Will Joni Ernst Vote For Another Nominee With ‘Disturbing’ Record?

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a controversial potential judicial nominee for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Protesters could be heard outside the proceedings.

Inside, Republicans and Democrats both questioned Steven Menashi over columns he wrote in the past and criticized him for refusing to answer some of them.

While at Dartmouth, Menashi worked for the conservative student newspaper and he was questioned by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island about a specific piece he wrote which compared college applications that listed race to Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, written in 1935.

Menashi said in the hearing, “Some of the writings I did in college were writing from the perspective that I thought that it was inappropriate to treat people as members of groups rather than individuals.”

He mentioned that he took that point of view because his family had been discriminated against because of their group status.

“If some of the writing was overheated or extreme in advancing that view, I regret that implication,” Menashi said. Then he said he didn’t believe the comparison now, nor did he believe it when he wrote it in 2001.

But he wrote other pieces in college and in his career that also have people concerned. 

In one of his opinion pieces, he argued that Dartmouth was an “anti-male” school because, “‘Take Back the Night’ marches charge the majority of male students with complicity in rape and sexual violence (every man’s a potential rapist, they say; it’s part of the patriarchal culture) — not to mention the ‘Frats Rape’ accusation that’s chalked on the sidewalks from time to time.”

“And while campus gynocentrists can throw around these accusations, there’s no similar leeway for men. Offhand remarks or jokes can create a ‘hostile environment’ or ‘stigmatize’ women — and can be pushed through official disciplinary action,” he continued.

A Similar Situation?

Earlier this year, another judicial nominee drew attention because of her past writings. Leading that questioning was Sen. Joni Ernst.

The nominee, Neomi Rao, who was confirmed in March, wrote, “Unless someone made her drink undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man decides when and how much to drink. If she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice.” Rao wrote this when she was a student at Yale.

Ernst criticized Rao and said the writings, “do give me pause.” Ernst is a survivor of sexual assault herself.

But after meeting one-on-one with Rao, Ernst said she was comfortable voting for her.

“I did feel much, much better about where she stands now especially when it comes to issues like date rape,” she said at the time.

Existing Pushback

Menashi currently works as a White House counsel, and a seat on the Second Court of Appeals would put him in charge of cases in Vermont, Connecticut and New York.

Both Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the Senators for New York, have denounced Menashi’s nomination, naming his record of writings as the reason.

“It is clear from Steven Menashi’s long, disturbing record that he is the wrong candidate to serve on the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York,” the Senators wrote. “As the top lawyer at the Department of Education, he played a critical role in executing Secretary DeVos’s agenda to make it harder for campus sexual assault victims to seek justice, provide federal funding to schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students, roll back civil rights investigations, and undermine critical protections for student borrowers who were defrauded by their institutions.”


by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 9/13/19

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