Allegations have become political tactics

Using uncorroborated evidence as a tool to block a nomination is wrong, hinders progressive ideals



Associate professor Pamela Thoma speaks about the place of politics in sexual harassment and how it affects the enforcement of laws regarding it Friday in Avery Hall.

SAAD NABIL ALI, Evergreen columnist

In the court of public opinion, you are convicted of sexual assault the moment allegations are made public. The current political climate in the U.S. is counterproductive to the cultural progression that has moved toward valuing the credibility of all allegations.

Pamela Thoma, associate professor and director of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, values truth over mere speculation regarding how people connect politics to issues like sexual assault.

Thoma did, however, express a reluctance to segregate the relationship between politics and sexual assault entirely.

“This is a deeply political issue,” Thoma said. “I hesitate to say we should protect these kinds of concerns or claims or charges from our political environment because we can’t neatly separate them.”

Although I agree with Thoma’s conclusions, what I do find troubling is that allegations that have yet to be authenticated are used as political weapons.

Recent news regarding Brett Kavanaugh, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge and Supreme Court nominee, are indicative of parties using public sexual misconduct allegations for political interests.

Christine Blasey Ford, a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University, wrote a letter to a select group of U.S. senators in July detailing an alleged sexual encounter with Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh, when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17.

Due to concerns with death threats and other malicious conduct, Ford wanted to remain anonymous.

One of the recipients, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., leveraged the new perception of credibility surrounding sexual assault victims for political purposes.

Feinstein knew any anonymous allegations made public about Kavanaugh wouldn’t be legitimate without knowing who the accuser is and the details of the allegation.

Feinstein didn’t immediately provide this information to the FBI or bring the allegation forward behind closed doors despite having numerous chances prior to Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings. She chose to reveal the information days before the Senate confirmation vote when Ford would be pressured to come forward.

By throwing an apprehensive woman into the public sphere of discourse without her knowledge, Feinstein has illustrated her lack of interest in Ford’s well-being or a pursuit of the proper means by which Ford could receive justice.

Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz initially stated to CNN that her client would be more than willing to testify under oath to the Judiciary Committee about the allegations.

Some Senate Republicans have stated they were not willing to confirm Kavanaugh until they heard Ford testify concerning the allegation.

“Both senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Monday that if true, [Ford’s] accusations would disqualify the nominee from the Supreme Court,” according to a New York Times article.

In light of this, another one of Ford’s attorneys, Lisa Banks, said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Ford would not testify until the FBI conducts a full investigation into her story.

In a letter to multiple senators, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and Judiciary Committee Chairman, articulated his wish to accommodate Ford for her testimony.

The Judiciary Committee offered Ford a public hearing, a private hearing, a public staff interview or a private staff interview. The staff was even willing to fly to California or anywhere else to meet her, according to Grassley’s letter.

His letter also explains why an FBI investigation would be problematic.

The FBI does not assess the credibility or investigate any information it receives with respect to a nominee. The Constitution assigns the Senate, and only the Senate, with advising the president on his nominees and commenting if the circumstances merit, according to Grassley’s letter.

It’s worth noting that even if by some circumstance the FBI does decide to investigate this allegation, the only people who could even corroborate it would presumably be Ford and the accused.

“Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012 when she was in couples therapy with her husband … After so many years, Ford said, she does not remember some key details of the incident,” according to a Washington Post article.

Despite Ford’s attempt to identify two potential witnesses of the assault in question, these individuals have provided statements to the Judiciary Committee contradicting her claims.

Watching the social fabric of the U.S. dissipate under discourse with this allegation, Senate Democrats have seemed to exploit the situation.

Ford’s allegations have now unequivocally become a partisan issue.

Another allegation has emerged in the political arena, further reinforcing partisan divides on issues of sexual misconduct and the credibility of accusers.

A new sexual misconduct allegation involving Kavanaugh and Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh’s 35 years ago, has also surfaced days before Ford’s testimony.

In her story, Ramirez only recalls a male student exposing himself to her at a party and, later, Kavanaugh appearing to be pulling up his pants with another student implicating that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

Of the several dozens of classmates contacted by The New Yorker from Kavanaugh’s freshman year, only one unidentified classmate recalls hearing about the incident from another student as Ramirez alleges.

Other former classmates and individuals alleged to be involved in the incident have outright denied Ramirez’s claims.

“We can say with confidence that if the incident [Ramirez] alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it — and we did not,” these individuals told The New Yorker. “The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew [Ramirez] long after Yale, and she never described this incident until [Kavanaugh]’s Supreme Court nomination was pending.”

Ramirez’s former friend, who married one of the alleged classmates involved in instigating the assault, also gave a similar statement when asked about the incident.

“This is a woman I was best friends with,” she told The New Yorker. “We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening.”

Even with holes to her story, I still believe Ramirez’s allegations should be taken seriously.

Although Ramirez concedes to being very intoxicated, she was able to recollect a specific time and place the incident occurred which, with eyewitness testimony, would be enough to validate her claims.

But until such information surfaces, I hesitate to believe her fully.

Without definitive facts or corroborating witnesses in either allegation, political pandering on the right or left is just a scheme to sway public opinion to diminish or justify Kavanaugh’s character.