Former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens on Thursday said Brett Kavanaugh's behavior during last Thursday's contentious Judiciary Committee hearing should sink his nomination.
Kavanaugh, at times emotional, testified that he was the victim of a far-left smear campaign aimed at preventing a generational rightward shift on the Supreme Court. In the past several weeks, he has been accused of engaging in gang rapes and sexual misconduct dating back more than three decades -- claims that he has denied and that the FBI, in a supplemental inquiry concluded earlier this week, could not corroborate.
But Stevens, who was an associate justice on the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010 and gradually shifted to become a reliably liberal justice, suggested Thursday that Kavanaugh went too far in defending himself. At one point, the judge responded to a question about his past drinking habits from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., by repeatedly asking if she'd ever had alcohol-related blackouts. Later in the hearing, he apologized for the remark.
“I thought [Kavanaugh] had the qualifications for the Supreme Court, should he be selected,” Stevens said at a closed event held by a retirement group in Boca Raton, according to The Palm Beach Post. “I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability … I feel his performance in the hearings ultimately changed my mind.”
Stevens added, “I’ve never really been a political person.”
Fox News has confirmed Stevens' remarks.
The 98-year-old, since retiring, called for the repeal of the Second Amendment in a New York Times op-ed earlier this year. "Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the NRA’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option," Stevens said at the time.
Thousands of law professors this week signed a letter agreeing that Kavanaugh's temperament should keep him off the court. Democrats have increasingly cited his combative responses at last Thursday's hearing as disqualifying.
“I think there’s merit to that criticism and I think the senators should really pay attention that,” Stevens said Thursday.
Current and former justices on the Supreme Court, in keeping with their traditional reluctance to engage in heated political matters for fear of compromising the court's appearance of neutrality, generally have not weighed in on the allegations surrounding Kavanaugh.
Retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement and personal recommendation led to Kavanaugh's nomination, refused to comment on the matter when asked last month. But he did, in general terms, lament the state of the nation's discourse.
“Perhaps we didn’t do too good a job teaching the importance of preserving democracy by an enlightened civic discourse,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “In the first part of this century, we’re seeing the death and decline of democracy.”
Fox News' Bill Mears contributed to this report.