WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security held its fourth hearing in six months on sex abuse in Olympic sports.
But this hearing — which featured testimony from Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting; Anne Cammett, President of U.S. Figure Skating; Tim Hinchey, President and CEO of USA Swimming; and Darrin Steele, CEO of USA Bobsled and Skeleton — came with a Kavanaugh-sized cloud hanging over it.
The two Republican senators who questioned the witnesses at the hearing — Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), the Chair of the Subcommittee, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) — have both affirmed they will vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, even after hearing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last week detailing her allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
Throughout the hearing, Moran repeatedly talked about how he couldn’t imagine how so many people throughout the Olympic sports movement had failed to take allegations of sexual abuse seriously.
“It is the most discouraging thing to me,” Moran said in his closing statements. “I’ve said this before, but I don’t know anyone that if someone brought a report of sexual abuse, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t do something about that, even if they didn’t know the victim.”
On Tuesday night, less than 24 hours before the hearing, President Donald Trump viciously mocked Dr. Ford at a rally, and hundreds of his supporters chanted, “Lock her up.” Dr. Ford still has not been contacted by the FBI as part of its investigation into her own allegations, even though senators are supposed to be briefed on the investigation on Thursday.
After the hearing, ThinkProgress approached Moran and asked him if he felt the way Dr. Ford had been treated since she came forward publicly was at all incongruous with the way he wanted survivors in Olympic sports — many of whom Moran has directly met with — to be treated.
“I would only say, this: An end result, in which athletes are safe and secure, and any potential victim is safe and secure, can only happen when there’s a level of comfort that if you report, if you speak up, you will be respected, and your word will be considered as something that’s worthy of pursuing,” Moran responded.
“Anybody who is making a report needs to feel like they will be respected, well treated, and considered to be somebody who is taken seriously. Everyone is deserving of that respect.”
When pushed further as to whether he felt the way Dr. Ford had been treated — and, in particular, the way Trump had mocked her — was respectful, Moran continued to deliver platitudes.
“I would say it doesn’t matter who you are, and what position you occupy, every person who is a victim is deserving of respect,” he said. “I don’t know what the President did or didn’t do, but I’ll say it this way, nobody deserves to be mocked by anyone.”
Moran’s comments on Trump and Dr. Ford were starkly different in tone from the ones offered by ranking member Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
“His vile, shameful attack on this courageous survivor disrespects and demeans not only Dr. Blasey Ford but also all the community of survivors,” Blumenthal said in a statement to USA Today. “It demonstrates the reason that so many sexual assault survivors are deterred or discouraged from coming forward because they face exactly this kind of public shaming and character assassination.
“What’s most striking is that the president of the United States seems to have learned nothing from the powerful, credible testimony that the nation watched on Thursday and led so many people to admire Dr. Blasey Ford’s bravery.”
There were approximately two dozen survivors of sex abuse in Olympic sports on hand for the hearing on Wednesday. Throughout the subcommittee’s investigation, both Moran and Blumenthal have stressed the importance of the committee working together in a bipartisan nature.
That is, of course, a commendable notion; ending sexual abuse should be something everyone can get on board with, no matter the political ramifications. On paper, Moran seems to understand that. In practice, it’s a different story.