Nina Totenberg and NPR Pals Mourn Partisan Bitterness After Kavanaugh Rape Allegations

March 22nd, 2022 10:40 PM

Monday's edition of The NPR Politics Podcast sounded a little bizarre to conservatives. NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis marveled at "just how much bitterness lingers among Republican senators over the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh." It was mildly comical that their discussion of Kavanaugh didn't describe the actual subject of the bitterness -- unproven allegations of teenage sexual assault. Would NPR reporters be bitter if they were accused of rape?

Davis spoke in very vague terms: "Kavanaugh obviously had a lot of specific issues as to why that was, but Supreme Court justices are just -- you know, tend to be party line votes these days. And I wonder if you think that that's just how it's going to be from now on." She said we don't live in times of nearly unanimous votes for Supreme Court nominees (which Ketanji Jackson supposedly deserves). They avoided which party ruined that trend.

Nina Totenberg -- who slimed Clarence Thomas in 1991 with Anita Hill's unproven charges of crude sexual banter -- somehow sounded mournful about the bitter partisan tone, as if she and NPR had nothing to do with it. 

NINA TOTENBERG: We don't live in those times anymore. And there are groups on the right and left who not only make a living doing this - they raise money off of fanning the flames in confirmation hearings.

That said, there was, I think, on the committee today, on the Republican and Democratic sides, some notion that they wanted to lower the temperature. Now, that may be because she's probably going to be confirmed, and what have the Republicans got to lose if they don't make life miserable for her? After all, the optics of beating up on a Black woman are not great politics.

Totenberg also used this line on Morning Edition earlier on Monday: "Republicans know the optics of personally attacking a black woman are less than ideal."

But somehow the optics of beating up on a black conservative in 1991 were much better. Using a black woman to do it was apparently the perfect dirty trick. Legal reporter Carrie Johnson then piled on:

CARRIE JOHNSON: You know, I heard a number of these Republican senators talking very bitterly about Brett Kavanaugh and other nominees, people like Miguel Estrada, who was nominated to the top federal appeals court here in D.C. and never got through because there was a big blockade on his nomination. But what I did not hear was two words, and those words are Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee, who, after all, never even got a meeting with any Republican senators. So there is a history here on both sides. It can be a very bitter history. That was about as bad as it gets. 

Is she serious? Not getting a meeting is worse than being accused of gang rape?

Of course, Johnson's memory is inaccurate. As the New York Times reported in April 2016: "So far, Judge Garland has met with nine of the 19 Republican senators who have said they are open to sitting down with him."