Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Sean Casten insisted Monday that an advisor to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh intentionally made a white supremacist signal during a televised Senate confirmation hearing.
Casten and Republican incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam, who represents Illinois' 6th Congressional District, met Monday for a live-streamed debate moderated by suburban Chicago newspaper The Daily Herald. During the debate, moderators asked about Casten's claim that there were "Nazis" working in the Donald Trump administration.
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The energy executive defended his comments, citing former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka as someone he thought was a Nazi who worked in the administration. "We have an obligation to call that out when we see it," he said.
"There's a problem when we have Zina Bash this week flashing white power signs behind the Brett Kavanaugh hearings," he said. "How do we not stand up to that?"
Casten was referring to an online conspiracy theory claiming Bash–the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and daughter of a Mexican-American–deliberately made an alt-right hand symbol during the Tuesday hearings. Bash rested her hand on her arm in a way that briefly resembled an "okay" sign, which the alt-right has trollingly tried to appropriate to mean "white power."
Two days later, Bash intentionally made the "okay" hand symbol during the televised hearings, once again fueling speculation. But a spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee clarified it was an innocuous signal to a staffer "to request a water glass for the judge. Once it arrived, she was simply communicating her thanks."
The Washington Post notes that C-SPAN's footage appears to vindicate that claim.
"…Kavanaugh turns around and speaks to Bash at one point," the Post writes. "There’s a coffee cup, but not water glass, on the desk. Bash and the man sitting next to her appear to discuss whatever the judge said as Bash texts on her phone. About a minute later, Bash looks straight ahead and appears to mouth the word ‘glass.' Then, she gives the OK hand sign. Shortly after that, a water glass is brought to Kavanaugh’s desk."