Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh says that he never felt alone during the tense confirmation battle last year, citing his faith and slew of friends as sources of strength during the process.
On the cusp of being confirmed, Kavanaugh’s nomination was derailed by multiple women accusing him of sexually assaulting them while he was in high school or college. Several accusers later recanted their allegations and the others lacked corroboration.
Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed by a narrow vote in October 2018.
In his first public speech since becoming a justice, Kavanaugh told a crowd at Union Station in Washington: “I never felt alone.”
“I signed up for what I knew would be an ugly process—maybe not that ugly—but my friends did not,” he said on Thursday, reported USA Today. “And yet in the midst of it all, they stood up, and they stood by me.”
Kavanaugh thanked Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, who were in the audience, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) before speaking of the other justices on the court, including saying he was inspired by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Nominated by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg, 86, is the oldest justice on the court.
Kavanaugh said that “thanks to” Alito, “we are all originalists now. We are all textualists now.” Alito, 69, nominated by President George W. Bush, is part of the consistent conservative portion of the court.
Kavanaugh also said he is “optimistic about the future of America and our independent judiciary.”
After the talk, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, said: “I think he’s teaching this audience a lesson—that in today’s culture, when you stand for certain principles, you’re going to be attacked, and you need to have the courage to see it through.”
The appearance drew protesters, some of whom stood outside dressed as handmaids from the television series “A Handmaid’s Tale” in a reference to fears by some Democratic activists that Roe v. Wade could be struck down by the Supreme Court with its conservative majority.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) was among those criticizing Kavanaugh’s appearance at the Federalist Society’s gala, claiming it would violate the ethical code that governs all federal judges except for those on the nation’s highest court.
“A private organization funded by anonymous donors having an improper role in the selection of judges and justices is bad enough. A Supreme Court Justice returning favors to that organization is even worse. The Court needs an ethics code,” he said in a statement.