Kamala Harris Tweets Out Deceptively Edited Video to Smear Brett Kavanaugh

Sen. Kamala Harris / Getty Images
September 8, 2018

I've seen my share of deception and chicanery from politicians in my thankfully brief time on this earth. And sure, I expected dumb hatchet jobs and pointless grandstanding in reaction to something as big as an open Supreme Court seat. But this tweet from California Senator Kamala Harris really takes the cake.

"Kavanaugh chooses his words very carefully, and this is a dog whistle for going after birth control," the likely 2020 Democratic presidential candidate insisted. Ironically, Harris was the one choosing the words for him. The video in the tweet selectively quotes Brett Kavanaugh in a way that completely changes his meaning.

Here's what you hear Kavanaugh say in the ten-second video:

"Filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."

Here's the longer, fuller quote:

"It was a technical matter of filing out a form in that case. But they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."

The "they" Kavanaugh is alluding to is the pro-life Catholic Priests for Life, who sued for a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. When the case came before the Tenth Circuit, Kavanaugh dissented from the decision not to take up the case, and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked during the hearing why he did so.

As the bolded section makes perfectly clear, Kavanaugh was summarizing the Priest for Life's position in that case, which is that the law made them complicit in the provision of birth control to their employees, contrary to Catholic teachings. Sure enough, the priest's brief said they objected to "abortion-inducing products, contraception ... sterilization, or related counseling."

Kavanaugh made no comments during the hearing or in his opinion that suggesting he agreed with the priests' assessment of some forms of birth control. Nor did he need to. In religious liberty cases, it's irrelevant whether or not the judges believe the petitioner's religious beliefs are logical or rational. Surely eight Supreme Court justices didn't endorse the use of mind-altering drugs when they upheld Native Americans' right to use them in religious ceremonies (although some of Ginsburg's dissents make me wonder).

Set all that aside. Harris (or, let's be honest, her staff) took the video of Kavanaugh's comments and cut it off mid-sentence, and only left off the parts that indicated Kavanaugh was alluding to someone else's beliefs. The video even capitalizes "Filling" in the video's subtitles, making it seem like it was the start of a sentence. There's no way they didn't know what they were doing, and they did it with clear malice aforethought.

The best I can say for Harris is that she didn't come up with this lie, she was merely mimicking the hacks on social media who have gone gaga for her and her financial backer, Planned Parenthood. The latter was even almost-sort-of-kind-of called out by CNN in their story on Kavanaugh's comments:

In a press release, however, Planned Parenthood drew attention to the exchange but left out the words "they said," making it appear as if Kavanaugh was speaking for himself.

Beth Lynk, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, acknowledged the error, but still took issue with the fact that she said Kavanaugh had mischaracterized the case and also used a controversial term used by groups opposed to abortion.

Ah yes, it was an "error" that led Planned Parenthood to selectively quote the nominee they oppose. That's the sort of leeway that explains why they felt like they could get away with it in the first place. My hope is that they don't, that mainstream fact-checking websites and media outlets take a look at what Planned Parenthood, Harris, and other are spreading and call it what it is: a desperate, pathetic smear.