Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee evoked a wide range of reactions Thursday afternoon: doubt, support, anger and women telling their own stories of abuse.
On the right, skeptics of Ford focused on what they considered to be gaps in her memory and cast doubt on her claims that her trauma at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh left her with a lifelong fear of airplanes. “Ford Admits She Flies Often after Citing Fear of Flying to Delay Hearing,” read a headline in the conservative National Review. Donald Trump Jr. spent the morning and early afternoon retweeting those critical of Ford’s testimony:
Trump Jr. also wrote, “I’m no psychology professor but it does seem weird to me that someone could have a selective fear of flying. Can’t do it to testify but for vacation, well it’s not a problem at all.”
Ford actually is a psychology professor. Many others pointed out that they and friends they know have fears of flying but still fly places. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called the questions about flights “a distraction.”
Even the president’s favorite channel admitted things did not seem to be going well.
“This was extremely emotional, extremely raw and extremely credible,” said Fox News host Chris Wallace. “Nobody could listen to her deliver those words and talk about the assault and the impact it had had on her life and not have your heart go out to her. She obviously was traumatized by an event. … This is a disaster for the Republicans.”
Fox News’ panel of analysts also criticized the format of the hearing, with quick five-minute rounds for each senator and all 11 male Republicans ceding their time to a female outside counsel to question Ford. Frequent Fox News guest and Trump supporter Alan Dershowitz also thought Ford was credible and doubted Kavanaugh’s chances at confirmation.
“Ford will win the credibility determination,” said Dershowitz in a statement to the Washington Post. “If R’s were smart, they’d call Avenatti’s witness who would fall apart on cross examination. … if I had to bet at this point, I’d say that we will not see Justice Kavanaugh at the Supreme Court.”
On Wednesday, attorney Michael Avenatti released an affidavit from a client, Julie Swetnick, who said she had been gang-raped at a Maryland house party where Kavanaugh was present, and that she had seen Kavanaugh in a line of boys whom she understood to be waiting their turns to assault a woman.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who’s been outspoken in his belief that Kavanaugh will still be confirmed, spoke with reporters during a break and used Swetnick’s sensational and uncorroborated accusations to indirectly discredit Ford.
“What happened to [Ford]?” said Graham. “I don’t know. Why don’t you believe him? What is it about him you don’t want to believe? I know why [Democrats] don’t want to believe him. They were gonna vote [no] no matter what. They tried to destroy this guy’s life with one accusation after another. That he’s a serial rapist. That some woman said, I went to 10 parties where they were drugging and raping people. I don’t believe that one bit.”
Graham also criticized the absence of outside witnesses, although it was the choice of Republicans on the committee not to call anyone else to testify — notably Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s, who Ford said was in the room when she was groped and assaulted. The Washington Post has reported that Judge, who said via his lawyer he had no memory of the assault, is currently hiding out at a beach house in Delaware.
Graham also warned Democrats, “If this is the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.” (Former Sen. Al Franken, the Democrat from Minnesota who resigned earlier this year after accusations of sexual harassment, used to sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.)
Graham was absent from the hearing when testimony resumed after a lunch break.
Democratic Senators were effusive in their praise for Ford’s testimony.
“Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, you are a hero,” wrote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York on Twitter.
“Dr. Ford is not on trial,” wrote Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is on the Judiciary Committee. “She is sitting here because she has the courage to come forward and because it was her ‘civic duty.’ I believe her.
On C-SPAN, many callers contacted the network to describe their own accounts of sexual assault.
“I’m a 76-year-old woman who was sexually molested in second grade,” said one caller named Brenda. “This brings back so much pain. Thought I was over it, but [I’m] not. You will never forget it. You get confused and you don’t understand it, but you never forget what happened to you.”
At the conclusion of Ford’s testimony, multiple people in the room shouted, “Thank you, Dr. Ford.”
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