Trump nominee struggles to explain her bigotry at disastrous hearing

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Neomi Rao, Trump's nominee to take Brett Kavanaugh's old seat on the federal judiciary, has a history of making shockingly hateful remarks.

If you've said the best way to prevent date rape is for women to stay "reasonably sober," it's pretty hard to argue that you don't blame the victims of date rape for the crimes committed against them.

So it comes as no surprise that Neomi Rao, Trump's nominee to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, struggled mightily to defend that position — along with a slew of other shocking, bigoted remarks she's made in the past on issues like LGBTQ rights, AIDS, and race relations — during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Rao has come under fire recently for columns she wrote for the Yale Herald, including a 1994 piece arguing that "a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober."

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Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) asked Rao if she still believes that "if a woman consumes alcohol to the point where she can no longer consent, she's in part to blame if somebody rapes her?"

"I was trying to make, and perhaps not in the most elegant way, the commonsense observation that that excessive drinking can lead to risky and dangerous behavior for both men and women," Rao replied — still not grasping that pushing this point of view is placing the onus on women to not be raped, rather than on men who do the raping.

The hearing didn't get any better from there.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked Rao about another article she wrote during her time at Yale, in which she said sexual and racial oppression are "myths."

Durbin asked what those "myths" were. Rao responded that she doesn't "recall."

"I've always been someone who has taken problems of sexism and racism very seriously, and part of what I'm responding to there is a very narrow set of issues on the Yale campus and a specific type of activism and multiculturalism that existed at Yale at that time," Rao said. "And I guess I always thought it would be best to have more tolerance and understanding rather than dividing people into groups."

Durbin was perplexed by that response.

"Tolerance of sexual and racial oppression, is that what you're asking for?" Durbin asked.

To which Rao replied, "No, tolerance of racial differences, understanding between different racial and ethnic groups."

Durbin still wouldn't let Rao's answer slide. And that's when Rao made her most ridiculous claim yet — that she was actually "inspired by Martin Luther King's vision" to take a colorblind view of diversity and race relations.

"I think I had a kind of idealism about racial relations," Rao said. "I went to a school that was very diverse, I had friends from all different backgrounds. And as growing up as an ethnic minority I guess as it were, I was inspired by Martin Luther King's vision that we should be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin."

King's views on race were anything but colorblind, however — and it's hard to imagine King signing on to Rao's argument that much of racial discrimination is just a myth.

Even Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were taken aback by Rao's writings from Yale.

"I had a chance to review a number of your writings while you were in college," said Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican up for re-election in 2020. "They do give me pause. Not just from my own personal experiences but regarding messages we send young women everywhere."

Ernst went on to ask Rao why she wrote that it is "a dangerous feminist idealism which teaches women that they are equal."

"Is that a dangerous feminist ideal, is that women are created equal?" Ernst asked Rao.

Rao said she regrets that statement and is "honestly not sure why I wrote that in college."

Still, despite all of Rao's shortcomings, don't expect GOP senators to kill her nomination. Republicans have proven time and again that they're almost always willing to push Trump's picks through — no matter how disastrous the choice could be.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.