‘Look at me:’ Women confront Flake on Kavanaugh support
WASHINGTON — Moments after Jeff Flake announced his support for Brett Kavanaugh, he was confronted with one of the consequences.
Two women cornered him as he got on an elevator Friday, pleading for him to reconsider his support for the Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault. The raw, emotional moment was caught on television, capturing the charged atmosphere in the Capitol as senators prepare to vote.
“Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me,” said 23-year-old Maria Gallagher.
A day earlier, the senators heard hours of testimony for Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who told them Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were teenagers. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.
Flake had lobbied Republican leaders to give Ford the chance to speak. He was viewed as a possible no vote, until the announcement Friday morning.
The senator on his way to the Senate Judiciary Committee as the two women, who are both affiliated with advocacy groups, told him they were sexual assault survivors.
“On Monday, I stood in front of your office,” Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the nonprofit Center for Popular Democracy Action, told Flake. “I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford’s story that she is telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court.”
Archila, 39, appeared to block the Arizona senator from closing the elevator door.
Then 23-year-old Maria Gallagher said: “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.”
“That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you are telling all women in America, that they don’t matter,” she said through tears.
She begged Flake to look her in the eye. She said: “Don’t look away from me.”
Flake, cornered in the elevator, shifted between looking at them and looking down. He said, “Thank you,” but didn’t response to questions on whether he believed Ford’s testimony.
When a reporter asked whether he wanted to respond to the women’s questions, he said no.
“I need to go to the hearing. I just issued a statement. I’ll be saying more as well,” he said.
The elevator doors closed. A committee vote was set for 1:30 p.m. on whether to recommend Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate.
The women do not identify themselves in the video, but Archila’s group sent a press release following the confrontation confirming it was Archila speaking on camera. Gallagher confirmed via phone to the AP it was her, and she consented to the use of her name.
The AP does not usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly about the allegations, as these women have done.
Speaking to AP by phone after the confrontation, Gallagher said she didn’t intend to tell Flake about her assault — she had never told anyone before. “But I saw him, and I got really angry,” she said.
She was in town as a volunteer with the liberal activist group Make the Road New York. She said she was on her way to talk with her family, because she worried they were seeing what happened to her in the news.