Where Things Stand: Even Some Conservative Media Find Hawley’s QAnon-Flavored Attacks On Jackson ‘Disingenuous’

This is your TPM evening briefing.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Hart Senate Office Buil... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, will begin four days of nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS

As Kate Riga noted repeatedly during her coverage of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) made a point of injecting some QAnon-adjacent claims about Jackson into the public record Monday.

We knew this was coming. Hawley posted a Twitter thread last week that forecast what would become Republicans’ strategy for going after Jackson, the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Less pugnacious types like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have chosen to voice vaguer and more predictable criticisms, opining that her professional background as a public defender means she will bring a “special empathy for convicted criminals” to SCOTUS, in McConnell’s words — something the minority leader finds concerning.

But Hawley has taken his attacks several gross and misleading steps further, accusing Jackson of being too lenient in her past rulings as a judge on cases involving defendants accused of crimes against children, specifically when it comes to dealing with sex offenders and those found guilty of endangering children. Other Republicans have since seized on Hawley’s Twitter thread detailing his accusations (which have a clear appeal for the pedophilia-fixated adherents of QAnon conspiracy theories), as Kate Riga documented here. Since Hawley posted his Twitter thread, others have latched on to it, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who accused the White House of deflecting on unsubstantiated questions about Jackson’s record.

“The White House’s whataboutist response to Judge Jackson’s very real record in child pornography cases is dismissive, dangerous, and offensive,” he tweeted. “We need real answers.”

Hawley praised Jackson in his initial opening remarks during today’s hearing, before taking a sharp right turn to rehash his accusations that the SCOTUS nominee has been soft on sex offenders. It was a bizarre juxtaposition of tone that laid bare the transparently non-serious nature of the GOPer’s line of attack.

The Republican conference is full of lawyers and legal scholars who should — and do — know better. Even some in conservative media have attempted to fact-check Hawley’s accusations. Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy penned a piece for The National Review Sunday, titled “Senator Hawley’s Disingenuous Attack against Judge Jackson’s Record on Child Pornography.”

McCarthy explained that he didn’t support Jackson’s appointment to the Supreme Court due to her “judicial philosophy” before breaking down the dishonesty of Hawley’s crusade, specifically pointing to the legal disparity in sentencing in cases that involve various types of child sex crimes, including the difference between child porn-related penalties and crimes associated with “abominable, inhumane sexual acts” against children.

“The allegation appears meritless to the point of demagoguery,” he wrote of Hawley’s ongoing screed.

As a lawyer himself (and a former state attorney general), Hawley would already be familiar with everything McCarthy wrote. He knows his attacks don’t hold water. Most Republicans have decided to largely sit this one out, making disapproving noises, like McConnell, without taking things to an extreme. Why make a big stink? Conservatives have a clear majority on the Supreme Court, and Jackson will not change that fact. Democrats have the votes to confirm her, regardless of the extent to which Republicans do or don’t smear her.

But Hawley and a handful of other spotlight-seeking senators, including Lee and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), will not let an opportunity like this pass. Theirs is a disturbing and dark line to lob at a respected and highly qualified judge, and one that illuminates the far-right’s cynicism.

The Best Of TPM Today

Here’s what you should read this evening:

Catch up on our live coverage from Kate Riga here: Senators Make Opening Statements As Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Hearing Marathon Begins

Mo Brooks Puts Out Ad Bashing McConnell As Trump Mulls Yanking Endorsement

In case you missed it: Russian TV Producer Explains Protest Of Ukraine Invasion

McConnell: ‘Few Lonely Voices’ In GOP Support Putin

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Cheney Outlines Why ‘There Certainly Will Be New Information’ From Jan. 6 Committee — Summer Concepcion

What We Are Reading

Watch a Lone Cyclist Slow the D.C. Trucker Convoy to a Crawl — Daniel Politi

Big Oil rakes in billions as prices soar. Lawmakers want them to pay us back — Chris Isidore

The Democratic Party’s Biggest Problem Is Its Conservative Wing — Ryan Cooper

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest Edblog
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: