Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) said on Monday that she had been prepared to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation until she viewed his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee with the sound turned off in order to focus on his “body language.”
Heitkamp, a red-state Democrat who was under significant pressure to back Kavanaugh as she faces a challenge from Republican congressman Kevin Cramer in the midterms, said she ordered her staff to draft a statement announcing her support for the nominee but reversed herself after detecting “rage” in his testimony.
“I was concerned about these allegations but willing to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Heitkamp told CNN in an interview.
“It’s something I do,” she added, explaining why she watched the hearing without volume. “We communicate not only with words, but with our body language and demeanor. I saw somebody who was very angry, who was very nervous, and I saw rage that a lot of people said, ‘Well, of course you’re going to see rage; he’s being falsely accused.’ But it is at all times you’re to acquit yourself with a demeanor that’s becoming of the Court.”
Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to the Court last Saturday, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month after being accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, in addition to misconduct allegations from two other women.
Following Kavanaugh’s testimony, in which he forcefully denied assaulting Ford at a high-school party, he was heavily criticized by Democratic lawmakers for displaying partisanship in referring to the accusations as a “political hit” carried out as “revenge,” in part for his role in Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Heitkamp went on to chastise Cramer for referring to the #MeToo movement as a “movement toward victimization,” citing her mother’s experience as a sexual-assault victim to push back on his suggestion that the movement is disempowering women.
“People in my life have [been sexually assaulted], including my mother, and to suggest she’s not strong because she’s a victim was like a trigger for me. I just said she made us strong because she said don’t ever let this happen, fight for your rights. . . . This was a life-changing experience for her and she made us stronger because of it,” said Heitkamp.
With the election exactly one month away, Cramer leads Heitkamp by 8.7 percentage points, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.