GOP Senator Gives Preview of How Nasty Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Hearings Will Be

“I can only wonder: What’s your hidden agenda?” Tennesse Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked Jackson, who was bound by the process to not answer.
marsha-blackburn-ketanji-brown-jackson-crt
Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 21, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn was the last Senate Judiciary Committee member to give an opening statement in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and she used it to throw Jackson under the bus of right-wing talking points before the Supreme Court nominee even had a chance to speak. 

After some brief niceties about Jackson’s role as a mother, Blackburn tore into the judge with a host of conservative grievances, including but not limited to: “progressive indoctrination” and critical race theory at a private Washington, D.C., school where Jackson serves on the board; the notion that Jackson is easy on child predators; and her defense of Guantanamo Bay detainees. 

Advertisement

Blackburn got started with transphobic remarks about University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and repeatedly called transgender women “biological males,” saying that “those in power” are teaching young cisgender girls “their voices don’t matter.” Then she turned her sights on Jackson.

“Your public comments about ‘the transformative power of progressive education’... These are deeply concerning,” Blackburn said, before launching into an attack on Jackson for the policies at Georgetown Day School, where Jackson sits on the board.

“You serve on the board of a school that teaches kindergartners that they can choose their gender and teaches them about so-called ‘white privilege,’” Blackburn told the first Black woman to ever be nominated to a position on the Supreme Court. 

Blackburn also criticized the school—and by extension, Jackson—for “push[ing] an anti-racist education program for white families,” and claimed parents were worried about the potential return of mask mandates to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blackburn also said Jackson “consistently called for greater freedom for hardened criminals,” and slammed the judge for releasing incarcerated people from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of incarcerated people have died and hundreds of thousands more have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the COVID Prison Project.  

Advertisement

“But your efforts to protect convicts began long before the pandemic,” Blackburn told Jackson.

“You used your time and talent not to serve our nation’s veterans or other vulnerable groups but to provide free legal services to terrorists to get out of [Guantanamo Bay] and get back to the fight,” Blackburn continued, as Jackson sat in front of her with a fixed expression. (Of the nearly 780 people ever detained at Guantanamo Bay, the vast majority were never charged or put on trial; more than two dozen people remain detained there despite not having been charged.)

“You also have a consistent pattern of giving child porn offenders lighter sentences,” Blackburn added, echoing an attack by fellow far-right Sen. Josh Hawley and falsely accusing Jackson of “saying publicly it is a mistake to assume child pornography offenders are pedophiles”—a reference to a 2012 U.S. Sentencing Commission meeting where Jackson was questioning experts during a hearing on child porn sentencing guidelines. 

Advertisement

Blackburn also attacked Jackson as a radical who had a “hidden agenda.” 

“I can only wonder: What’s your hidden agenda?” Blackburn asked Jackson, who was bound by the process to not answer. “Is it to let violent criminals, cop killers and child predators back to the streets? Is it to restrict parental rights and expand government’s reach into our schools and private family decisions? Is it to support the radical left’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court?”

Blackburn then cited a lecture at the University of Michigan Jackson gave in January 2020 in which she praised New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones—who developed the 1619 Project—as an “acclaimed investigative journalist” and described the project as “provocative.” Jackson’s lecture made the rounds on conservative media last week after the Daily Wire published the transcript. 

“Is it your personal hidden agenda to incorporate critical race theory into our legal system?” Blackburn asked Jackson—who, again, was not allowed to answer. 

Blackburn had indicated where her opening remarks would go in a video posted Sunday, during which she said the Supreme Court had made “constitutionally unsound” rulings such as Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 ruling which struck down state statutes barring married couples from obtaining and using contraceptives. 

“It’s time for [Jackson] to speak up and let Tennesseeans know where she stands,” Blackburn said Sunday. “If she refuses to prove her commitment to following the Constitution as it is written, the Senate should refuse to offer her a seat on the Supreme Court.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.