Both of Mississippi’s Republican U.S. senators expressed no change of heart after Thursday’s historic committee hearing featuring Christine Blasey Ford, one of two women to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary committee on Thursday, recounting the evening 36 years ago in which she said she was sexually assaulted by President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh later gave forceful testimony denying the allegations.
Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith – the first woman to ever represent Mississippi in Washington – dismissed Ford’s allegations as a partisan attack and expressed support for Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Let’s be clear: Opponents of Judge Kavanaugh are engaged in character assassination to destroy the reputation of a devoted public servant and a loving husband and father,” Hyde-Smith tweeted from her campaign’s Twitter account just minutes after Ford was dismissed. “I will not stand by and watch it happen.”
“I watched today’s hearing with an open mind,” Wicker said in a statement after the hearing concluded on Thursday. “We saw Dr. Ford make a serious claim, and we saw Judge Kavanaugh strongly and effectively deny the charges made against him. There are no witnesses and no evidence to substantiate these or any of the allegations that have been made. In fact, the allegations made by Dr. Ford have been refuted by all the witnesses she claimed were present. The accusations are also wildly inconsistent with the upstanding reputation Judge Kavanaugh has earned throughout his life among those who know him best. We also cannot allow the political tactics of Senate Democrats to further delay this process as they have sought to do since the beginning. It is time to move forward and for the Senate to vote.”
Neither senator from Mississippi sits on the Senate Judiciary committee, which is expected to vote whether to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination in the coming days. If the committee confirms the nomination – expected as early as Friday morning – Wicker and Hyde-Smith are expected to vote to approve the nomination when it is brought before the full Senate body.
The Senate Judiciary testimony marked an extraordinary and emotional day in Washington. After Ford answered detailed questions by a prosecutor brought in by Republican senators, Kavanaugh appeared before the committee to defend himself. Tempers flared and tears flowed as two very different stories of the allegations were presented to senators.
Ford insisted she wanted to testify “because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.” After facing days scrutiny, she maintained on Thursday that she was “one hundred percent” sure that Kavanaugh assaulted her.
“He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me,” Ford said during the hearing, her voice cracking several times during her testimony. “I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes.”
When Kavanaugh later took the stand before the committee, he adamantly denied the allegations, expressing anger at the ordeal.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford,” Kavanaugh said, raising his voice, cutting off senators and fighting back tears during his testimony. “I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation. I have never sexually assaulted Dr. Ford or anyone.”
The political stakes of the moment are high. Republican strategists have expressed concern over how the dismissal of Ford’s allegation will play – particularly with women –in the midterms. With 35 Senate seats up for grabs in November, the moment could determine which party earns the majority for the second half of Trump’s presidency.
Partisan politics were on full display at the hearings on Thursday. Several Republican senators condemned the questioning and actions of their Democratic colleagues on Thursday, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, who said: “This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, tweeted support of Graham during Kavanaugh’s testimony: “My friend (Lindsey Graham) brought the truth with him today.”
Kavanaugh turned his complete focus, at times during his testimony, to politics.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’”
“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit,” he continued. “Never.”
Ford shot down the notion that partisan politics inspired her to bring forward her account, insisting that she was in Washington on her own accord.
“I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives,” Ford said. “Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person, and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”