Professor Christine Blasey Ford has given emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Ford was probed for more than four hours by senators and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, an expert in investigating sex crimes who was selected by Republicans. The hearing was a rollercoaster of emotion, with Democrats taking every opportunity to praise Ford’s courage in coming forward, while Mitchell delivered the tougher questioning, challenging her on a number of issues, including the circumstances surrounding her polygraph test and her fear of flying.
Anxiety and emotion
Ford, who appeared anxious and nervous throughout, gave an account of her memories from the night of the alleged attack, with her voice frequently breaking as she spoke. She told the committee that she wished she could provide more detailed answers to questions, but said she does not remember as much as she would “like to”. Describing the alleged assault, Ford also said she worried that Kavanaugh might “accidentally” kill her.
Chris Wallace, asked on Fox News about the “gaps” in Ford’s memory, says those gaps are consistent with an honest account. Says “I’ve been schooled by my daughters on this.” #KavanaughHearings
— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) September 27, 2018
Democrats praise ‘heroic’ Ford
Democrats heaped praise on Ford and pointed to gaps in her memory as evidence that she has been truthful, with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin noting that a “polished liar” can create a “seamless story” while a survivor “cannot be expected” to remember every detail.
Later on in the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut made a similar comment, saying that “someone who is honest is also candid about what he or she cannot remember.” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker called her actions in coming forward “heroic” in a dramatic speech which appeared to prompt Ford to cry.
Ford was only questioned by Democrats, while Republicans on the committee left the probing up to Mitchell. Blumenthal criticized Republicans on the other side of the room who “have been silent” during the hearing.
Mitchell seemed to elicit criticism from all quarters with her questioning, with some saying she was too harsh and was on the Republicans’ side while others suggested she was too soft on Ford. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii hit out at Mitchell’s approach during the hearing, saying she had aimed to undermine Ford’s credibility.
Every GOP campaign strategist and Hill staffer wishes they had the button to open the trap door under Rachel Mitchell’s chair. What a total and complete Political disaster for Republicans.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) September 27, 2018
To lay this bare: Mitchell’s questioning is implying Ford is laying her trauma bare for personal gain, and so can’t be trusted.
Kavanaugh wants a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. If having an interest in the outcome renders you untrustworthy, well…
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 27, 2018
Asked by Hirono if there was any “political motivation” for her to come forward, Ford said “no” there was not. Hirono also said Kavanaugh had been “credibly accused” but then lashed out at Republicans for “prejudging” Ford in advance of hearing her testimony.
The Hawaii senator also sent a fundraising email while the hearing was in session, prompting criticism that she was trying to use Ford’s testimony to help her re-election campaign. Hirono’s office said the email had been sent in “error”.
Fear of flying?
Debate raged on Twitter as the hearing played out, with some feeling that Ford’s testimony was credible while others had questions about what they felt were some inconsistencies. In particular, many pointed to the fact that Ford said she had a fear of flying due to her claustrophobia and anxiety, but admitted to Mitchell that she had travelled to Washington D.C. for the hearing by plane and had also been on a plane numerous times before to go on vacation.
Senate granted hearing delays due to Ford’s alleged fear of flying. Mitchell uncovers that Ford travels extensively by plane, quite often, for work and hobby.
— Jedediah Bila (@JedediahBila) September 27, 2018
Others said they believed Ford had been assaulted, but that it had likely been by someone else and that she had simply mistaken their identity.
Who paid for the polygraph?
There was also some confusion surrounding a polygraph test Ford had taken previously, which had determined she was being truthful in her statements. After being repeatedly asked about the circumstances of the polygraph test — when she took it, where she took it, who had recommended the tester — Ford’s lawyers interjected to say that they had paid for the test, “as is routine”.
Some on Twitter made fun of the notion that who paid for the polygraph was a big deal, while others said that polygraph testing was not a reliable way of determining the truth.
DO THEY THINK SHE DID THIS TO GET A FREE POLYGRAPH TEST?
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 27, 2018
Kamala Harris now touting the polygraph as evidence of Ford’s truthfulness. For the thousandth time, polygraphs are junk science.
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) September 27, 2018