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Kavanaugh: I ignored a Parkland victim’s father because I thought he was just another protester

He explains the apparent rebuff in recent written answers.

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanaugh To Be Supreme Court Justice
Fred Guttenberg (L), father of Parkland high school shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg, tries to shake the hand of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh as Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. 
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

In written answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh explained why he appeared to rebuff the father of a Parkland shooting victim: He thought he was a protester.

During the hearing last week, Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime Guttenberg, was killed in the February school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, walked up to Kavanaugh during a break and extended his hand. Kavanaugh appeared to see him and turn away in a moment that quickly went viral.

“I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence,” wrote Guttenberg after the exchange.

Kavanaugh says that’s not the case, noting that he “did not recognize the man” who approached him after a “chaotic” morning punctuated by protests from the audience. “I assumed he was a protestor,” he said, adding that if he had realized who Guttenberg was, he would have expressed his sympathy and “listened.”

As I was leaving the hearing room for a recess last Tuesday, a man behind me yelled my name, approached me from behind, and touched my arm. It had been a chaotic morning with a large number of protestors in the hearing room. As the break began, the room remained noisy and crowded. When I turned and did not recognize the man, I assumed he was a protestor. In a split second, my security detail intervened and ushered me out of the hearing room.

In that split second, I unfortunately did not realize that the man was the father of a shooting victim from Parkland, Florida. Mr. Guttenberg has suffered an incalculable loss. If I had known who he was, I would have shaken his hand, talked to him, and expressed my sympathy. And I would have listened to him.

Gun control advocates have sought to block Kavanaugh’s nomination given opinions he’s expressed backing gun rights, including his opposition to a ban on assault weapons. As part of the hearing, Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond offered emotional testimony about her experience during the shooting. Kavanaugh did not testify that day.

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