WASHINGTON — Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) doesn’t seem bothered by far-right figures claiming his colleagues support child molestation because they support Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination.
“I feel no responsibility for the words of others,” Hawley told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Hawley was the first to slam Jackson calling her soft on child porn offenders last month. He argued that she had wrongly given lenient sentences to people who possessed child sexual abuse images, even though her record in those cases was typical of a federal district judge.
Hawley’s review resonated with far-right conspiracy theorists who believe Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking rings, and on Monday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said any senator who supports Jackson’s nomination is actually “pro-pedophile.” .
“You’re either a senator who supports child rapists, child pornography and the vilest child predators,” Greene said. said in a Twitter thread. “Or you are a senator who protects children and votes NO to KJB!”
Fifty-three senators, including Republicans Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted Monday on a procedural motion to advance Jackson’s nomination. All are now “pro-pedophiles,” according to Greene, who likes to brag that she represents the base of the republican party rather than his bangs.
As with the issue of alleged fraud in the 2020 election, Hawley doesn’t use the same language as his party’s most zealous members — but he doesn’t like to contradict them either.
When asked what he thought of calling a “pro-pedophile” vote for Jackson, Hawley didn’t directly disagree. But he said “pro-pedophile” is not an accurate description of Jackson.
“I don’t think Judge Jackson is pro-pedophile. I think she has a judicial philosophy where she thinks these crimes … are over condemned, over criminalized,” Hawley said. “I don’t think she’s supportive of this activity, but I think she has a philosophy that leads her to treat these criminals with leniency.”
In arguing that Jackson was lenient with offenders in child pornography cases, Hawley relied on the fact that his prison sentences were shorter than federal guidelines, but mostly ignored another fact: that most judges district also sentence below guidelines. Fifty-nine percent of cases of possession of child sexual abuse images in 2019 resulted in sentences less than recommended guidelines, according to a report published last year by the US Sentencing Commission.
The reason for the lower sentences in cases involving child sexual abuse images, according to the commission, is that the more widespread use of computers has made the guidelines obsolete. Their original intention was to differentiate the seriousness of offenses at a time when it was more difficult to obtain large numbers of illicit images.
Hawley told HuffPost that he believes Jackson’s sentences in child pornography cases were actually more lenient than those of his peers on the bench. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said monday that his sentences were 33% shorter than the national average from 2015 to 2019 in all criminal cases.
“Judge Jackson’s sentences were appropriate exercises in discretion as a judge applying the law to the facts in difficult cases,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday. “And it’s interesting to me how the Missouri senator has carefully drawn lines to exclude Trump appointees to the bench who have done exactly what this judge has also done.”
The idea that Democrats support pedophiles has been a mainstay of far-right conspiracy theories for years. In 2016, a North Carolina man traveled to Washington, DC, and fired an assault rifle inside a pizzeria as part of his effort to investigate an alleged sex trafficking ring run by the Democrats and operated from the basement. The so-called Pizzagate story was a predecessor to the QAnon movement, whose adherents helped storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Hawley said he didn’t know about Pizzagate or QAnon, although it was Jackson herself who sentenced the Pizzagate shooter to four years in prison in 2017.