Amajla Tricic,News Editor
Capitol Hill was rocked on Sept. 26 following testimony from Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Scheduled after an allegation made by Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s surfaced last month, the hearing pitted the account of the former high school classmates against one another all while the Judiciary Committee’s handling of the situation came under scrutiny.
The hearing, Professor of Government and Politics Daniel Tagliarina said, was strange to say the least.
“I think the Senate’s handling of the investigation was, to quote Judge Kavanaugh, a bit of a ‘circus,’” Tagliarina said. “The format was bizarre with the constant back and forth, and the five-minute time limit prevented any real substantive probing of the most important issues.”
Tagliarina explained that it was important for the Senate to reach out to experts, but the use of Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell was “unusual.”
“It was clear that the Republican senators wanted to avoid the visual of having a panel of old white males question Dr. Ford, but it also created the impression that they were incapable of doing their job (investigating and vetting a Supreme Court nominee),” he said. “This became more troubling when the Republican senators stopped using their own hired expert during their questioning of Kavanaugh. Why have a sex crimes prosecutor if you only want her to question the accuser and not the accused?”
Tagliarina said that Mitchell should have questioned Kavanaugh as much as she questioned Ford because it was a poor use of both time and expertise.
“It is also interesting that they would call in a prosecutor when this is not a criminal trial and the expectations and burden of proof are not the same as they would be during a criminal trial,” Tagliarina said.
He said that the Senate handled the case in a disorganized manner due to their refusal to have a FBI investigation and unwillingness to put proper time and resources into the case, which can affect the accuracy of the testimony.
Tagliarina explained the parallels to the 1991 appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas, who was accused of sexual misconduct by Anita Hill.
“Both Thomas and Kavanaugh fervently denied the accusations against them, and both lashed out at the process during their defense,” he said. “Much of the way Senate Republicans are responding now seems to mirror the way then-Senate Republicans responded to the allegations against Thomas. When Anita Hill made her allegations, there was an FBI investigation.”
Tagliarina explained that the difference between the two cases is most apparent when looking at the makeup of the current Senate Judiciary Committee. During Thomas’ confirmation, the committee was made up solely of males; Democrats in 2018 supported Dr. Ford but many aggressively attacked Hill’s character in 1991.
“The allegations themselves are quite different,” Tagliarina said. “Not to downplay the seriousness of sexual harassment, which was the core of the charges against Thomas, multiple women have now accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. This means that instead of just unwanted comments, the allegations against Kavanaugh extend into unwanted touching and the use of force against women.”
While the possibility of an FBI investigation was broached numerous times throughout the hearing, Tagliarina explained that the various responses from members of the Judiciary Committee towards the idea of investigators further examining Ford’s claims largely fell under party lines.
“As much as Kavanaugh did not contribute to a meaningful investigation into the allegations against him, he did seem to successfully frame this as a partisan issue, and in so doing, secured further Republican support for his nomination [including the president’s],” Tagliarina said. “If that was his goal, he succeeded.”
Jannet Nuhanovic, a sophomore at Utica College, thinks the country should not have a political leader who has sexual assault allegations against him.
“Kavanaugh is in a position of higher power and the hearing didn’t give enough justice to Ford and to sexual assault survivors,” Nuhanovic said. “As a country, no one will ever get the justice they deserve if cases like these aren’t taken seriously.”
Amanda Rossi, a junior, called the entire hearing, especially Kavanaugh’s behavior during his testimony, unprofessional.
“I feel like if he did not do it, he would’ve acted more rational,” Rossi said. “People might just take him more seriously, but he decided to act like the one who was [assaulted].”
Rossi stated that it is important to believe women and survivors. Cases like Ford’s, Rossi said, have frightened her, and she is frustrated that men have tried to make rules based on how women should take care of themselves rather than teach individuals not to abuse others.
“How are we supposed to take care of ourselves if no one believes us (women) and everyone judges us,” Rossi said.