Neomi Rao has been confirmed as a new judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Donald Trump nominated her to fill the seat left vacant by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate confirmed Rao in a 53-46 vote on March 13, 2019.
Rao has never served as a judge before. Her previous position was Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. She also teaches law at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.
Her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court bench faced challenges due to articles she wrote while a college student at Yale University. Rao wrote that women could be held partially responsible for rape if they were drunk at the time of the incident. Other articles included referring to people on welfare as “lazy” and that affirmative action gave minority students advantages that were unfair to white students.
Politico reported that Rao is also on the president’s list of potential nominees if another Supreme Court seat became available.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Rao Wrote in a ‘Yale Herald’ Article That Women Share the Blame For Rape If They Chose To Become Intoxicated
Neomi Rao’s opinions on the issue of rape could prompt tough questioning when she faces the Senate for confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court, especially amidst the MeToo movement. Rao addressed date rape and alcohol consumption in an article for the Yale Herald that was published October 14, 1994, when she was an undergraduate student majoring in Ethics, Politics, and Economics.
In the piece, titled Shades of Gray, Rao writes that it is a woman’s responsibility to be mindful of how much alcohol she drinks. She comments that some women, while drunk, may choose to have sex with a man, wake up regretting the encounter, and accuse the man of raping her. Rao wrote that in cases where it’s the man’s word versus the woman’s, “who decides the truth?”
Rao acknowledged in the piece that there are instances in which a woman may be misled about how strong of drinks she is being served. But otherwise, Rao writes, a woman decides how much alcohol she is going to drink and therefore needs to take responsibility for what happens while she is intoxicated. Here is that section of the piece:
“I’ve been to a lot of fraternity parties on this campus. It has always seemed self-evident to me that even if I drank a lot, I would still be responsible for my actions. A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted. At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.
Can the liberated ’90s woman freely choose whether to drink or not? Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice.
Implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does, strips women of all moral responsibility. It creates a culture of victimization in which men are prowling and uncontrollable, and women are weak and helpless. Any self-respecting person should be troubled and offended by such ideas.”
Senator Joni Ernst asked Rao about this topic during her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 5, 2019. Rao answered in part, “A victim of a horrible crime is not to blame,” Rao said. “The person who commits the crime should be held responsible. I tried to make the comments and observations that women can take certain steps to try to avoid becoming a victim because that does seem to be the goal in making it less likely. Should someone be a victim, they should not be blamed.”
2. Rao Has Criticized Multiculturalism & Wrote That it is ‘Undermining American Culture’
Neomi Rao seemed to criticize multiculturalism in an article for the Washington Times in 1994. She wrote that students are automatically placed into categories based on race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation and that she disliked the labels. Her argument was that focusing on race seems to inflame resentments instead of bringing people together.
“Though the diversity bean counters consider me a minority (Asian Indian, if you’re curious), I find myself in the awkward position of not considering my race and gender very important. To the ‘multicultural police’ this means I’ma ‘traitor.’ According to them, I’m supposed to be out there marching to “take back the night,” demonstrating for more Asian-American deans or throwing myself on the ground, covered with ketchup, to protest the mistreatment of Haitian refugees. Unfortunately, these preachers of tolerance apparently cannot tolerate a minority woman who claims an identity independent of race and gender.
Today’s multiculturalists are the self-appointed heirs of the civil rights movement, but their message is worlds apart: divisiveness not togetherness. Rather than seeking to reconcile differences and focusing on the humanity common to all people, multiculturalism fans the flames of minority resentment against everybody else, including other minorities. Thus, blacks are taught to resent Hispanics, because Hispanics supposedly are taking away their jobs.
Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt that one day people would be judged by the content of their character, not by the
color of their skin. This dream has no meaning to the multiculturalists, who separate and classify everyone according to race, gender and sexual orientation. Those who reject their assigned categories are called names: So-called conforming blacks are called ‘oreos’ by members of their own community, conservatives become ‘fascists.’ Preaching tolerance, multiculturalists seldom practice it…
The multiculturalists are not simply after political reform. Underneath their touchy-feely talk of tolerance, they seek to undermine American culture. They argue that culture, society and politics have been defined – and presumably defiled – by white, male heterosexuals hostile to their way of life. For example, homosexuals want to redefine marriage and parenthood; feminists in women’s studies programs want to replace so-called male rationality with more sensitive responses common to women. It may be kinder and gentler, but can you build a bridge with it? Understanding your roots is important, but it can become a dangerous obsession.”
In another piece, Rao appeared to downplay race in society, describing it as a “hot, money-making issue.”
3. Rao Described People on Welfare as ‘Indigent & Lazy’ in an Article About Elitism
Rao wrote a review of the book “In Defense of Elitism” by William A. Henry III for the Yale Free Press in January of 1995. You can read it in full above.
Rao began the article by appearing by writing, “In this age of affirmative action, women’s rights, special rights for the handicapped and welfare for the indigent and lazy, elitism is a forgotten and embarrassing concept. Elitist ideals and social hierarchies are something from an unenlightened past. In our new feel-good era, everybody is ok, and political and academic standards can adjust to accommodate anyone.”
Rao goes on the piece to criticize Henry’s viewpoints concerning working mothers and his general description of what being “elite” even means. But she appears to agree with him on the issue of political correctness. “He makes some salient points about the pervasive relativism in our society, which ignores a rich Western heritage in the struggle to include all viewpoints and offend no one.” Later on, Rao writes, “With convincing anecdotes and statistics, Henry presents an area of society in which traditional values have been noticeably abandoned in the name of diversity and political correctness.”
4. Neomi Rao’s Parents Were Immigrants From India
Neomi Rao is a first-generation American. Her parents, Zerin Rao and Jehangir Narioshang Rao, immigrated from India. Both of her parents were doctors.
Rao spoke about her family during an opening statement before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, when she was being considered for the position of Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Rao explained that her parents left Indian in January of 1972 and arrived in Detroit “in the middle of a snowstorm without winter jackets.”
Her mother, Zerin, died “too young of cancer.” Rao’s father was in attendance at the hearing and she thanked him for believing in her “at every stage of my life.”
Rao is married to Alan Lefkowitz. They have two children, Isabella and Ezra.
5. Neomi Rao Was Confirmed by the Senate to Lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in 2017 & the Vote Was Sharply Divided Between Republicans & Democrats
Neomi Rao already knows how to handle a Senate confirmation hearing. She went through the process in June of 2017 when she was nominated to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is part of the executive branch. In the clip above, you can see Senator Heidi Heitkamp question Rao about regulation; that section begins at 4:10.
Rao was confirmed by the full Senate on July 10, 2017. The votes were largely divided along party lines. She received 54 “yes” votes and 41 “no” votes. Rao received support from five Democrats: Senators Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Tom Carper, and Joe Donnelly. You can see the full breakdown here.
Rao’s previous experience also includes working in the Office of the White House Counsel and serving as counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rao was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.