JACKSON, Miss.—The women accusing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault are part of a “charade” to keep abortion legal, U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel of Mississippi claimed in a series of tweets Monday.
The Republican state senator’s tweets came as the number of women publicly alleging sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh tripled from just one on Saturday to three by midweek.
“The Left’s strategy to falsely accuse, silence, censor, and destroy anyone they don’t like must be stopped,” McDaniel tweeted Monday. The tweets build on comments he made last week, when Kavanaugh’s only accuser was California psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, that the accusations were “made up.”
Espy: ‘Anti-Abortion, But Pro-Choice’
Like incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, whom McDaniel seeks to unseat in a special election in November, he supports the appointment of judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that ended state bans on abortion nationwide. The legality of abortion, McDaniel said at an August town hall in Petal, Miss., should be left up to the states to decide.
Their Democratic opponent, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, recently described his position on the legal procedure as “anti-abortion, but pro-choice” in a wide-ranging interview with the Jackson Free Press. While he would never counsel someone to have an abortion, Espy said, he believes women should have the right to make that decision for themselves.
Though Kavanaugh was coy about his views on Roe in his confirmation hearings earlier this month, court observers expect he would vote to limit abortion rights in any cases that may come up if he confirmed to the court. They also fear he would vote to overturn the long-standing precedent, potentially make it illegal for women to choose abortions even to save their own lives or in the case of rape or incest.
In 2011, Mississippi voters rejected a “Personhood” initiative that would have prohibited all forms of abortion, including to save the mother’s life, as well as birth-control pills and potentially in vitro fertilization. Gov. Phil Bryant was co-chairman of the effort, and Vice President Mike Pence is a supporter of “Personhood” prohibitions.
McDaniel criticized incumbent Hyde-Smith, whom he is seeking to unseat in November, for not doing more to defend Kavanaugh, accusing her of “silence in the face of adversity.”
In a press release that same day, Hyde-Smith said she still considers the judge “imminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court” and suggested the allegations were partisan in nature.
In another tweet, McDaniel suggested the women are part of a pro-abortion conspiracy.
“The whole charade to destroy a good man is for one reason: the left wants to be able to keep killing unborn children in the womb,” McDaniel wrote.
On Saturday, Espy called Ford’s allegations “credible” and called for the Senate to slow down the confirmation process in order to conduct a more thorough investigation.
Kavanaugh Once Suggested Something Similar
McDaniel’s argument that abortion—not sexual assault—is the driving reason for opposition to Kavanaugh is similar to an argument Kavanaugh himself endorsed when he was an attorney in the George W. Bush White House. Charles Pickering, a Mississippi federal judge whom Bush nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, struggled in his confirmation hearings amid allegations of racism that included a push for leniency for a convicted cross burner and prior support for segregationists.
In a January 2003 email, Kavanaugh forwarded an opinion article to fellow White House legal counsel that argued opposition to Pickering was not about “false charges of racism,” but instead, “the pro-choice lobby” and its opposition to judges who, like Pickering, believe abortion is not a Constitutional right.
In his email, Kavanaugh described the article as “an interesting and probably accurate analysis.” Current and former senators have pointed to that email and others as evidence that Kavanaugh misled Congress under oath in 2006 when he said Pickering was not one of the nominees he was “primarily handling.”
Psychological Association Rebukes ‘Made Up’ Rape Claims
Last week, McDaniel claimed that “99 percent” of sexual misconduct allegations are “made up.”
In a statement Monday, the American Psychological Association rebuked claims like McDaniel’s and Trump’s assertion that, if the alleged assaults really happened, Kavanaugh’s accusers would have reported them at the time.
“Sexual assault is likely the most under-reported crime in the United States,” APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel said in a press release. “About two-thirds of female sexual assault victims do not report to the police, and many victims do not tell anyone. Sexual assault is a terrifying and humiliating experience. Women choose not to report for a variety of reasons—fear for their safety, being in shock, fear of not being believed, feeling embarrassed or ashamed, or expecting to be blamed.
“A lack of reporting does not mean an assault or attempted assault did not happen or is exaggerated. Research demonstrates that false claims of sexual assault are very low—between 2 and 7 percent. This tells us that far more women are assaulted and don’t report than women who make false claims.”
The APA did not say it was responding to Trump’s or McDaniel’s claims specifically.
McDaniel made the “99 percent” comments during an appearance on American Family Radio with host Bryan Fischer. Fischer, who endorsed McDaniel’s campaign on Monday, is known for espousing extreme views, including his belief that God allows school shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School to punish America for allowing abortion.
Attempted Rape, Gang Rapes Among Growing Allegations
Ford and Kavanaugh will appear separately in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, where Ford will testify that Kavanaugh allegedly attempted to rape her at a party when she was 15 and he was 17. The hearings begin at 9 a.m. CST, with Ford testifying first.
An attorney for the second woman who accused Kavanaugh, Deborah Ramirez, said she is willing to testify, but Senate Republicans have ignored their attempts to communicate, she said. Ramirez claims Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when he was in college.
On Wednesday, attorney Michael Avenatti revealed what may be the most alarming allegations against Kavanaugh yet. In a signed statement, a client named Julie Swetnick claimed that, in the 1980s, she witnessed Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, attempting to get teen girls “inebriated and disoriented so they could then be 'gang raped' in a side room or bedroom by a 'train' of numerous boys." Swetnick alleged that she was a victim of gang rape at one of the parties, but does accuse Kavanaugh or Judge of participating.
Avenatti said he communicated the allegations to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley earlier this week and is waiting to hear back.
Grassley set a committee vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate for Friday morning—the day after Ford’s testimony.
Trump responded to Swetnick’s allegations by calling Avenatti a “total low-life” and a “third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Brett Kavanaugh.”
Avenatti is the same attorney who is representing Stormy Daniels, who claims Trump paid her off just days before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an affair she had with the reality TV star more than a decade ago.
A report Monday in the Montgomery County Sentinel said an anonymous fourth woman has made an accusation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh to police, but so far, she has not decided to make her accusations public or to file charges. Neither Ford, Ramirez nor Swetnick have filed charges.
Next Tuesday, Oct. 2, Trump will join Hyde-Smith for a campaign rally in Southaven, Miss., just south of Memphis, Tenn. In August, Trump endorsed her over McDaniel. After the campaign announced the rally, McDaniel encouraged his supporters to join.
“Let’s attend in great numbers and respectfully show President Trump who the real conservative candidate is,” McDaniel tweeted.
On. Nov. 6, the same day as the national midterms, voters choose between Espy, Hyde-Smith and McDaniel in the U.S. Senate special election. Mississippi's other U.S. Senate seat, as well as House positions in each of the state's four congressional districts, will also be on the ballot. Polls in the state are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ashton Pittman covers politics and elections for the Jackson Free Press. Follow him on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Email him at [email protected]. Read more 2018 campaign coverage at jfp.ms/2018elections.