Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) described Christine Blasey Ford as an “attractive” witness to reporters, after watching the professor deliver emotional testimony and answer questions Thursday morning about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago, when they were both in high school.
“I don’t think she’s uncredible,” Hatch told reporters, when asked about Ford. “I think she [is] an attractive, good witness.”
According to reporters, when asked to clarify, Hatch said that Ford was “pleasing.”
Hatch’s description stood out, given the emphasis on the gender optics around this hearing. The panel of all-male Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee enlisted Rachel Mitchell, a female Arizona prosecutor, to question Ford during the hearing on their behalf — likely to avoid echoes of the 1991 confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas in which Anita Hill was grilled by all-male, all-white senators.
A spokesperson for Hatch’s office said that the senator “uses ‘attractive’ to describe personalities, not appearances.” He added that Hatch has used the term “consistently for years for men and women he believed had compelling personalities.”
Even if that is the case, Hatch’s comments about Ford being an “attractive” witness sound particularly jarring against the dynamics of the hearing.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are largely standing by their Supreme Court nominee despite allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Republicans have pushed back against reopening an investigation into Kavanaugh, and instead are subjecting Ford to what has at times seemed like a cross-examination of her credibility, despite her entreaties that an FBI investigation take place first.
The comment underscores what it sometimes takes for a woman to be believed — whether it’s likability, patience, or deference to those who are doing the questioning.
What’s more, though Ford has admitted to some gaps in her memory, she has remained consistent on the key details of that alleged incident with Kavanaugh, and has withstood the disjointed questioning from Mitchell, the prosecutor who represents the GOP senators, and from Democrats. Hatch’s ineloquent remarks hint at a new reality for supporters of Kavanaugh: Ford, and her story, is now going to be much harder to ignore or discredit.