Can you be a reactionary, regressive, op-ed writing jerk and still go on to great things? Thanks to the Senate hearings for Brett Kavanaugh’s replacement, we’re about to find out.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to discuss whether Donald Trump appointee Neomi Rao, a regulatory czar within the White House, is fit to fill the D.C. Court of Appeals seat left open by Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, The Hill reports. She seems…not good.
A lot of the discussion hinged on some truly awful, regressive writing she contributed to The Yale Herald in the mid-90s back when she was an undergrad at the Ivy League university that BuzzFeed News uncovered in January.
In one piece from 1994 titled “Queer Politics,” Rao argued that an on-campus gay rights group was “fascistic” in its intolerance of conservative politics. In another from 1996, she referred to affirmative action as “the anointed dragon of liberal excess.” Some of them concern rape and consent, conjuring up boilerplate defenses for men accused of sexually assault — men like Kavanaugh, the man whose seat Rao’s hoping to fill.
“A good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober,” she wrote in a 1994 Yale Herald column, titled “Shades of Gray.” “And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice… Implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does strips women of all moral responsibility.”
These writings didn’t go over well in Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, The Hill reports, even among some of the Republicans.
“I’ve said time and time again that we need to change the culture around sexual violence, from our college campuses, to the U.S. Olympic Committee, to our military and beyond,” said Joni Ernst, a Republican senator from Iowa. “And a large part of this is ensuring that young women feel comfortable sharing the stories and experiences that they’ve endured and that they are given a chance to be heard.”
Rao claims her views have changed.
“A victim of a horrible crime is not to blame and the person who commits those crimes should be held responsible,” she said. “I was young. It’s over two decade ago now, but I think I was responding to things that were happening on campus at that time… In the intervening two decades, I like to think that I have matured as a thinker and writer, and indeed as a person."
Despite Rao’s assurances, many legal experts still feel like she is unfit to fill Kavanaugh’s vacated seat on the regional court of appeals.
“Neomi Rao lacks the judgement and credibility to be an independent and impartial judge on any court,” said Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s legal director and chief strategy officer, in a statement. “Her statements on sexual assault, diversity, and marriage equality should immediately disqualify her from any nomination for a lifetime appointment."