BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Republican Senate candidate Kevin Cramer said a sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is "even more absurd" than Anita Hill's 1991 sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas because Kavanaugh and his accuser were teenagers who "evidently were drunk."
Cramer, a U.S. House member, made the comments to Grand Forks radio station KNOX, saying the alleged incident between Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party was "supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere."
"If to the degree there was any legitimacy to Anita Hill's claims and she tried and didn't prevail — Clarence Thomas did and America did — this case is even more absurd because these people were teenagers when this supposed, alleged incident took place. Teenagers. Not a boss-supervisor, you know, subordinate situation as the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill situation was claimed to be," Cramer said in the interview. "These are teenagers who evidently were drunk, according to her own statement."
Cramer issued a statement Saturday seeking to clarify his point and saying he wouldn't imply that sexual assault is less serious when committed by teenagers.
"The question I was answering was how the current accusation against Brett Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford compared to the Anita Hill accusation against Clarence Thomas," Cramer said. "The point of my answer was that the current allegations were even more absurd."
He said that at the time of Hill's accusations, which came during Thomas' 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, there was a sense of legitimacy to what she was saying. Cramer said he thinks it's difficult not to be skeptical due to the history and timing of the accusations against Kavanaugh, but that any such allegations "should be taken seriously."
Cramer said that barring any significant evidence being brought forward immediately, the confirmation process should move forward. Shortly after Cramer issued his statement, news broke that Ford's lawyers indicated she would accept the Senate Judiciary Committee's request to tell her story.
Ford, a 51-year-old psychology professor, says an intoxicated Kavanaugh cornered her in a bedroom during a party in the early 1980s. She said he pinned her on a bed, tried to undress her and clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream, and that she escaped only when a friend of his jumped on the bed and knocked them all over.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the accusations. President Donald Trump and GOP leaders are trying to usher the 53-year-old federal appeals court judge onto the high court by the Oct. 1 start of its new session and before the November elections, when Democrats are mounting a robust drive to grab congressional control.
Saturday was the latest in a string of tumultuous days for Kavanaugh, whose ascension to the Supreme Court seemed a sure bet until Ford emerged last weekend and provided details of the alleged assault.
Cramer, meanwhile, is trying to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election. The race is seen as critical for Republicans' chances to keep control of the Senate.
Heitkamp said in a statement that Cramer's comments are "disturbing" and don't reflect North Dakota's values.
Hill, who had worked for Thomas, accused Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Thomas denied it and was confirmed.