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Jeff Flake, Donald Trump, and the ‘leeway’ for men’s bad behavior

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee Erin Schaff/New York Times

Senator Jeff Flake doesn’t believe women. He hopes to clear Brett Kavanaugh.

With rape culture, you either recognize it’s real and fight it, or you don’t. Nuance is important. Investigations are paramount. But it starts with believing there is a problem.

On Monday, the Arizona senator attempted to play the middle during the Forbes Under 30 Summit at City Hall Plaza. Remember, Flake was going to vote for Kavanaugh even after hearing Christine Blasey Ford testify about the alleged sexual assault in 1982.

“Everybody, I think, on my side of the aisle and on the other side of the aisle said she offered compelling, credible testimony,” Flake said, of Ford, to the crowd.


“And then Brett Kavanaugh came on and made an impassioned, very raw defense and rebuttal to what was going on. And that was seen as very effective as well. And as I have said before, some people were turned off by the rawness of it, the anger. Had I been what I felt was unjustly accused, that’s probably how I would have responded as well.”

Flake would have been belligerent, interrupted senators, talked rudely to women, and offered misleading testimony repeatedly? That is not Supreme Court behavior. Perhaps a president acting this way has opened the door for everyone to be that reckless?

Except women. A woman, it has been noted, would never have gotten away with that kind of brashness. Flake said that given what Kavanaugh is going through, he deserves “leeway.”

M. Reese Everson stood up in the crowd for the duration of Flake’s talk, holding a sign that said #BelieveSurvivors.

“I think it’s unfortunate he keeps saying Kavanaugh was impassioned because he’s wrongly accused,” said Everson, of B.A.B.E.S. In The Workplace, which aims to empower young professional women. “It’s a very peremptory statement to make, and he needs to wait until the investigation is done. I, too, was a survivor. We should take the time to investigate what happened to this courageous, incredible woman. It matters.”


But it’s the men we keep focusing on.

Donald Trump Jr. told DailyMailTV he was more concerned for his sons than his daughters in this climate. He gets his toxic masculinity honestly. President Trump, after disrespecting female reporters during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, said this process was “unfair” to Kavanaugh.

“You look at his life, until this happened, what a change he’s gone through. The trauma for a man who has never had any accusations,” Trump said.

On Tuesday, the president continued caping for Kavanaugh before boarding Marine One, telling reporters that allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee are indication of how hard it is for men.

“It is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of,” Trump sai d. “This is a very, very — this is a very difficult time. What’s happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.”

Where was that same energy when the Central Park Five were wrongly accused?

In 1989, when those black and brown Harlem teens were unjustly accused of rape, coerced into confessions, and indicted, Donald Trump spent $85,000 on ads calling for the death penalty. Even after a post-conviction DNA exoneration, Trump insisted on their guilt.


Flake is not Team Trump, but he isn’t exactly a feminist either. He’s anti-abortion rights, anti-Planned Parenthood, and anti-paid parental leave.

Democratic Congressional nominee Ayanna Pressley, Mayor Marty Walsh, US Senator Edward Markey, and the hundreds of people on Boston City Hall Plaza Monday morning were right to call for Flake’s rejection of Kavanaugh.

Yeah, he’s the guy that said he would vote to move the nomination to the full Senate if the FBI first investigated the sexual assault allegations. “The Supreme Court is one of the last bastions of trust,” Flake said Monday, adding that a thorough investigation was important.

Yet he hopes to confirm someone whose testimony, under oath, has been disputed (“Boof,” “Renata alumni,” “devil’s triangle,” anyone?)

A lie is a lie, and Flake is a flake.

When asked how we can get more women represented at the highest levels, he didn’t give a real answer. He simply pointed to his time being up in the Senate and a historic all-woman race in Arizona.

“My seat, which I am not running again for, will have a woman replacing me,” he said. “It will be the first woman senator in Arizona history.”

Calling for an FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh allegations was the right thing to do. But the senator doesn’t deserve a pat on the back. In fact, women had to push him to do it.


Still, he says we may never know the truth. If the questions about Kavanaugh’s history remain, would Flake support his Supreme Court nomination?

“We have to realize we may not be able to find out everything that happened,” Flake said. “This was something that was a while ago.”

“Vote no! Vote no!” protesters chanted outside of the Under 30 Summit as the senator spoke.

Morgan Payne held a big sign that read, “I am Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.”

“I believe her,” said Payne, a Texas Southern University senior. “As a survivor of sexual abuse, people don’t understand there is no limit on speaking out on what you have been through. It’s really important to make young voices, to make voices of women heard.”

While Flake was on stage, news broke of the White House directive to make the FBI investigation unrestricted.

“I want them to do a very comprehensive investigation, whatever that means, according to the senators and the Republicans and the Republican majority,” Trump said Monday. “I want them to do that. I want it to be comprehensive. I think it’s actually a good thing for Judge Kavanaugh.”

For Flake, Trump, and others — it’s still about what works for Kavanaugh.

This thorough investigation, Trump said, should still be swift.

“We don’t want to go on a witch hunt, do we?” Trump said from the Rose Garden.


If it means exposing systemic rape culture, yes. If Flake is remotely serious about a presidential future, he better grab a broom.

Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.