Wicker, Hyde-Smith defend president’s comments on Kavanaugh accuser

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Tom Williams, CQ Roll Call

Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., talk before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on June 26, 2018.

While President Donald Trump has incurred some bipartisan criticism for his stinging comments Tuesday night in DeSoto County about Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony of an alleged sexual assault, Mississippi’s two senators defended his remarks.

Both U.S. senators, Roger Wicker of Tupelo and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven, were on hand for the remarks in Southaven where Trump derided Ford for her accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“I continue to believe Judge Kavanaugh deserves to be confirmed based on his impeccable qualifications,” said Hyde-Smith, who along with Wicker traveled from Washington, D.C., to the Mississippi rally on Air Force One with the president. “The issue of sexual assault and harassment should be taken seriously, and the Senate has done so. I’ve heard from Mississippians who are upset that Senate Democrats have used unproven allegations to drag Judge Kavanaugh and his family through the mud.

“While I certainly believe both the accuser and the accused should always be treated with respect, I think the reaction to President Trump pointing out significant inconsistencies in the attacks on Judge Kavanaugh simply reflects a deep frustration with how this process has been politicized.”

Wicker said, “It was clear to me the president was pointing out the lack of evidence or witnesses to support the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. With so many unsubstantiated claims, lies, and other smears being spread about Judge Kavanaugh, I’m not surprised the crowd overwhelmingly approved of the president’s strong defense of his nominee.”

Various national news organizations reported that the DeSoto County crowd laughed and cheered as Trump “mocked” Ford, a California research psychologist.

Of the episode, Stuart Stevens, a Mississippi native and Republican campaign consultant who has worked on numerous Senate campaigns and for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, said on social media, “Mississippians I know disagree – a lot – on politics but laughing at the mocking of a person, man or woman, who expresses pain is unimaginable. It is antithetical to Christian compassion. Who are these people?”

Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the three Republican senators who demanded an FBI investigation of the sexual assault allegations before a Senate vote on the Kavanaugh confirmation, also condemned the remarks from the president. Collins called the comments “plain wrong.”

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who also attended the rally and spoke, did not respond Wednesday to questions about the president’s remarks.

After ridiculing Ford, Trump said, “Think of your son. Think of your husband.”

Of the comments, state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who is running against Wicker, said, “I was very disappointed. I think it demeans the office of president. Probably more importantly, it undermines the courageous action of Dr. Blasey Ford and serves to keep other victims of sexual assault from coming forward.”

He added he would hope that Wicker and Hyde-Smith would voice opposition to the remarks, but was not optimistic that they would.

Mike Espy, the former secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration, and state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, both of whom are challenging Hyde-Smith in the Nov. 6 election, did not respond to questions about the president’s comments. In the past, McDaniel has voiced strong support for Kavanaugh while Espy has advocated obtaining more information before a Senate vote on his confirmation.