After news broke on Friday that President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court has been accused of attempted sexual assault while in high school, some Republican lawmakers hoping to confirm Brett Kavanaugh rushed to his defense.
As The New Yorker first reported, Kavanaugh allegedly held a woman down as a high school student in the 1980s and tried to assault her. From that publication:
The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” Kavanaugh said in a statement to The New Yorker. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, acknowledged she had received a letter from the accuser and shared it with the FBI.
Top Republican lawmakers are already jumping to Kavanaugh’s defense. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, released a letter signed by more than 60 women who have known the nominee.
“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983,” the letter said. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect. We strongly believe it is important to convey this information to the Committee at this time.”
The women describe the young Kavanaugh as an “outstanding student and athlete with a wide circle of friends.”
As the Me Too movement has repeatedly pointed out, treating some people well does not mean an individual did not sexually abuse another.
The sheer number of signatures also led some observers to question whether Grassley’s office had known of the accusation before reports about the letter to Feinstein surfaced. Grassley’s office denied this, and one of the women who signed the letter tweeted on Friday that she only found out about it the night before.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) defended Kavanaugh while admonishing Democrats for bringing up the allegation. He also mentioned that 65 women have come to the judge’s defense.
“I do not intend to allow Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be stalled because of an 11th hour accusation that Democrats did not see fit to raise for over a month,” Hatch said in a statement. “The Senator in the best position to determine the credibility of these accusations made the conscious decision not to take action on them, and the authorities to whom the accusations have been referred have decided not to take action either. Judge Kavanaugh has denied these accusations categorically, the only other potential witness has no recollection of the alleged event, and now 65 women who knew Brett in high school have come forward as witnesses of his strong character.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another member of the Judiciary Committee, responded to the accusation dismissively by retweeting someone who had posted REO Speedwagon’s “Take It on the Run.” The lyrics include this line: “Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another you’ve been messing around.”
HuffPost has reached out to Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), who could ultimately be the swing votes on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
This story has been updated with comment from Hatch.