care,” Mace said.
Susan Conger, 64, a former math teacher from Augusta, Georgia, who also worked in the Reagan administration, said she turned off her television during Thursday’s hearing but has followed the news coverage of the testimony.
“Instead of watching, I decided I would be better served by praying for the people who were talking and listening,” Conger said.
Conger has spent time volunteering with her local women’s Republican club, calling the offices of senators asking them to support Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“I’m sorry that this terrible thing happened to her at the hands of someone,” Conger said. “It’s not that I think that his accuser is a bad person. It’s not my job to judge her because I don’t know her.”
Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham — who gave a fiery defense of Kavanaugh after the judge’s testimony Thursday — said Graham’s office has received as many women calling in support of Kavanaugh as in opposition.
Round, of Vermont, said she feels the whole episode could end up hurting Democrats more than helping them in this fall’s elections, just more than a month away.
“I am digging my heels in, and I’m hoping that a lot of conservatives are determined to vote Republican,” Round said. “I think it’s galvanized the women on the right more than it’s galvanized the women on the left.”