As Final Vote Nears, Republicans Slime Ford and Sexual Assault Survivors in All the Predictable Ways

“Ms. Ford has got a problem…”

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Before Christine Blasey Ford appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) assured everyone she “deserves to be heard” in an “appropriate, precedented and respectful manner.” Even after Ford carefully detailed horrific allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republican leaders restrained themselves from directly attacking Ford or her story.

“I thought she looked credible,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican. Ford was a “good witness” and “articulate,” offered Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who condemned last week’s hearing as “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” called Ford’s testimony “very sincere.” Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, the subject of more than a dozen accusations of sexual misconduct, said Ford was “very credible.” 

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway described the Republicans’ approach as extraordinarily measured, all things considered. Ford “has been treated like a Fabergé egg by all of us, beginning with me and the president,” she said.

But with the Senate set to vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation as early as this weekend, Republicans’ restraint has been replaced by contempt. Here are some of the more aggressive attacks they have leveled at Ford and survivors of sexual assault all in defense of their Supreme Court nominee: 

McConnell calls allegations against Kavanaugh “uncorroborated mud”

In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his colleagues not to be “hoodwinked” by “those who have tried to smear a good man.” Ford’s allegation was nothing more than “uncorroborated mud,” he said. McConnell, who reportedly advised the White House against selecting Kavanaugh as its nominee, has been his unflagging supporter through a nomination process that now includes several accusations of sexual misconduct from the judge’s high school and college years. “There is absolutely no corroborating evidence for these allegations,” McConnell said

Graham says Ford “has a problem” that accusing Kavanaugh “won’t fix”

Hours after his fiery defense of Kavanaugh won widespread plaudits on the right, Graham went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last week and directly challenged Ford.

“Ms. Ford has got a problem, and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem,” he said. Graham did not specify what “problem” he was referring to.

As Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) pointed out during the hearing, Graham’s defense of Kavanaugh marks a sharp change of tune from what the three-term South Carolina senator once wrote when he was a prosecutor: “I learned how much unexpected courage from a deep and hidden place it takes for a rape victim or sexually abused child to testify against their assailants.”

Republicans claim protesters were “rude” and funded by George Soros

Hundreds of protesters—many in opposition to Kavanaugh, some in support of him—have flooded Capitol Hill as the Senate nears its final confirmation vote. (More than 300 protesters were arrested yesterday alone for “unlawfully demonstrating” in Senate office buildings, Politico reported.) Last week, Maria Gallagher and Maria Archila, each of whom is a sexual assault survivor, confronted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator before he attended a Judiciary Committee meeting. “You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter. That what happened to me doesn’t matter. And that you’re going to let the people who do these things into power,” Gallagher told Flake in a video of the exchange that later went viral. 

Shortly after the encounter, Flake voted to move Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor but attached a demand that the FBI conduct a supplemental investigation into the allegations that Ford and other accusers, like Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez and high school acquaintance Julie Swetnick, have brought forward. The request delayed a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation by at least a week and frustrated some Republicans, including Trump, who described the “elevator screamers”—without evidence—as paid protesters. 

Before Trump’s tweet, Grassley echoed similar language in an interview on Fox Business, during which he also claimed the protesters were funded by influential Democratic donor George Soros. “I have heard so many people believe that,” he said. “I tend to believe it.” Grassley’s colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Hatch, had his own run-in with protesters in the Senate Office Building on Thursday. After they approached him in an elevator, he waved them off and said, “When you grow up, I’ll be glad to” speak with you. 

Trump targets Ford on Twitter and mocks her at rally

Having once called Ford “very credible,” Trump quickly returned to form in the days after her testimony. From his Twitter account and at the lectern during a rally in Mississippi, the president launched an extended attack that left moderate Republican senators uneasy and enraged Ford’s supporters. As Mother Jones reported earlier this week:

“Thirty-six years ago, this happened: I had one beer. Right? I had one beer,” he said, referring to Ford’s account on the night she was allegedly assaulted by Kavanaugh. “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember,” he continued, ridiculing Ford’s recollections. “But I had one beer, that’s the only thing I remember.”

Two senators whose votes Trump will need to elevate Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court—Flake and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)—noted their displeasure with his diatribe. “It’s kind of appalling,” Flake said. Collins called the president’s comments “wholly inappropriate” and “unacceptable.” 

Trump had previously questioned why Ford did not report her accusation several decades ago. That tweet, in addition to other attacks on Ford’s credibility, sparked the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, where survivors of sexual abuse “highlight the difficulties, fear, anger and shame that so often surround sexual harassment and assault,” the New York Times reported.

Donald Trump Jr. questions Ford’s “selective” fear of flying

One of the more curious moments of Ford’s testimony was when Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor enlisted by the Republican Judiciary Committee members to question her, honed in on Ford’s flying habits. Ford had previously told friends that a lifelong fear of flying stemmed from the aftereffects of her assault. As Mitchell attempted to probe this claim, the president’s son opined on Twitter:

It was not the first time Trump Jr. has chimed in on sexual assault in with stunning insensitivity. A week prior to Ford’s testimony, Trump Jr. posted a picture to his Instagram account that made light of the allegations against Kavanaugh by comparing them to a letter a child would write to an elementary school crush. “Hi Cindy, will you be my girlfriend,” the letter read. “Oh boy…the Dems and their usual nonsense games really have him on the ropes now,” Trump Jr. added.