In a remarkable moment that played out live on cable television Friday, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., was confronted on his way to a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by two women who said they are survivors of sexual assault.
Flake, who, just moments before, had issued a statement saying he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, stood mostly silent for more than five minutes inside an open elevator in the Russell Senate Office Building, as the women tried to convince him to keep Kavanaugh off the court.
“On Monday, I stood in front of your office,” said one woman who was later identified as Ana Maria Archila, a Democratic activist. “I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford’s story that she’s telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court! This is not tolerable! You have children in your family! Think about them!
“I have two children,” she continued. “I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”
Flake and two female aides with him tried to close the elevator door as a second woman, Maria Gallagher, who also said she was a survivor of sexual assault began to berate him.
“Nobody believes me!” Gallagher yelled. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter! That they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them, you’re going to ignore them. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you’re telling all women in America, that they don’t matter, and they should just keep it to themselves because if they told the truth, you’re just going to help that man to power anyway!”
“That’s what you’re telling all these women!” Gallagher screamed. “Look at me when I’m talking to you! You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter!”
“Don’t look away from me!” she added. “Look at me and tell me it doesn’t matter what happened to me!
The senator, visibly shaken, said he had to go to the committee’s vote, as one of his aides attempted to flag security.
Flake eventually left the elevator, presumably to take the stairs to the hearing room.
Flake’s dramatic day, though, wasn’t done.
Before voting to move Kavanaugh out of committee, Flake proposed that the FBI reopen its background investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh before the full Senate votes on his confirmation. Flake’s call to delay the vote was welcomed by the two women who confronted him in the elevator.
During Thursday’s explosive hearing, Flake said that Christine Blasey Ford who told the committee she was “100 percent” certain she had been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers “offered compelling testimony.”
But Flake found Kavanaugh who said he was “100 percent” sure he didn’t assault Ford equally compelling.
“You have come and done the same,” he told the nominee. “I am sorry for what’s happened to you and your family, as I’m sorry for what has happened to hers. This is not a good process, but it’s all we’ve got.”
Flake added: “We are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent. And in the end, there is likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today.”