Jeff Flake refuses to look at two women who confront him in elevator after he announces support for Kavanaugh.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) surprise announcement of support for Brett Kavanaugh all but ensures the Supreme Court nominee will move to a full vote, and approval, to the nation’s highest court.

We need to do better than this.

Flake may be the one senator who was somehow swayed to support Brett Kavanaugh after his widely panned testimony before the U.S. Senate on Thursday.


After announcing his support, he tried to quietly duck out of the Senate in an elevator reserved for members and their staff. It didn’t work out like he planned.

Flake was cornered and confronted by two women who identified themselves as sexual assault survivors.

One woman told Flake that by announcing his support for Kavanaugh, he was effectively, "telling all women that they don't matter, that they should just stay quiet, because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them."

"You have children in your family, think about them."

It’s an uncomfortable moment that’s hard to watch. But Jeff Flake is an elected member of the U.S. Senate and presumably would have the backbone to engage with a citizen, particularly one sharing such a heartfelt moment.

Instead, he looks down passively, and refuses to address the woman, clearly waiting for the elevator door to close as he mumbles, "I need to go. I need to go to the hearing."

"What you are doing, is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court," she responds. "This is not tolerable."

Without actually stepping into the elevator, she moves just close enough to delay the doors closing and calls out Flake for literally refusing to acknowledge her presence, something darkly symbolic of what many feel was revealed in the Kavanaugh hearing on Thursday by the judge’s supporters.

"That's what you're telling all of these women,” she continued. “That's what you're telling me right now. Look at me when I'm talking to you. You are telling me that my assault doesn't matter."

The second woman in the video steps in and says to Flake:

"You are allowing someone unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions and unwilling to hold the harm he has done to one woman, actually three women, and not repair it."

Over the past two years, Flake has been a consistent check on the power of President Trump and his administration. Despite being a staunch conservative, Flake has won accolades for his independence and commitment to principle in ways that brought to mind the conviction of his former Arizona colleague Sen. John McCain.

But in this moment, we see a man literally racing to get out of responsibility for his actions, refusing to hear the testimony of women clearly affected by his choice.

Flake is fully within his rights as an elected official to support Kavanaugh no matter what these women, or anyone, thinks. However, his refusal to even hear them out and defend his own position is revealing in a way that the entire nomination of Kavanaugh has been.

At worst, we are seeing a serial sexual predator about to be elevated to a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court and one of the essential branches of federal government with the power to affect policy for decades to come.

At best, we are seeing a deeply flawed nominee who is anything but essential being propped up by a broken system incapable and unwilling to do better.

You can watch the full CNN video here.

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