The Values Voter Summit, one of the top gatherings of the religious right, has gotten under way, with speakers dismissing sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and asserting that the U.S. is in a “golden time” under Donald Trump.
The conference is being held today through Sunday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Its primary sponsor is FRC Action, the legislative arm of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council.
Speaking this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to push Kavanaugh’s nomination through to confirmation, as the crowd cheered. “Don’t get rattled by all of this,” he said, according to McClatchy Newspapers. “We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”
The matter rattling Kavanaugh’s supporters is Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her at a party when they were in high school in the early 1980s. Blasey Ford may testify before the Senate next week; she is currently in negotiation on conditions.
Kavanaugh’s conservatism appeals to voters on the religious right, and McConnell catered to this audience at the summit by highlighting his desire to see judges on federal courts who “follow the law.” (The far right considers some decisions, such as those for marriage equality and abortion rights, to be making law rather than following it.)
McConnell boasted of blocking President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia’s death. After Donald Trump became president, he was able to nominate conservative Neil Gorsuch to the position, and Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate.
Yet in his speech today, McConnell accused Senate Democrats of “obstruction” regarding Kavanaugh’s nomination and said he would keep the body in session as long as it needed to get him confirmed. That would also keep many Dems who are up for reelection from campaigning, The Hill notes.
Another speaker expressing support for Kavanaugh — while being dismissive of Blasey Ford’s accusations — was Gary Bauer, a longtime religious right activist who once sought the Republican presidential nomination.
“Look, ladies and gentleman, I don’t know her. I don’t know her values,” Bauer said of Blasey Ford, The Hill reports. “But what she’s saying is unproven and I would argue it’s unprovable. There’s reason why most laws and most crimes have statutes of limitations. We can’t prove what she said. But there is something we can prove and that is Judge Kavanaugh’s character.”
Bauer added that women “shouldn’t want a country where ... the man in your life can be ruined by someone getting up and saying ‘36 years ago, he did this to me,’” according to McClatchy.
Democrats, he contended, “don't even care what happened 36 years ago. This is about stopping one good and decent man.”
Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, another onetime Republican presidential aspirant, focused her speech today on praising Trump, whose election, she said, was ordained by God.
“Two years ago, I believe that the prayers that God’s people made to ask God for his provision were heard,” she said. “They were heard and granted and for two years, we have lived in an unparalleled golden time in the United States.”
“We are living in an unparalleled golden time,” she continued. “We have a president who has made the most pro-life actions of any president ever. We have a president who has been the most pro-Israel president ever in the history of the United States of America. Our president has put the United States on a pathway of blessing. … We have the most pro-religious liberty president in the history of the United States, ever!” Watch a clip below, courtesy of Right Wing Watch.
Trump himself highlighted his support of “religious liberty” — which often, through his actions, turns out to be the right to discriminate — when he spoke at the Values Voter Summit last year, becoming the first sitting president to do so. His vice president, Mike Pence, is scheduled to address the gathering Saturday; he will be the first vice president to appear at the event.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke this afternoon, pledging to stand up for his vision of religious freedom around the world, and he praised FRC’s president, Tony Perkins, for his “important work.” Perkins’s work, of course, often includes demonizing LGBTQ people, and Pompeo himself has a long record of homophobia, although he avoided direct comments on gay issues today. Like Bachmann, Pompeo also praised Sam Brownback, an anti-LGBTQ politician who is now the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom.
The list of other speakers on the conference’s agenda reads like a who’s who of anti-LGBTQ activists, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, National Rifle Association president Oliver North, FRC analyst Peter Sprigg, Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Todd Starnes, and Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, was found guilty of violating Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, and appealed to the Supreme Court, winning a qualified victory.
Actor Dean Cain — who has appeared on gay producer Greg Berlanti’s Supergirl and in the gay film The Broken Hearts Club — has drawn criticism for his plan to speak at the summit Sunday, promoting the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, about abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. Cain, who plays a detective in the film, had an exchange on Twitter, asserting his support for gay rights.
I’m discussing a film- and I’m happy to speak to any group. I don’t change my beliefs based on the audience. Perhaps it will spark a good conversation-
— Dean Cain (@RealDeanCain) September 20, 2018