When Rep. Marsha Blackburn said last month the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers should testify, she also called the allegation a “smear” and a partisan “delay tactic.”
It fit a pattern of how Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican now running for the Senate, has handled accusations of sexual misconduct against conservative allies.
In several cases, including that of a state legislator who endorsed her before he was accused of misconduct against three teenage girls in the 1980s, Blackburn has followed the same pattern: exhibiting concern for accusers while not cutting ties with the accused.
In March, Blackburn touted an endorsement from Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd and other Republicans. Weeks later, a local news station reported that three women accused Byrd of sexual misconduct when they played for him on a high-school basketball team three decades ago.
Despite calls from state House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, both Republicans, for Byrd’s resignation, Blackburn wouldn’t go that far. Instead, she called the allegations “disgusting and shocking” and said she would not campaign with Byrd.
Three women told WSMV-TV in Nashville that Byrd grabbed them, kissed them and forced them to touch him. One of the women recorded a recent phone call with Byrd in which he is heard apologizing for his misconduct, saying he was “so sorry” and that he had “lived with that and you don’t know how hard it has been for me.”
Blackburn’s leadership PAC contributed $1,000 to Byrd’s re-election campaign, including a $500 donation two months before the allegations against Byrd were reported.
Byrd was one of 56 state House Republicans who endorsed Blackburn in her bid for the Senate in March, and her campaign announced she was looking forward to campaigning with them “over the next several months.”
In addition to Kavanaugh, who was confirmed to a position on the Supreme Court on Saturday in a 50-48 vote, Blackburn has also defended other Republicans accused of misconduct, including Lee Beaman, a prominent GOP donor who contributed to her campaign, and Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican who lost an election for the Senate in December.
In divorce filings, Beaman was accused by his wife of forcing her to participate in encounters with prostitutes.
In August, Blackburn’s campaign named Beaman a chair of its pro-life coalition. While the campaign took his name of its website, a spokesperson didn’t say whether Blackburn would return the $46,050 Beaman contributed to her PAC, according to The Tennessean.
In November, after Moore was accused of assaulting teenage girls while he was a prosecutor in the 1980s, several prominent Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called for him to end his Senate campaign
But Blackburn, while calling the allegations “extremely disturbing,” wouldn’t call on him to drop out, The Tennessean reported.