Women plea with Senator Flake to hear their concerns about confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
WASHINGTON – It was an emotional moment carried live on cable television.
Two women cornered Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake as he was getting into an elevator. One said through tears she was sexually assaulted and yelled that by voting to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Republican senator would be “telling me that my assault doesn’t matter.”
Hours after the confrontation, UltraViolet, a women’s activist group, sent out news releases to the media and posted on social media that Flake is “potentially pressing charges” on the women, who they said are members of the organization.
“Charging sexual assault survivors for sharing their stories is shameful and cowardly. Senator Flake should be ashamed of himself for attempting to frighten survivors into silence,” said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of UltraViolet. “This is absolutely unbelievable.”
But Flake’s office said this was false.
“Sen. Flake is not pressing charges, nor did he ever consider pressing charges,” said Elizabeth Jones, a spokeswoman for Flake.
It was a busy day for Flake. He started off the day offering a statement that he’d vote for Kavanaugh then being the holdout vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the end, he voted “yes” on Kavanaugh with the caveat that the FBI investigate accusations of sexual assault lodged against Kavanaugh and there be a weeklong delay before the full Senate votes.
UltraViolet posted its statement on the potential charges online. On Twitter, it garnered hundreds of retweets and likes. Prominent activists such as DeRay retweeted the post.
Later Friday, the group deleted the tweet and issued an explanation: “Earlier today the Capitol Police informed our organizer in the Capitol that Sen. Flake was going to press charges. We’re glad the Senator has decided not to.”
Capitol police initially asked Flake’s office about pressing charges after the incident, but his office didn’t respond immediately due to the hearing and dramatic aftermath.
His office later told police he did not intend on filing charges.
Flake pressing charges on the two female protesters would have been an extraordinary move for a multitude of reasons. The optics could have played into a narrative that Republicans don’t care about sexual assault survivors, such as Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford.
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