Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Back in 1991, when Anita Hill came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, it was an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that grilled her as the nation watched.
On Tuesday, reporters asked Sen. Mazie Hirono, one of only four women on the current Senate Judiciary Committee, if having women on it now will shape the way the recent allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is handled.
The Democrat from Hawaii sighed, and then laughed.
"Of course it helps that there are women on that committee, but you know what?"
"Guess who's perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It's the men in this country, and I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change," Hirono said.
She said she expected the men on the committee, who are the majority of the 21 members, to do the same.
On Sunday, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers. She'd told a congresswoman earlier in his confirmation process about the experience, and the information was passed along to ranking member Sen. Diane Feinstein, who didn't make the letter from Ford public because Ford asked that she remain anonymous, Feinstein said in a statement last week.
In the Washington Post article published Sunday, Ford claimed a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a house party when she was 15 years old. Kavanaugh, who she described as laughing with another friend in the room, tried to remove her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream, Ford told the Washington Post.
The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a public hearing on Monday to hear from both Kavanaugh and Ford, but whether they will — or whether the hearing goes forward — is uncertain.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he said in his first statement on Friday. Senate Republicans followed Kavanaugh's denial by releasing a letter from 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh in high school and attested that "he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect."
"Brett attended Georgetown Prep, an all-boys high school in Rockville, Maryland. He was an outstanding student and athlete with a wide circle of friends. Almost all of us attended all-girls high schools in the area," the letter reads. "Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity. In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect."
The White House stood by Kavanaugh but didn't go on the attack against his accuser. "As the story notes, we are standing with Judge Kavanaugh’s denial," White House spokesperson Raj Shah told ABC News in response to Kavanaugh's accuser coming forward to the Washington Post.
Though Democrats and Republicans on the committee have both said they believe Ford deserves to be heard, they're at odds over the way to do so.
Some Democrats argue that the Kavanaugh allegation should be investigated by the FBI and then resubmitted as part of his background check file for committee review before any testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh.
Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.