Brett Kavanaugh started off shouting.
He’d prepared a blistering defence of his character and a scathing rebuke of the “national disgrace” of his Supreme Court confirmation process. But if there’s a moment to remember, it may be when Kavanaugh stopped yelling.
The US Supreme court nominee - who could barely mention his parents, wife or children without choking up - spoke of his daughter’s evening prayers.
“Little Liza, all of 10 years old,” Kavanaugh began, before breaking down. His wife bowed her head. Liza, Kavanaugh continued, told her family to pray for his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
“That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old,” he said. “We mean no ill will.”
Kavanaugh is within a whisker of being approved as a Supreme Court judge. But in a David and Goliath battle, a woman has come forward to accuse him of a sexual assault at a party, some 36 years ago. Ford had testified earlier.
Kavanaugh’s show of both fury and tears was a cry from the flip side of the #MeToo movement, which one year ago began toppling powerful men from the pinnacle of their professions.
Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school gathering in the early 1980s drew the movement behind her at a sensitive time in American politics. US President Donald Trump, Kavanaugh’s patron, is accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct and says he’s been falsely accused. Allies of the movement argue that an allegation of sexual assault should be taken seriously enough to be investigated by the FBI. Ford’s was not.
Kavanaugh lamented that his life and career are being destroyed by “a refuted allegation from 36 years ago.”
“I ask you to judge me by the standard that you would want applied to your father, your husband, your brother or your son,” he said.
The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee came days after Kavanaugh gave a comparatively mild-mannered interview on Fox News. On Thursday, Kavanaugh scolded the senators on the 21-member committee and repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. He said he did not sexually assault Ford. He also denied other accusations that surfaced in the 10 days since Ford went public.
Kavanaugh’s brow was already furrowed when he strode to the witness table and sat down. He shot glances like arrows at every Democratic member of the committee while he waited for Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley to stop talking and get on with it. When asked, he stood, raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.
He sat. Then he tore into a go-for-broke statement that he said he wrote himself, parts of it underlined in black marker. He had wanted a hearing, he said, the day after Ford went public with her accusations September 16. During the ensuing 10 days, additional accusations were raised against Kavanaugh that he unequivocally denies. His family has been threatened. His reputation was likely ruined. It was a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination.”
“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit,” he seethed. “Never.”
Then came the paragraph about his family. Kavanaugh began to choke up when he mentioned his mother, Martha, and father, Ed.
Kavanaugh pressed on. “I am innocent of this charge,” he said, as several friends and family in the audience wept.
Kavanaugh did, too, several more times during his statement. At one point, tears streamed down his cheeks. When Kavanaugh paused to compose himself, the cramped hearing room was silent except for the clicks of journalists’ keyboards and camera shutters.