GOP Says Judge They Called Soft on Child Porn Is Actually Very Nice

But they’re still not voting for her.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson answers questions from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Now that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is virtually ensured, the same Senate Republicans who spent days last month attacking her as an enabler of child predators said Monday that actually, she’s a capable judge and a very nice person whom they like a lot.

But they still won’t vote for her. 

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The Senate Judiciary Committee met Monday to vote on Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, after a marathon four-day hearing last month. During the hearings, the circuit court judge was asked if she thought babies were racist, grilled about her “hidden agenda” and past Supreme Court hearings she had nothing to do with, and accused of being soft on “child porn.”

The last line of attack rested on several cases where Jackson sentenced people convicted on child sexual abuse imagery charges to less time than prosecutors had asked for, as well as out-of-context comments Jackson had made during her time on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. A group of nine federal judges wrote a letter to the Judiciary Committee calling Jackson’s sentencing on such cases “entirely consistent with the nationwide pattern,” and Jackson herself repeatedly said she thought abusive imagery of children was a serious crime for which federal sentencing guidelines are out of date. 

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“As a mother and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,” Jackson said in response to the line of attack, pushed most aggressively by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.

Senate Democrats hold a majority in the Senate, however, and in addition to conservative Sen. Joe Manchin, GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she’ll vote for Jackson—meaning it’s all but certain she’ll be confirmed to the Supreme Court this month. So on Monday, GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee said that while they won’t vote for Jackson, they do like her.

Hawley, who initially raised the question of Jackson’s sentencing decisions, said Monday he “enjoyed the opportunity to meet with [her] in person several weeks ago.”

“I found our exchanges here on the committee after almost an hour of questioning to be very substantive and very thorough,” Hawley said. “Based on answers I heard from her then and in response to my other colleagues, I can say definitively that I like her. I think she’s a good person, but I cannot support her.”

“My fundamental disagreement with Judge Jackson is not based on her character, her integrity, or her accomplishments,” Hawley said later, after again saying Jackson was too lenient on abusive child imagery offenders. “I think those things are beyond question. It’s based on her policy and her philosophy.”

Cruz, who was Jackson’s classmate at Harvard Law School–and who asked her last month if she believes babies are racist–said she is “charming, she’s talented, she has an inspiring life story… I’ve always liked her personally.” He later produced charts showing that Jackson had sentenced child abuse material offenders below the national average. 

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“The Democrats say, ‘Well, gosh, she doesn’t like child pornography.’ Of course she doesn’t; no rational person does. It’s horrible,” Cruz said.

Sen. Mike Lee, who also questioned Jackson about her sentencing record on such cases and said he wouldn’t vote to confirm her, added Monday that Jackson is well-qualified for the position and “seems like a wonderful human being, one who’s dedicated to her family.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who spent much of the hearings yelling at Jackson and his colleagues about child porn cases and the confirmation hearing for Justice Brett Kavanaugh before storming out, used his time to issue a threat if Senate Republicans win control in November. 

“If we get back the Senate and we’re in charge of this body, and there’s judicial openings, we will talk to our colleagues on the other side,” Graham said. “But if we’re in charge, [Jackson] would not have been before this committee. You would have had somebody more moderate than this… When we’re in charge, we’ll talk about judges differently.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee vote was delayed Monday because California Sen. Alex Padilla’s plane was forced to return to Los Angeles due to a medical emergency. The committee hearing is expected to resume Monday afternoon.

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