President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, attorney and law professor Neomi Rao, wrote articles during her time as a Yale undergrad in which she stated that a woman who was sexually assaulted while drunk was responsible for her assault.
In front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Rao responded to fierce questioning over her college writing, repeating that she regretted her previous statements and the language she used, and at one point even saying that she had no idea why she had written that women’s equality to men was a “dangerous feminist ideal.”
To make matters more worse, the seat Rao is vying for was formerly occupied by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed in the fall after (and despite) Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh assaulted her while they were teenagers, and who stressed about how much he liked to drink beer during his confirmation hearing.
Both Democratic and Republican senators were ruthless during Rao’s hearing, asking her if she still believed what she had previously written about women being held responsible for their “choice” in becoming drunk and being assaulted. More specifically, as Mother Jones previously reported, Rao wrote in 1994: “It has always seemed self evident to me that even if I drank a lot, I would still be responsible for my actions. A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted. At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice.”
Rao told multiple senators that she regretted the language she used and that sexual assault survivors should never be blamed for their assaults, but she didn’t walk back the statement, saying it was advice that her mother had always given her and rationalizing her statement as a “common sense observation” that spoke to the concept of risk prevention as a whole.
Rao, much like many other Trump administration nominees, also had to answer for a slew of other previously stated ass-backwards beliefs. She called climate change a “major environment boogeyman,” wrote that a Yale LGBTQ group was spreading “myth” about AIDS, and wrote that racial oppression was also a myth. In response, Rao said that she now accepts that climate change exists, didn’t recall her writing about AIDS, and said she just wants all racial groups to just get along because Martin Luther King Jr. was a great hero of hers, or something.
She also wouldn’t tell New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker if she thought gay relationships were a “sin,” so despite whatever arguments Sen. Lindsey Graham had in Rao’s favor, her current moral compass isn’t exactly nondiscriminatory, either. But Rao responded most stunningly when questioned by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst about why she once wrote that gender equality was “dangerous feminist idealism.” Rao said she had no idea why she wrote such a thing in the first place.
“Senator, I very much regret that statement and I’ve always believed strongly in the equality of women and men, and for equal rights and opportunities for women. I’m honestly not sure why I wrote that in college,” Rao said. “If I were to be confirmed, I would treat all people who come before me equally, and administer justice without respect to persons.”
Another sad case of a conservative judicial nominee battling amnesia while testifying before Congress, not that it’s ever stopped them from being confirmed before.