Tribune editorial: Hatch attack on alleged witness is despicable

(Tom Williams | The Associated Press) Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, listens to testimony from Christine Blasey Ford as chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with staff during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The despicable attack launched by Sen. Orrin Hatch and the Senate Judiciary Committee — more precisely, the Republicans on that committee — on one of the women who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is a textbook example of why more victims do not come forward.

Worse, it betrays a positively medieval attitude toward all women as sex objects who cannot be believed or taken seriously.

The fact that no one involved in the Twitter attack on Julie Swetnick seems to see that is solid evidence that their opinion of who should and should not serve on the Supreme Court is to be ignored.

Apparently, a former TV weatherman from Washington, D.C., provided the committee with a sworn statement revealing, allegedly, some details about Swetnick’s personal sexual preferences that are both none of anyone’s damn business and utterly irrelevant to the question of what Kavanaugh might or might not have done all those years ago.

In a sleazy nutshell, the story is that Dennis Ketterer claims that Swetnick approached him at a Washington bar one night and struck up first a conversation and then a brief relationship in which sex was discussed but never performed.

And, Ketterer said, Swetnick never said anything about seeing, knowing or being attacked by Kavanaugh.

Clearly, the only reason for any individual to say any of this, and the only reason for the committee to make it public, is the belief that any women who would approach a self-described fat man in a bar, any women who would choose to discuss sex, is some kind of libertine who, for that reason, cannot be trusted.

Ketterer said that his first impression of Swetnick was that she was probably a prostitute — “high end call girl” was his specific phrasing — because there was no other reason an attractive, well-dressed woman would speak to a schlub like him. Clearly, such a reading of the encounter only makes sense if women aren’t really people, but sexual objects who do or do not make themselves available in bars.

And to draw from Ketterer’s account, as Hatch and whoever else was behind this horrific attack clearly want us to, that Swetnick must be lying about Kavanaugh because she never mentioned him to one short-term acquaintance is irrational and absurd. If nothing else, what all of us should have learned from not only the Kavanaugh case, but from the whole of the #MeToo movement, is that victims of sexual abuse often do not discuss their experiences with those near and dear to them, much less with casual acquaintances.

Even if every word of Ketterer’s account is true, it has absolutely no bearing on Kavanaugh’s fitness for the high court or on the accusations leveled by Swetnick, by Christine Blasey Ford or anyone else who has or will claim they have been attacked or, in Swetnick’s case, witnessed attacks on others.

What we now know for sure is that Hatch and others working for the Judiciary Committee have, without question, tried to slime one of Kavanaugh’s accusers in a way that is widely, and accurately, described as “slut-shaming."

Except it is Hatch and his allies who should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.