Nearly three decades after her own brave testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, Anita Hill on Tuesday spoke out about the allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh and urged lawmakers not to repeat the mistakes that were made back then.
Hill, in a New York Times op-ed, joined Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups calling for “a thorough and transparent investigation” into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh tried to rape her when they were teenagers. Hill suggested the probe should be “guided by experts who have devoted their careers to understanding sexual violence.”
When Hill famously testified that Thomas—now a justice on the high court—sexually harassed her, “the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court,” she wrote. “It failed on both counts.”
That the committee “still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing,” she concluded, “much less the more recent #MeToo movement.”
Although Hill said it is “discouraging” that committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has scheduled a hearing for Monday—because “a week’s preparation is not enough time for meaningful inquiry into very serious charges”—she still offered some “basic ground rules” for the senators to follow:
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- Refrain from pitting the public interest in confronting sexual harassment against the need for a fair confirmation hearing;
- Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee;
- Do not rush these hearings; and
- Finally, refer to Christine Blasey Ford by her name.
Hill’s guidance comes amid mounting calls for Kavanaugh, who has denied Ford’s allegations, to withdraw from consideration. As of Monday afternoon, more than 800 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault had signed an open letter circulated by the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet urging senators to publicly oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee.
“We will not sit by and let Republicans use this hearing to attack, undermine and shame Ford,” declared UltraViolet executive director Shaunna Thomas. “The Senate must recognize that investigations and public hearings are systemically stacked against survivors of sexual assault—in this case, shifting the burden from Kavanaugh, who has already lied to the Senate, to Ford, who has no reason to lie.”
However, as Kavanaugh—who already was deeply unpopular before Ford’s allegations were made public—hasn’t given any indication that he will stop seeking a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court, other advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers are calling for a delay of any confirmation vote until the FBI can fully investigate Ford’s claims.
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