Editor’s Note: Carol Costello is the host of “Across America With Carol Costello” on HLN. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Christine Blasey Ford began her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by saying, “I am terrified.” I was, too. For her. For me. For every woman in my generation who grew up in the he-said-who-cares-what-she-said era.
That is how I felt, as a young woman in the 1980s – that no one gave credence to a woman’s allegations, not when she went up against a powerful man.
Isn’t that what the Clarence Thomas hearings taught young women in 1991? Who cared if we, like Anita Hill, spoke out about sexual harassment on the job? It wouldn’t get us anywhere. Hill lost. Not only did she lose in the court of public opinion, she was deemed “delusional” and “somewhat unstable.” Oh, and Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
The perception that women who complained about sexual harassment would have no professional future stuck in my psyche for years. I am sure that is part of the reason I never reported that my boss – in one of my first TV jobs – sat me on his lap when I asked for a promotion. I declined his “offer” and was fired a few months later.
So, when Ford entered the Senate chamber – in a blue suit, similar to the suit Anita Hill wore back in the day – I ached for her. Would it be different this time? Ford appeared credible, professional and poised, like Hill.
She also, as attorney Wendy Murphy told me on HLN, had a lovely voice – “feminine,” “authentic” and “youthful.” It’s true. I could hear the 15-year-old girl in her voice, and it broke my heart.
I teared up when Ford described her strongest memory of escaping her alleged attackers. “The uproarious laughter between the two and having fun at my expense,” she said. “I was underneath one of them, while the two laughed. Two friends having a really good time with one another.”
It did not cause tears for many of the Republican senators who were so afraid to address an alleged sexual assault victim that they hired a “female assistant” to “ask these questions in a respectful and professional way.”
Perhaps that was wise in light of how Sen. Orrin Hatch described Ford’s testimony. He said she was an “attractive, good witness,” who was not “uncredible.” He added that he had not learned anything new, “at least I can’t think of anything.”
I am tempted to conclude, in light of Hatch’s remarks, and the curious lack of interest in involving the FBI, that I was right to be terrified for Ford. Right to think that nothing had changed, even in this era of #MeToo. But, that – and I say this with a sense of wonder – would be an erroneous conclusion.
Despite the disbelief, the politicization of this process, no lawmaker is calling Ford “delusional” or “unstable.” Most are not even calling her a liar. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said he felt “ambushed” by a “politicized” committee hearing, says he believes “something happened” to Ford back in the 1980s. He just isn’t sure Judge Brett Kavanaugh was the perpetrator.
Is it good enough? No. But, then again, a Senate committee hearing is not a trial. It’s a job interview.
I can definitively conclude this: The days of he-said-who-cares-what-she-said are over for good.