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Former GOP Sen. Hank Brown Weighs In On Kavanaugh Sexual Misconduct Allegations


The last time explosive allegations threatened the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee, our next guest was one of the senators voting. Hank Brown was a Republican senator from Colorado and a member of the judiciary committee that held the hearings on Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas. Here's then-Senator Brown addressing Thomas in October of 1991.


HANK BROWN: Basically, what we're called upon to prove, or you're called upon to prove, is negative. You're called upon to prove that 10 years ago you didn't do something. I'm not sure how you do that.

CORNISH: Hank Brown joins me now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

BROWN: Thank you. Good to be with you.

CORNISH: So you made that statement almost 27 years ago, and it seems like an apt description of the dilemma that lawmakers are facing now. How do we find out what really happened? Is that something that can be done in this setting?

BROWN: It's a real challenge, and it's a challenge for everybody. Ultimately, what happens is members who have to vote on this will make an assessment of Judge Kavanaugh and how he's lived his life and will do their best to ascertain what the facts are available from 36 years ago or 35 years ago and try and come to the best conclusion that they can. But there's no certainty, I think, in these things.

CORNISH: There was a takeaway lesson from many women at that time that the burden of proof would be on them if they came forward and that they would be under very difficult questioning at that time from an all-male panel. Do you think this will be different?

BROWN: Well, I think so. For one thing, it's quite a different circumstance. Anita Hill was very open, anxious to testify at that stage, not initially, and very forthcoming with regard to facts, had a good memory as to the incidents. That's quite different than this circumstance where it comes off as something of a gamesmanship in trying to delay the committee.

CORNISH: Although there are some similarities - right? - in terms of both of these women had reached out to a committee that in the end they were essentially outed because they were feared that the press was closing in on their story and would publicize their names. And both of them - in the case of Christine Blasey Ford, if she chooses to testify, could end up having to retell their stories on the national stage.

BROWN: And your thought is - what? - that when you bring accusations against someone, that they shouldn't have to discuss them?

CORNISH: No. I think when you said that it was a game by Democrats, it sounds very similar to what people said back then during the Anita Hill hearings.

BROWN: Well, I think there's some difference. Anita Hill was very responsive, took my calls, had her facts all in order. In this case, you have someone alleging an event took place at a place she can't identify at a time or date that she doesn't remember, doesn't know how she got to the party or how she left the party, doesn't remember the names of the host of the party. It's a dramatically different circumstance than Anita Hill that really had a pretty strong memory of all the details of what the instance she was alleging.

CORNISH: If there is no public testimony come early next week, do you think that Senate Republicans should move forward with a vote on this nominee?

BROWN: Well, I'm not sure they have much choice if she refuses to testify. Hopefully, they will go through the material that they have and her allegations with some thoroughness. I would hope if you were on that committee you would also raise the pertinent points and questions to the judge to ascertain his response. But they can't do the impossible. If she doesn't want to testify, I think they have to do the best they can without it.

CORNISH: Hank Brown is a former Republican senator from Colorado. Thank you for speaking with us.

BROWN: Nice to talk to you, take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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