The South Carolina senator had just been speaking to reporters in the Capitol basement and criticized Blasey for being unable to remember the exact date she was allegedly assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. That was when a nearby activist, Robyn Swirling, told Graham she didn’t know the date she was raped 13 years ago.
Graham responded, “I’m sorry. ... You should have told the cops,” according to reporter Emma Dumain, who witnessed the exchange.
Swirling, the founder of anti-sexual harassment organization Works in Progress, wrote in her own tweet that Graham’s wording was slightly different: “I’m sorry, but then you should go to the cops.”
Graham has had a lot to say before and during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, telling reporters during the break that Blasey’s testimony was not convincing to him and that her “hiring a lawyer and taking a polygraph makes me more suspicious.”
“What happened to her, I don’t know. Why don’t you believe [Kavanaugh]? What is it about him you don’t want to believe?” Graham said. “They’ve tried to destroy this guy’s life with one accusation after another.”
The senator also appeared to threaten the Democrats’ future Supreme Court nominees by saying, “If this is the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.”
Later, after Blasey’s testimony ended, Graham went on another tear with reporters, saying: “I don’t know who paid for her polygraph, but somebody did. ... I feel ambushed.”
Swirling told HuffPost that from her vantage point, she thinks Graham’s comment “was a cruel, dismissive, and insensitive thing to say to a rape survivor who is asking you to respect and acknowledge and believe her experience.”
“Most people would be able to limit their comments to saying ‘I’m sorry,’” she said via email.
In another tweet, she added that if Graham “had paused to talk with me, instead of rushing into the elevator” she’d have “told him the cops can’t do anything about it now, but that doesn’t make it any less true and doesn’t make me any less credible.”
Additionally, Swirling recently penned a raw personal essay for HuffPost about being labeled the “class slut” in high school, in which she talks about sexual abuse and the emotional trauma it causes.
“In Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook, he identified himself as a ‘Renate Alumnius,’” Swirling wrote. “It was an allusion, repeated on other boys’ pages, to the supposed sexual conquest of a girl named Renate Schroeder.”
“This kind of macho bragging, whether based on real events or not, can give a young woman what’s politely referred to as ‘a reputation.’ What teenagers like Kavanaugh probably didn’t bother to consider is how giving a girl that kind of reputation can open her up to bullying, abuse and a lifetime of emotional trauma.”
Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.
This story has been updated with comment from Swirling.