WASHINGTON — Conservative evangelical leader Tony Perkins said Friday that evangelicals are "strongly behind" Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh despite the sexual misconduct claim that was recently leveled against him from 36 years ago.
Speaking to reporters at the Family Research Council's annual Values Voters Summit, the FRC president stressed that the claims made by California professor Christine Blasey Ford against the supreme court nominee is having little effect on many conservative evangelicals.
Perkins fielded several questions from a diverse group of reporters related to Kavanaugh, with one asking whether there were other potential Supreme Court nominees on President Donald Trump's short list that evangelicals preferred and whether evangelicals' opinions of Kavanaugh have changed in the last week.
"I think many of [the candidates] on the list that were vetted were acceptable. I think [evangelicals] liked [Seventh Circuit Judge] Amy Coney Barrett just because she was one attacked for her faith. In this era of people attacked for their faith, they kind of stick together," Perkins said. "I think there was kind of a drawing for her but I think they are strongly behind Judge Kavanaugh. Again, I think these attacks [from the political left] actually help solidify that support."
As has been widely reported, Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were at a party in Maryland as teenagers in high school. Although the allegation was made known to Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, over six weeks ago, it was only made public Sunday as the Senate was preparing for a vote to move the nomination process forward.
"What has made this very suspect is the fact that Dianne Feinstein sat on this for six weeks and could have brought it up [during] her meeting with Kavanaugh, could have brought it up in the public hearing, could have brought it up in the private hearing, but waited until the eve of the vote," Perkins said. "I think it really taints the allegation by the way it was handled."
During his opening address at the summit Friday morning, Perkins joked that he had been sitting on Feinstein's invitation to speak at the conference for over six weeks.
"I guess that doesn't give her much time to respond," he quipped.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also addressed the crowd and assured that "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court." The hundreds of conservative evangelicals gathered in the ballroom for the speech stood and applauded and Senate majority leader's vow.
"So, my friends, keep the faith. Don't get rattled by all of this," McConnell said. "We're going to plow right through it and do our job."
Perkins was asked by a reporter how the Senate should proceed with the nomination process given Ford's accusation.
Ford has been extended the opportunity to testify before a special Senate hearing Monday. However, she has indicated that she won't testify Monday but might testify on Thursday if a list of terms are met, such as not being questioned by Kavanaugh's lawyer, and Kavanaugh not being able to hear her testimony before he is questioned.
Among the terms: Only members of the committee — no lawyers — can question her; Kavanaugh cannot be in the room at the time; and Kavanaugh should be questioned first, before he has the opportunity to hear Ford's testimony.
"They have been very accommodating to Dr. Ford. I think they should allow her to come and speak," Perkins said. "If she says, I can't do it this day, then give her another day. Move forward. The American people deserve a vote as well. Their voice needs to be heard in this process."