I don’t know why the mainstream media fell for the myth that Republican politicians were avoiding direct attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. It may be that undermining women has become so commonplace in our society that everyday sexism slips under the radar.
When asked directly about whether they believe Dr. Ford or Brett Kavanaugh, Republican senators like Susan Collins (R-ME) have settled on a really disturbing answer: They don’t think Dr. Ford or Kavanaugh is lying, but Dr. Ford is wrong because she’s confused.
Sen. Collins doubled down on it during a recent interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I believe that she believes she was assaulted by him” is gaslighting.
A basic definition, as described on Wikipedia, is “a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.”
The manipulation here is to try and minimize the gravity of national leaders confirming to the Supreme Court a lying sexual assailant who has a line of people pointing out his disdain and hatred of women. It’s to make us all doubt Dr. Ford’s sanity. Perhaps it’s a lie Republicans are telling themselves, but it’s only possible because of the widespread normalization of lying to the American people, on top of the natural mistrust our society fosters towards women.
Sen. Collins isn’t the only one who has used this line. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has also tried to play both sides. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) had the audacity to say that Dr. Ford must be “mistaken.” The angry Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) gave an evasive “I believe something happened to her” before adding that he must speak to Kavanaugh as well.
Gaslighting a victim of sexual assault has become a Republican talking point.
Republicans—including Sen. Collins—are willing to say that they believe they know Dr. Ford’s experience more than she does. They’re saying that Justice Kavanaugh’s words are inherently more trustworthy, in spite of all the reasons why he would be more likely to be the liar in this situation.