Accuracy in Media

On Tuesday, mainstream media lit into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after he referred to the lawyer being brought in to ask the questions in tomorrow’s hearing with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault as a “female assistant.”

McConnell was trying to convey that the person is female – Democrats have criticized Republicans for having 11 men on the Senate Judiciary Committee and no women – and assistant to the committee staff would be the formal temporary title for someone in her role.

“We’re going to be moving forward,” McConnell told reporters. “I’m confident we’re going to win, confident that he’ll be confirmed in the very near future. I believe he’ll be confirmed, yes. We have hired a female assistant to go on staff and to ask these questions in a respectful and professional way.”

The woman, who since has been identified as Rachel Mitchell, is a prosecutor in Arizona who specializes in sex crimes. Mitchell will ask questions on behalf of Republican senators. Four senators, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) and Kamala Harris (D.-Calif.) will question the witnesses for the Democrats.

It was the lead item in several stories.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the attorney who will question Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford as a ‘female assistant,’ wrote Yahoo’s Elise Sole.

It then quoted tweets from others. Patti Solis Doyle, a former Obama campaign aide, wrote: “A female assistant??? In addition to conducting the questioning of Dr. Ford, will she also make the Starbucks run?”

Slate put the snark right in the headline.

“McConnell Says Not to Worry About the All-Male GOP Judiciary Committee, They Hired a ‘Female Assistant’ to Ask Questions for Them,” it wrote over the story by Elliot Hannon.

McConnell was asked “about the uncomfortable fact that his entire roster of 11 Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are men, and, you know, what kind of message that sends as the GOP bros get set to adjudicate the validity and impact of a woman’s claims of sexual assault,” Hannon wrote. “Sen. McConnell, by way of defending the gender shutout, succinctly summed up the GOP zeitgeist on Capitol Hill, which is, in a word, clueless.”

“Don’t worry. We hired a female assistant to ask the questions for us. Because optics! Speaking of the optics of indifference, Senate Judiciary chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley scheduled a committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination for 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, less than 24 hours after Christine Blasey Ford is set to testify.”

Raw Story wrote that Mike Brzezinski “torched Senate Republicans as ‘incapable’ of treating women with respect, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insulted the woman chosen to question Brett Kavanaugh’s sex assault accuser.”

“Who calls a female sex crimes prosecutor an assistant at this point, really?” Brzezinski said. “I get why you can’t talk for yourself, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. You can’t because you’re literally incapable of being respectful or treating women with any sense that they might have qualifications to be as high ranking as you. Here’s Mitch McConnell – an assistant, really?”

“In enlisting Mitchell to join their staff, Republican senators are taking an unusual step,” wrote Sean Sullivan, Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Washington Post.

“They are turning to her to ask what are expected to be personal and potentially painful questions about the woman’s youth on live television, sparing the all-male panel of 11 Republican senators on the committee some uncomfortable exchanges that could sway the public’s opinion about the session.”  

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