Josh Hawley’s filthy attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a hint at how low Republicans may go during her confirmation hearings

OPINION: Senate Democrats better hit back hard to protect Judge Brown Jackson or face the wrath of Black women everywhere.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson greets the cameras after meeting with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy last week in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Shame on Senate Democrats for not punching back hard on Republican insurrectionist defender Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. He has gone beyond low (even for him) by trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

When Republican S.C. Senator and then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham felt that Brett Kavanaugh was not being treated fairly in his confirmation process after allegations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, Graham struck back fiercely like an angry cobra. That is exactly what Senate Democrats better start doing this week in defending Judge Brown Jackson against the vilest of smears coming from Senate Republicans: that she is easy on child predators in her sentencing. It incenses me to even have to write these words. It’s beneath the dignity of the high office she holds and the one she has been appointed to hold.

The assault on Judge Brown Jackson came as Hawley tweeted a lengthy thread last week accusing her of being lenient in dealing with sex offenders—particularly those who hurt children. Other Republicans predictably are following his lead. Hawley went on his favorite network, Fox News, on Thursday night and spewed more of his venom. “I think we just have a basic question to ask,” Hawley said. “Are we gonna get a judge here who’s gonna protect children, or who’s gonna protect child predators?” 

That this kind of garbage character attack comes from the likes of Senator Hawley, who is the poster boy for white male grievance and anger in America, is ironic indeed. Mr. Morality was one of the lead supporters and defenders of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack who was photographed giving a fist bump to the insurrectionists that morning on the grounds of the Capitol. He defended his actions as he later voted NOT to certify the election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. That was after the Capitol had been violently ransacked and destroyed by the very people Hawley saluted with his fist in solidarity.

I penned a piece titled, “Republicans’ criticism of Ketanji Brown Jackson is part of the reason Black women like me left the party” in the Washington Post a few weeks ago that made the case for sensible Republicans like Senators Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins to lead the way for a bipartisan and respectful confirmation of Judge Brown Jackson. My biggest warning to Republicans (of which I was one for 25 years) was summed it like this: 

“But here’s something Republicans should consider: Every historic first nominated to the Supreme Court has received overwhelming bipartisan support, even when the nominee did not share the judicial philosophy or political party of the senators who voted for them. Starting in 1967 when Thurgood Marshall, who was confirmed 69 to 11 as the first Black associate justice of the court. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed 99 to 0 when she became the first female member of the court in 1981. The Senate confirmed the first Latina, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in 2009 by a vote of 68 to 31. These shrieks and rants of “affirmative action” about Jackson’s nomination are just raw meat for an aggrieved White base of Americans who see any racial progress as a threat to their own. Not only are Jackson’s credentials impeccable, they are in line with most other nominees: Most are Ivy League-educated, many are former law clerks and have experience on the federal bench; Jackson checks all of those boxes. If Senate Republicans try to derail Jackson’s nomination they risk going down in history as breaking from precedent in overwhelmingly supporting historic nominees to the court. They also invite questions of whether their actions are racially motivated.”

With the latest vile smear by Senator Hawley against Judge Brown Jackson, I think we need to brace ourselves for her confirmation hearings this week. I think Hawley is signaling to the base and his fellow senators that they are going to engage in a little payback for how Justice Kavanaugh was treated during his hearings. They will try to smear a historic nominee to the court with deeply troubling—and false—allegations. 

Make no mistake. Hawley and company mean business. They are going to use Judge Brown Jackson as a warning to Democrats that they are ready to go to any lengths in the 2022 midterms to retake power. Most troubling is that a good woman with an impeccable life and reputation is likely to be publicly smeared by the Republican echo chamber. Senate Democrats better hit back and hard—or Black women voters will never forgive you. And we will not forget. 

Sophia A. Nelson is a contributing editor for theGrio. Nelson is a TV commentator and is the author of “The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock,” “Black Women Redefined.”

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