KEY POINT: “One woman asked Comstock , “Do you think the Senate is treating Dr. Ford appropriately?” The congresswoman hesitated.
“I’m not sure...” Comstock said and turned away to reporters without finishing the thought."
By Jenna Portnoy, Washington Post
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), one of the loudest voices of the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill, swiftly called for the resignation of lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct.
But as the congresswoman faces a tough reelection fight, she has reserved judgement on her longtime friend, Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, amid allegations of sexual assault.
“Last night, with Judge Kavanaugh, the American people saw the heart and humility of the man I have known for 20 years, who is a man of great character, integrity, and professionalism who reveres the Constitution and the rule of law. #VA10,” she wrote.
The day after the Washington Post published an interview with Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of pinning her down and groping her at a party in the 1980s, Comstock said Kavanaugh and Ford should testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A hearing is now set for Thursday.
Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, told the New Yorker magazine that he exposed himself to her at a party when they were both first-year students.
Comstock has declined to say whether she believes Kavanaugh’s accusers or if she thinks the FBI should investigate the claims.
“Barbara has talked with many victims and knows the difficulty in bringing forward claims which is why she has fought to reform sexual harassment laws and policies,” her campaign manager, Susan Falconer, said in a statement Tuesday, adding that due process is key to any reforms.
The lengthy statement explained how Comstock knows Kavanaugh, her work in Congress on combatting sexual harassment with members of both parties and how she has carefully considered each case and figured out the most judicious way to respond.
“Each case is unique,” Falconer said. She added that Comstock “supports any alleged victim having a fair process to be heard.”
“Barbara has focused on creating an environment of zero tolerance and providing victims with strong protections and procedures to address wrongdoing and have accountability,” she said.
The two-term congresswoman has known Kavanaugh since the 1990s. She met him through her late friend and colleague Barbara Olson and her husband, former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson.
In 1995, Comstock was a lead attorney on the House Government Reform committee investigating whether the White House travel office staff were replaced with Clinton allies. At the time, Kavanaugh was a deputy to independent counsel Ken Starr. Their work lead to the impeachment of former president Bill Clinton.
Documents released after Kavanaugh’s nomination show Comstock once called Kavanaugh to ensure “Travelgate” hearings would not interfere with the Starr investigation.
She has been outspoken in her support for a streamlined process for women working on Capitol Hill to report harassment and abuse.
Comstock helped craft House measures last year that require lawmakers and staff to complete mandatory anti-harassment training and prohibit sexual relationships between lawmakers and their employees.
In November, she said she believed the women who accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Fox News head Roger Ailes and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein “because they were substantiated and consistent with the stories of how sexual predators operate.”
Around the same time, she called on Democrats John Conyers Jr. and Al Franken and Republican Blake Farenthold, to step down in light of what she considered to be credible accusations. Each has since resigned from Congress.
Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic state senator challenging Comstock, accused the congresswoman of perpetuating a double standard by reserving judgment about Kavanaugh.
“It’s indicative of how far we still haven’t come,” Wexton said in an interview. “Twenty-seven years after Anita Hill and Barbara Comstock has an opportunity to be a leader on this issue. She is billing herself as some leader and champion for women. There’s an opportunity to be not only a leader for women but to stand up to her party.”
Wexton said if she were in Congress she would publicly express her support for Ford and call for an FBI investigation into the allegations.
“What is she doing when it’s her friend who is the subject of allegations?” she said.
The race between Comstock and Wexton is one of the most competitive in the nation and both parties consider it a must-win for control of the House.
After a debate between Comstock and Wexton on Friday, a group of liberal activists descended on Comstock and one woman asked her, “Do you think the Senate is treating Dr. Ford appropriately?” The congresswoman hesitated.
“I’m not sure...” Comstock said and turned away to reporters without finishing the thought.
Within an hour, Dump Comstock, an activist group trying to unseat the congresswoman, tweeted a cell phone video of the exchange.
Some of Comstock’s GOP colleagues have weighed in on the controversy.
GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart, in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, called Ford’s allegations “a bunch of crap.”