Having sworn to answer all questions truthfully, in an appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, President Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division offered a series of answers that strained credulity and veered into outright falsehood.
The most bald-faced of the lies Kristen Clarke offered in her own defense relates to her activism while a Harvard University undergraduate in the 1990s.
Pressed about a 1994 letter published in the Harvard Crimson making the case that blacks are intellectually and physically superior to whites, Clarke waved it off as a "satirical" attempt to refute The Bell Curve, which came out the same year.
Everybody knew she was joking, she said, when she wrote that "black infants sit, stand, crawl and walk sooner than whites," and, in a demonstration of scholarly rigor, pointed to the work of the writer Carol Barnes to assert that "human mental processes are controlled by melanin—that same chemical which gives Blacks their superior physical and mental abilities."
The letter concluded: "It is completely naive to say that Blacks have achieved economic equality with whites. It seems that whites have grown tired of hearing about racism." Was that a joke, too?
In Wednesday's hearing, Clarke assured lawmakers that "contemporaneous reporting by the campus paper made very clear" she harbored no racist views.
False. The editors of the Crimson called on her to retract her claims. In an editorial titled, "Clarke Should Retract Statements," they wrote: "We searched in vain for a hint of irony in Clarke's letter." She had, they concluded, "resorted to bigotry, pure and simple."
Five days after the editorial was published, a student columnist wrote: "By disseminating racist theories of her own—however ambiguously—Clarke has done nothing to refute what she abhors and has done much to poison the atmosphere further."
Even her defenders weren't in on the joke. They explained that, having spoken with Clarke, it became clear she meant to question why the "racist opinions of white Harvard ‘scholars' are publicly debated while racist opinions of Black ‘scholars' are categorically rejected." And indeed Clarke invited the racist black "scholar" Tony Martin to Harvard's campus to discuss his book The Jewish Onslaught—another move the Crimson condemned.
Engaging in radical politics while studying at college is not an unforgivable sin. But brazenly perjuring oneself before the U.S. Senate is cause enough for her nomination to go down.