Christine Blasey Ford listens to her attorney Michael Bromwich as she testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

Early TV commentary on Ford is bad news for Kavanaugh

September 27, 2018 - 2:20 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Christine Blasey Ford's testimony Thursday on Capitol Hill made for riveting — and potentially devastating — TV, with Fox News' Chris Wallace calling it a "disaster" for Republicans, and some commentators at other networks echoing that assessment.

The California psychology professor's account of being attacked sexually by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when they were high school students more than three decades ago was carried live by the major broadcast and cable networks in a spectacle that transfixed people across America.

Kavanaugh, who has emphatically denied the allegations, was scheduled to testify later in the day.

Several TV commentators said Ford's account in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee was tough for Republicans and Kavanaugh's hopes of confirmation, but the comments on Fox were particularly important because the White House said that was the network that President Donald Trump, who was flying from New York to Washington, was watching on Air Force One.

Wallace and some others on Fox used breaks in Ford's testimony to say that she was doing a strong job and express frustration about the prosecutor hired by the Republicans to question Ford.

"This was a disaster for the Republicans," Wallace said after the first break in testimony.

Wallace said that there has been a lot of talk in the country about the allegations and that two of his daughters had recently told him stories about things that had happened to them in high school that they had never told their parents before.

"I don't think we can disregard Christine Blasey Ford and the seriousness of this," he said. "I think that would be a big mistake."

His Fox colleague Brit Hume said of Ford: "The more hesitant, the more fragile she has seemed, the more credible and powerful she seems to the audience."

Similarly, ABC's Dan Abrams said Ford's testimony was an "unmitigated disaster" for Republicans. CNN's Wolf Blitzer suggested people watching in their homes were crying as they listened to her story. NBC's Savannah Guthrie said Ford's description of Kavanaugh and a friend of his laughing uproariously during the alleged attack is a moment that will resonate with many Americans.

On the Fox Business Network, Stuart Varney appeared frustrated by Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor brought in by the all-male GOP members of the Senate panel to question Ford. He said Ford was "perhaps in the process" of ruining Kavanaugh's career and undermining the integrity of the Supreme Court.

"Why can't that person be questioned vigorously?" Varney said. "Why do we have to step back and with absolute maximum caution have her interviewed by another woman?"

Analysts said Mitchell was partly constrained by the hearing's format, where she was given five minutes at a time to ask questions before she had to yield to a Democratic senator who heaped praise on Ford. Others were baffled about what points she was trying to make, such as establishing that Ford's fear of flying hadn't prevented her from getting on an airplane.

Despite the sympathy for Ford, some urged caution. NBC's Megyn Kelly said that while some may empathize with her, it doesn't necessarily mean she was attacked by Kavanaugh. And she wondered whether Kavanaugh's exemplary life since high school should be taken into account.

A former prosecutor interviewed on Fox Business Network, Sidney Powell, said she did not find Ford credible.

"She was far from being raped," she said. "She hasn't even alleged that any body part was exposed. ... It was all a fumbled attempt to make out with a girl at a party."

Meanwhile, C-SPAN took phone calls from viewer during breaks in the testimony, and at times it seemed like an impromptu therapy group. At least four callers told their own stories of being victims of sexual assault.

Ford's testimony gave Kavanaugh and his allies a very tough challenge, said CNN's John King.

"They have, up to this point, lost in the court of public opinion," King said. "The best they can do is a draw."

Also on Thursday, The New York Times deleted and apologized for a tweet that asked readers to vote on whether they thought Ford's testimony credible. "In retrospect, a Twitter poll is insensitive in light of the gravity of the hearing," the newspaper said.

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Associated Press reporters Catherine Lucey and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this story.

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