US Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono has refused to say that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should enjoy a presumption of innocence regarding recent sexual misconduct allegations, citing the judge’s “credibility issues”.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Hirono was asked about a Wall Street Journal editorial in which the paper argued that the presumption of innocence — “a core tenet of American law” — was being ignored by her and other Democrats in the Kavanaugh case.
The paper’s editorial board claimed that the Democrats’ standard for sexual assault allegations was that they should be accepted as true “merely for having been made” and that the burden is on the accused to prove their innocence, writing that this kind of approach “turns American justice and due process upside down.”
But Hirono appeared uninterested in the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and told Tapper that the newspaper’s attitude is the kind of thing that “makes it really difficult for victims and survivors of these kinds of traumatic events to even come forward.” Women like Kavanaugh’s accuser, Professor Christine Blasey Ford, “need to be believed,” she added.
Asked directly by Tapper whether Kavanaugh should have the same presumption of innocence “as anyone else in America,” Hirono dodged the question. She merely put Kavanaugh’s denial of the accusations “in the context” of everything she knows about how he approaches legal cases and his “inability to be fair,” citing Kavanaugh’s anti-abortion views.
Probing further, Tapper said it sounded like Hirono was using the fact that she disagreed with Kavanaugh on policy as a reason not to believe his denial of sexual misconduct allegations.
“It sounds to me like you’re saying, because you don’t trust him on policy and because you don’t believe him when he says, for instance, that he does not have an opinion on Roe v. Wade, you don’t believe him about this allegation about what happened at this party in 1982? Is that fair?” he asked.
Hirono was evasive again, arguing that it was “so important that there be at least an investigation” into the allegations. Even before the Ford allegations were made public, Hirono said Kavanaugh had “credibility issues”. Last week, she also faced criticism after claiming that the men in the US need to “shut up and step up” and “do the right thing for a change” by supporting Ford.
Asked by Tapper about domestic violence accusations made against her Democratic colleague, Congressman Keith Ellison, Hirono agreed that those also “need to be investigated” but diverted the conversation immediately back to Kavanaugh.
In addition to the allegation of attempted rape by Ford, another woman has come forward, accusing Kavanaugh of exposing his genitals to her at a dormitory party in the 1980s. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied both allegations and has been backed up by the White House, which said they were “designed to tear down a good man.”
Republicans widely view the new allegations of misconduct against Kavanaugh as a last-ditch effort to stall his nomination and prevent him from being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, which would tilt the balance of the court to the right.
Both Kavanaugh and Ford are expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
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