AG worries Kavanaugh allegations could chill assault reports

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel said Thursday that he worries the sexual assault allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have become so politicized that they'll dissuade sexual assault victims in other cases from coming forward — immediately drawing criticism from Democrats that he's victim-blaming.

"I worry that the way this has been turned into such a political football that we might set that back — that we might now have survivors of sexual abuse look at this and say, 'Wow, I don't want to become part of that. I don't want to be caught up in this kind of mix,'" Schimel, who touts himself as an advocate for sexual assault victims and is running for re-election, told reporters.

Democrats pounced on Schimel's remarks, saying he's blaming Christine Blasey Ford and other women who have come forward with accusations against Kavanaugh for discouraging victims in other cases from speaking out about sexual abuse.

"Any suggestion that the women who have come forward with allegations about Brett Kavanaugh could discourage others from coming forward is offensive," Schimel's Democratic challenger, Josh Kaul, said in a statement.

Schimel campaign manager Johnny Koremenos responded in an email to The Associated Press that Schimel wasn't making a political statement, but was speaking as a concerned prosecutor.

"It's shameful that Mr. Kaul thinks everything is political," Koremenos said.

Schimel made the remarks following a news conference kicking off a training session for truckers on how to spot human trafficking. The comments came moments after Ford, a California psychology professor, began recounting before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party when they were both in high school in the 1980s.

Republicans have accused Ford of participating in a smear campaign orchestrated by Democrats looking to derail Kavanagh's nomination. Since Ford came forward, two other women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations. Ford says she has received death threats.

Schimel and attorneys general from around the country signed onto a letter in July, two months before Ford's allegations surfaced, urging the Senate confirm Kavanaugh. Asked Thursday if he still thought Kavanaugh deserved to be a Supreme Court justice, Schimel responded that Kavanaugh is as qualified as any judge in the nation and has served honorably as a federal appellate judge.

"I don't know what's true about these allegations or not and I don't know if something that happened 36 years ago should prevent someone from ever serving," Schimel said. "This is a difficult challenge for the members of the Senate that have to look at this. ... I don't envy anyone that's trying to determine what the truth is in all this because it's being so turned into a political game. It's disappointing."

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