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Senators Durbin, Hawley clash at 2nd day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is soft on child pornography crimes, a claim disputed by fact-checkers.

WASHINGTON — Day two of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings started with Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Chairman, zeroing in on his Missouri counterpart's claims that Jackson was soft on child pornography.

"The issue involving child pornography... I want to turn to that issue because it was raised multiple times primarily by the Senator from Missouri," Durbin said, referencing Republican Senator Josh Hawley's recent statements, including a tweet that said Jackson "has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes."

"As a mother and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth," Jackson replied.

By Tuesday afternoon, Jackson and Hawley would address each other.

"It really bothers me when in every child porn case that you have had with discretion, you have sentenced below the guidelines and below the government's recommendation," Hawley said during his allotted time.

"We have judges who are doing their level best to make sure that people are held accountable as they need to be in our society in a fair and just way," Jackson said in her response.

Some fact-checkers and even conservative outlets have pushed back against Hawley's logic, but 5 On Your Side political analyst Anita Manion, a political science professor at UMSL, said Hawley might be operating under the motto that "all press is good press."

"I think it's been thought for quite some time that he has presidential aspirations," Manion explained. "Sometimes things like this — the tweets, the airtime, the national coverage — can help to raise one's profile and also can be used for fundraising.

Manion said the implications of being 'soft on crime' could be an attempt to reach certain voters.

"These are signals to the base but also maybe hoping that they could also resonate with folks like suburban moms who the Republican party is also trying to capture," Manion said, adding that QAnon participants also circulated various accusations of child pornography and sex trafficking amongst their followers.

After Hawley's allotted time, Durbin brought up a Trump-appointed and Hawley-endorsed federal judge in the Eastern District of Missouri, Sarah Pitlyk, who had experience sentencing below federal recommendations. Hawley said, in that case, prosecutors agreed with the shorter prison time.

Judge Jackson's confirmation hearings continue Wednesday.

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