News & Politics

Here Are 5 Reasons Why Christine Blasey Ford Faces More Challenges than Anita Hill Had in 1991

There are still no GOP women on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Photo Credit: CNN

Back in October 1991—during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—Republicans in the U.S. Senate put Anita Hill through the ringer, going out of their way to attack her credibility. Hill offered extensive, detailed testimony on her experiences working for Thomas, who she accused of sexually harassing her and inundating her with explicit and unwanted descriptions of hardcore porn.

But despite Hill’s testimony, Thomas was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court—where, if President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have their way, he will soon be joined by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. And memories of Thomas’ confirmation hearings have come flooding back, with 51-year-old Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford having accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her at a party back in 1982 (when she was 15 and he was 17).

A great deal has changed politically and technologically since 1991. As much partisan bickering as there was back then, the political climate of 2018 is a lot angrier and much more toxic—and Ford is facing an even nastier, more mean-spirited Republican Party than Hill faced 27 years ago. Ford is also facing death threats, and the situation is so bad that she has moved out of her house in Northern California out of fear for her safety and the safety of her two teenage children.

Here are five ways in which Ford is up against an even more intense situation in 2018 than what Hill faced in 1991.

1. The Republican Party Has Gone from Bad to Worse

In 1991, the late Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter received a lot of criticism from feminists for his questioning of Anita Hill. But in the Trump era, Specter (who once described himself as a “fiscal conservative” and a “social libertarian”) would be too far to the left for the Republican Party. In fact, the right-of-center Specter switched to the Democratic Party in 2009 because the GOP had become so extreme. And that more extreme version of the GOP presently controls the Senate under Mitch McConnell’s leadership. When Hill testified before the Senate in 1991, Democrats had a Senate majority; in 2018, Ford is facing a Republican-controlled Senate that is way to the right of the Senate of 27 years ago.

2. Senate Republicans Oppose an FBI Investigation of Ford’s Allegations Against Kavanaugh

Prior to Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearings in 1991, the FBI conducted a three-day investigation based on Hill’s allegations—and President George H.W. Bush was fine with that. In 2018, however, Republican senators like Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham are opposed to an FBI investigation of Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh. The Republican senators should appreciate the fact that Ford is willing to subject herself to intense FBI scrutiny; instead, they insist that an FBI investigation—even for something as serious as an allegation of attempted rape made against a likely U.S. Supreme Court justice—is unnecessary.

3. Ford’s Allegations Involve Physical Violence

Hill accused Thomas of having a very foul mouth and making life miserable for her on the job; for someone who is so socially conservative and such an icon of the Christian Right, Thomas certainly had—according to Hill—a major appetite for hardcore porn, which is ironic in light of the fact that Thomas’ confirmation came only about half a decade after the launch of the Christian Right witch hunt known as the Meese Commission. But Hill never accused Thomas of being physically violent; Ford, in contrast, is accusing Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her. This is an even more serious accusation, yet Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham and other Senate Republicans are taking the accusation so lightly that they don’t even see the need for an FBI investigation.

In a September 18 commentary for the New York Times, Hill asserted, “Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important—hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate.”

4. Far-Right Media Outlets Are Much More Plentiful in 2018 Than in 1991

In 1991, Hill was demonized by Rush Limbaugh and other Clarence Thomas supporters in AM talk radio. But in 2018, Kavanaugh has a lot more far-right media in his corner—not only AM talk radio, but also, Fox News (which didn’t exist in 1991) and a long list of Internet media outlets, from Breitbart.com to the Drudge Report to World Net Daily to Infowars. Ford has been repeatedly smeared at Fox News, whose Laura Ingraham accused her of promoting a “political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation.” And Fox News’ Tucker Carlson is so twisted that he blames Democrats for the death threats Ford has been receiving.

According to Carlson, Democrats are to blame for those death threats because they “dragged her into the public eye” when Ford preferred to remain anonymous—which is absolute nonsense. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Anna Eshoo respected Ford’s request for anonymity, but in her Washington Post interview, Ford said she made the decision to go public because “I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

5. Donald Trump Is More Extreme Than President George H.W. Bush

As right-wing as President George H.W. Bush was, he wasn’t nearly as divisive or polarizing a figure as President Trump has turned out to be. Trump, a serious flip-flopper, said some favorable things about Democrats in the past. But as president, he has governed as a severe GOP partisan. And Trump, come hell or high water, is determined to stack the Supreme Court with far-right Antonin Scalia-ish justices—first Neil Gorsuch, and now, Kavanaugh.xxx

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.