Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) dodged a question about threats against one of his Republican colleagues Wednesday, instead praising the "passion" of activists who oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked Coons about mailed coat hangers, threatening voicemails, and other tactics directed towards senators who may vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
"I’ve got to ask you about some of the tactics, about some of these special interest groups," Todd began. Todd mentioned the "coat hangers sent to Senator Susan Collins’s office, some really nasty voicemails that have been played, you know, the tactics." After recognizing that "there’s a lot of passion," Todd asked of the tactics, "What do you make of 'em?"
Coons seized on the general idea of passion and avoided commenting specifically on the threats made against his Senate colleague Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine). "There is a huge amount of passion, as I think the whole country saw," Coons replied. He noted that passion has been exemplified by the many arrests made during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and the many calls made by constituents, and he called those actions "well justified."
It was not clear whether Coons meant to defend the threatening calls, or just the general frenzied effort against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The Republican National Committee quickly released a clip of the exchange, claiming "Dem Sen Defends ‘Well Justified’ Harassment Of GOP Senators Over Kavanaugh."
The dissembling focus on protesters' "passion" in lieu of their misconduct did not begin with Coons. MSNBC contributor Yamiche Alcindor did the same just yesterday. "When you listen to those [abusive messages] and having been out on the campaign trail, it's the passion of people," Alcindor said. "It's obviously abusive and the language that's being used is abhorrent, but you also feel like they're talking about life-and-death issues."
The voicemails sent to Collins’ Senate office, some shared by NBC News, included sexist language and threats.
One caller on Friday, September 7 at 6:11 p.m., left a message saying, in part: "If you care at all about women's choice, vote ‘no' on Kavanaugh. Don't be a dumb bitch. F*** you also."
In a second voice mail, the caller calls Collins "a feckless, feckless, feckless woman standing there letting Trump and his appointees steal the right to choose what women do with their bodies. And you stood by, ‘Oh, I don't know. I'm so naive.' F*** you. F*** you."
And in a letter sent to her Portland, Maine office, the writer on August 9 says that "EVERY waitress who serves you is going to spit in your food, and that's if you're lucky, you f***ing c***! Think of that every meal."
Collins said this summer that she would not support a nominee "hostile" to Roe v. Wade. Collins told one paper that if Kavanaugh "was not truthful [during his confirmation hearing], then obviously that would be a major problem for me." The Senate Judiciary Committee published Kavanaugh’s written responses earlier today.