The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Thursday had the feeling of another one of those seminal TV moments, like the Watergate hearings and, yes, the Anita Hill hearings during Justice Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford sounded both credible and vulnerable, and her testimony included a moment that CNN commentators suggested would be a focal one in years to come, the point when she said her most indelible memory was of her attackers, Kavanaugh and a friend, laughing during the assault.
Commentators on Fox News, President Trump's favorite network, also saw the testimony as credible and thus very damaging to Kavanaugh's prospects. Fox anchor Chris Wallace also said Ford's testimony could not be discounted, and pointed out his daughters had talked about high school incidents in their own experience that they had not shared before.
Wallace also said he had been schooled by his daughters about the fact there are problems remembering details of such events given the fight or flight reaction.
Ford said the laughter was seared into her memory, though she used a more clinical term--she is a college professor and often used technical terms to frame an intensely personal experience..
Social media was awash in hearing-related hashtags. All but one of the top ten trending Twitter hashtags involved the hearing (the tenth was Thursday Night Football), including 612,000 tweets for Dr, Ford, and 297,000 tweets for "Grassley," Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Ford had given America an "amazing teaching moment," it was also an amazing TV moment.
Ford's testimony also highlighted the darker role of the media. She said her life had been "picked apart" on TV and online, as well as by members of Congress. Similarly, Kavanaugh said during his compelling and emotional testimony that the "unsubstantiated" allegations "run breathlessly by cable news" had destroyed his family.
Perhaps the silver lining to that cloud is this will become an amazing moment in the growing realization, regardless of the particular facts of this case, that conduct dismissed as "boys will be boys," was more widespread than anyone wanted to admit, and was never acceptable. If so, C-SPAN and the rest of the media will have done a service to the country by making sure that moment reverberated across the nation and the world.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.