Ford-Kavanaugh hearing not quite like Supreme Court spectacle in 1991, local expert says

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PARKVILLE, Mo. -- Many believe we're about to watch history repeat itself Thursday in Washington D.C.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and many are already making comparisons to the testimony of Anita Hill nearly three decades ago.

But Matt Harris, a Park University political science professor, sees some crucial differences between Kavanaugh's nomination process and that of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.

Like Kavanaugh, Thomas was accused of sexual misconduct with a former associate, Anita Hill, in the final days of Thomas’s nomination. Ford accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh denies the accusations.

Harris says opinions about sex assault allegations have gone through a dramatic shift since the '90s.

“There is definitely more of a public outcry with sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Harris said. “This is not acceptable behavior.”

And Harris believes senators on the Judiciary Committee have taken notice.

“I think part of the reason they’re bringing in Rachel Mitchell from Maricopa County to ask the questions (of Ford) is because they’re trying to change the optics of the situation,” Harris said. “The optics of the situation, in terms of looking like a bunch of old, largely white men, sort of asking really tough questions, or doubting the veracity of the accusations of the woman.”

And while some things change, others stay the same.

"There are kind of some similarities in terms of trying to turn it into a 'he-said she-said,' not bringing in other witnesses, the fact that the allegations were sat on," Harris said.

After Hill’s testimony in 1991 and Thomas' confirmation to the High Court, a record number of women were later elected to office in what was called the “Year of the Woman."

“I think it will be interesting to see how it plays out and the effect it then has on the upcoming midterm elections," Harris said.

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