Hyde-Smith questions timing of allegation against Kavanaugh

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JACKSON, Miss. — A Republican U.S. senator who’s seeking re-election in Mississippi says she questions the timing of a sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has said for weeks that she will vote to confirm Kavanaugh, who is currently a federal appeals court judge. Hyde-Smith is endorsed by President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday about an allegation from Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers during the early 1980s. Kavanaugh, 53, vehemently denies the accusation.

“Having met with Judge Kavanaugh, I found him to be imminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, and remain confident of his confirmation,” Hyde-Smith said in a statement Tuesday. “I have serious reservations regarding the questionable timing and handling of this last-minute allegation. The Democrats knew about this months ago and chose to wait until now to release it. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the allegation. This process should go forward so both sides can be heard.”

One of Hyde-Smith’s challengers in a November special election, Republican Chris McDaniel, said Monday that the allegation against Kavanaugh is a “made-up” scandal as the left tries to derail the nomination of a conservative.

Another Hyde-Smith challenger, Democrat Mike Espy, said Tuesday that the allegations against Kavanaugh must be vetted.

“I agree with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that these allegations are serious and troubling,” Espy, a former U.S. House member and former U.S. agriculture secretary, said in a statement. “This matter must be fully investigated before the Senate moves forward with the lifetime appointment of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.”

McDaniel discussed the allegation against Kavanaugh on the “Focal Point” show on American Family Radio.

“They’re going to drag something up, at least even theoretically, allegedly, from all those years ago,” McDaniel said on the air Monday. “All of the sudden, that disqualifies this man? All of the sudden, he’s a terrible human being? No, not a chance. You know, I don’t fall for it anymore. I hope the American people aren’t falling for it. These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated.”

Responding to questions from radio host Bryan Fischer, McDaniel said: “I’m tired of all these made-up scandals, frankly.” McDaniel said people “attacking” Kavanaugh protected President Bill Clinton and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy against sexual misconduct allegations.

“Now, granted sometimes these accusations may be accurate,” McDaniel said in defending Kavanaugh. “But most of the time, we know what they are. The American left makes it up, they throw it out there, they hope it sticks.”

Mississippi’s governor appointed Hyde-Smith to temporarily succeed Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired in April. The special election winner will serve the final two years of the six-year term Cochran started.

Another candidate challenging Hyde-Smith is Tobey Bernard Bartee, a former military intelligence officer who is running a low-budget campaign in his first try for public office.

The Mississippi special election is nominally nonpartisan. There are no party primaries and party labels will not appear on the ballot, but candidates are telling voters their party affiliation. If nobody wins a majority Nov. 6, the top two will advance to a Nov. 27 runoff.