PoliticsSupreme Court


Brett Kavanaugh Accusations Echo A Previous High-Profile SCOTUS Saga

He's not the first Supreme Court nominee to be accused of sexual misconduct: Justice Clarence Thomas faced allegations from Anita Hill.
Posted at 7:27 PM, Sep 17, 2018

A new sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh echoes another time when a bombshell accusation threatened to derail a nominee to the nation's highest court. 

In 1991, senators were gearing up to vote on the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas — nominated by President George H.W. Bush — to the Supreme Court when law professor Anita Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her in the workplace. 

The allegations prompted senators to reopen Thomas' hearing to allow Hill to testify about his behavior toward her.

"His conversations were very vivid," Hill said. "He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films, involving  such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes."

Now, President Donald Trump's nominee to the court is also facing an accusation from another professor. Christine Blasey Ford says Kavanaugh pinned her down, groped her and tried to take her clothes off at a party in the 1980s, when they were both in high school. 

There are notable differences between the two accusations. Thomas was accused of verbal workplace harassment as a man in his 30s. Ford says Kavanaugh physically assaulted her when they were both teenagers.

But the late-hour bombshell hearkens back to what took place 27 years ago.

Both women were initially hesitant to reveal their identities. Hill had only spoken to a few close friends and later spoke privately with senate aides and the FBI. Ford told California Sen. Dianne Feinstein about the incident in July but asked that the information be kept private. 

Both women's stories were revealed in news reports, and in both cases, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were criticized for not saying anything sooner. 

In a statement on Friday, Hill said: "The reluctance of someone to come forward demonstrates that even in the #MeToo era, it remains incredibly difficult to report harassment, abuse or assault by people in power. I have seen firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized against an accuser, and no one should have to endure that again."

Thomas was eventually confirmed in one of the closest Supreme Court confirmation votes ever. But Hill's testimony inspired a generation of women to seek public office, and in 1992 a record number of women won seats in Congress, including Sens. Feinstein and Patty Murray. It became known as "The Year of the Woman."

Kavanaugh's sexual assault allegation comes one year into the #MeToo movement, which has already seen members of Congress, including Democratic Sen. Al Franken, lose their seats over allegations of sexual misconduct.

In a statement, Kavanaugh said he "categorically and unequivocally" denies the allegation. The White House backed up Kavanaugh on Monday.

Now the question is whether Kavanaugh's confirmation will be a replay of Thomas' in 1991.

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced today it will hold a public hearing with both Kavanaugh and Ford on Monday.