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Female Voters Respond To Kavanaugh Accusations


It is impossible to ignore the timing of the accusation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It's only weeks until voters go to the polls in midterm elections, elections in which women's votes are going to be pivotal. NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid has been spending time with women in the suburbs of Detroit who will help decide a competitive House race there this fall.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I go to church three times a week.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: I meet Cynthia Haley (ph) at a picnic for Democrats. The 69-year-old retired science teacher says she has no idea what the right response to the sexual assault allegation ought to be. Maybe Democrats are trying to delay the nomination until the elections, she wonders out loud.

CYNTHIA HALEY: I feel it's a little bit more political than personal. It's a tough one.

KHALID: Haley also worries that if Kavanaugh were to drop out, President Trump might nominate an even more conservative justice.

HALEY: I don't know who's after him. You know? You sometimes get somebody worse, I mean.

KHALID: Haley insists the #MeToo movement is important, but sometimes men are accused of things that happened when the culture was different. She says times have changed, and she's glad. But she's also not certain how you deal with all of this. When I ask women about the Kavanaugh allegation, I can hear the confusion as they're trying to process what they think. But there's also another reaction. They tell me they've been sexually assaulted - a grandma in her 70s, a mom in her 30s. Many, like Democratic activist Adrienne Pickett (ph), have their own stories.

ADRIENNE PICKETT: I was sexually assaulted in college. You know, it happened years ago. Took me a really long time to talk about that. And it's really hard for me to be objective about something like that.

KHALID: But even when Pickett steps back, this adds to her existing doubts about the nominee.

PICKETT: It doesn't look good. It doesn't look good to me. I mean, I already don't really agree with most of his views, and then you're already adding this layer.

KHALID: In some ways, people's reactions fall along predictable lines. If they were already opposed to Kavanaugh, this is just one more thing that disqualifies him. And if they support him, well, then this is just a possible smear to discredit him.

LAURA TOY: It's an election year. I think a lot of it's politics right now.

KHALID: Laura Toy (ph) is a 66-year-old Republican on the local city council. Over a lunch of Greek tacos, she tells me the request for an FBI investigation from Democrats, along with the accuser Christine Blasey Ford, is drastic.

TOY: I really feel it was many years ago, but I'm just going to say that I think he was a very young man. She was a very young woman. Things happen.

KHALID: But there are generational divides within the GOP. Samantha Keefer (ph) is a 21-year-old who shares Toy's concerns that this could be driven by Democratic politics, but she's also a college student in the #MeToo era.

SAMANTHA KEEFER: I would hope for him not to have committed any kind of allegations, but also I would hope that somebody wouldn't come forth with false allegations because that is a complete diss to all those that have come forth.

KHALID: Keefer says there's no good way to go through this process decades later without turning it into a he said, she said, that could slander a person's career. The best bet she says we have is an investigation.

KEEFER: I think any time that you hear about a story of a public official, public celebrity, anyone that's being accused of sexual assault, I think it needs to be investigated. We need to figure out if it's true.

KHALID: She says officials could talk to eyewitnesses and see if their stories match. One of her friends chimes in and says, what we need is patience. We need to wait for answers.

Asma Khalid, NPR News, Troy, Mich. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.