Utah senator Orrin Hatch surprised no one last week by announcing there were “lots of reasons not to believe” psychology professor Christine Ford’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school.
The 84-year-old senator has a long history of rejecting or trivializing women’s allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and other misdeeds.
In 1991, when law professor Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her, Hatch alleged that she had been “coached by special interests.” He added: “Her story’s too contrived. It’s so slick it doesn’t compute.”
His reason for not believing her? One of the crude comments Hill alleged that Thomas made bore similarities to a passage in the novel The Exorcist, and another to a different sexual harassment case. He continued to reject Hill’s narrative as late as 2010.
Thomas was voted onto the Supreme Court.
When the Washington Post published the notorious Access Hollywood video of Trump saying women let him “grab them by the pussy,” Hatch tweeted that Trump’s comments were “offensive and degrading,” but didn’t withdraw his support for the then-presidential candidate. Months later, he downplayed the taped comments, telling the Deseret News:
That’s all years before […] Look, I happen to be a Mormon by religion. Our religion believes people can repent, they can change their lives, which apparently he’s changed his life. I don’t even know if that was true or if it was just locker room talk as he said it was. But that was 11 years before, and I’m not going to judge him by mistakes he made a decade before or more. And I’m sure he realizes that was a mistake.
So I judge him by what he is today, and all I can say is he’s a very strong personality with a lot of intellectual fortitude.
When Jennie Willoughby, the second ex-wife of Rob Porter, then-White House staff secretary and Hatch’s former chief of staff, accused him of domestic violence, Hatch moved to smear her:
It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this—and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.
I know Rob. I’ve known him for years, both as a close friend and as a personal adviser. He is kind and considerate towards all. The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.
When Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, then made similar allegations and produced photographs of herself with a black eye, Hatch diluted his support for Porter, but didn’t say be believed his accusers.
According to CBS, he said, “I would prefer [Porter] not to resign, just work his way through and do what’s right.” Porter eventually left the White House and Hatch later apologized to the two women.
When several women alleged that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore aggressively courted them when they were teenagers and he in his thirties, Hatch flip-flopped several times on the issue. He first said Moore should step aside if the allegations were true. Then, he backed Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s call for Moore to pull out in favor of his GOP primary opponent Luther Strange.
However, when Trump offered Moore his support, Hatch changed his tune. He said “many of the things [Moore] allegedly did were decades ago,” and defended Trump, saying, “That’s the only Republican we can get down there.” He then said that if Moore won, he should be recognized “as a sitting senator” and the election “will settle an awful lot of the questions.” Moore lost to Doug Jones in a historic defeat for the GOP in Alabama.
Hatch said he believes Kavanaugh because the judge told him he wasn’t at the party where the alleged assault happened. However, Ford remembers few details, not including the date, about the party—hazy recollection of the event is common among sexual assault victims—making it implausible that Kavanaugh could know whether or not he was there.
Hatch did say “you can’t ignore and cast the issue aside,” but seemed to suggest that he would nonetheless back Kavanaugh for a seat on the court even if the allegations were proven true:
Hatch seems to have more qualms about sexual assault when it comes to Democrats. When Democratic senator Al Franken announced he would step down after several women accused him of groping and trying to forcibly kiss them, Hatch said it was the right move:
Serving in the Senate is a privilege […] and here we hold our members to the highest ethical standards, and I expect any of my colleagues to adhere to those standards.