Anita Hill speaks out about the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings

September 21, 2018

Brandeis Professor Anita Hill (HS) spoke out in a New York Times opinion piece, on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Newshour and to the Washington Post, among others, about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. In the opinion piece, Hill calls for several measures to encourage a fair confirmation hearing that addresses the allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist, of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were both in high school together. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation. Hill’s opinion piece was published on Sept. 18 and immediately followed by her appearance on PBS Sept. 19.
In the Times opinion piece, Hill relates the current controversy to her experience accusing Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. “Today, the public expects better from our government than we got in 1991, when our representatives performed in ways that gave employers permission to mishandle workplace harassment complaints throughout the following decades,” Hill wrote.
She continued, “That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement.”
Hill goes on to call for several “basic ground rules” for the Senate Judiciary Committee, a committee of 21 senators which considers executive nominations for the Supreme Court, should follow.
Hill called for the committee to hire a neutral investigative group, one that has experience dealing with sexual assault, to investigate the alleged incident. Hill stated that their findings should “frame” the hearings, so senators would ask questions based upon the conclusions of the investigators. Hill also called for the hearings to not be rushed, stating that, “hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate.”
Hill also stated that the public interest in confronting the accusations of sexual harassment should not be opposed to the need for a fair hearing, and that working on both goals together will encourage a legitimate judicial system.
Finally, Hill called for the committee to refer to Christine Blasey Ford by her name, saying, “Dr. Blasey is a human being with a life of her own. She deserves the respect of being addressed and treated as a whole person.”
Hill compared the current confirmation hearings with her experience of appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, after she publicly accused Supreme Court nominee, and later Justice, Thomas of sexual harassment. She opened her opinion piece with the line, “There is no way to redo 1991, but there are ways to do better.”
In speaking with PBS from Brandeis University, Anita Hill again called for a professional, thorough investigation separate from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hill stated that she believed a fair hearing of Kavanaugh is possible, if partisanship is put aside.
Recounting her 1991 experience, Anita Hill recalled how most senators did not have an “open mind” when they questioned her. “The senators have already indicated that they have made up their mind about this individual. All of this to me just points to the fact that they are not prepared to have this hearing.”

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