Republican Senator Joe Kennedy, of Louisiana, delivered an opening statement during Day 1 of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing that left many online baffled, as he referenced the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” the horror film Rosemary’s Baby and “the cantina bar scene from Star Wars.”
Kennedy generally railed against Democrats for raising multiple allegations of sexual assault during the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh and, apropos of little, told Barrett that “it hurts” to be called a racist and a “white colonialist.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Kennedy Called the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings a ‘Freakshow’ ‘Out of the Cantina Bar Scene in Star Wars‘ & Warned Coney Barrett That Democrats May Call Her ‘Rosemary’s Baby’
Kennedy began his remarks by praising Barrett’s “beautiful family” and telling her that Louisiana was proud of her, with Barrett having been born in a suburb of New Orleans and attended high school there as well. “Come back and visit us,” he said.
Then, he began to attack Democrats on the judiciary committee for raising allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation hearing, in an eyebrow-raising manner and with a lot of pop culture references.
This process is not supposed to be the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Our job is to advise and consent, and that’s one way of saying we’re supposed to make sure that whatever president makes the nomination hasn’t made a mistake. And we all, as you can see, take that job seriously and you know we respect that. That’s why, I think, over the next several days, it’s appropriate for us to talk about your intellect — which is obvious, by the way — and your temperament, you character and judicial philosophy.
And I just hope we can talk about something else: That’s the role of the federal judiciary in American life. Now look, judge, I’m not naive: I understand that this thing can turn sour so fast. We all watched the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh. It was a freak show!
It looked like the cantina bar scene out of Star Wars. And I know for someone unaccustomed to it, that it hurts to be called a racist. I think it’s one of the worst things you can call an American. I know that it hurts to be called a white colonialist. And I know it must hurt for someone of deep Christian faith to be called a religious bigot and to have it implied that, because you are a devout Christian, you’re somehow unfit for public service.
Before it’s over with, they may call you Rosemary’s Baby, for all I know! I hope not.
Kennedy did not expound on which Democratic senators he believed had called Barrett a “religious bigot” or a racist.
Twitter Reacted With Confusion & Mockery at the Out-of-Nowhere References & Pointed Out That Barrett Has Not Been Attacked for Being a Catholic
You only wished it was as cool as the Cantina Scene in Star Wars. But your presence anywhere Sen Kennedy guarantees a freak show will soon follow. https://t.co/uOonlkGr09
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) October 12, 2020
With no Democratic lawmakers calling Barrett a “religious bigot” or attacking her for being a Catholic, much of Twitter reacted with mockery to Kennedy’s speech, and many were just confused about where the Star Wars reference came from.
“You only wished [Kavanaugh’s hearing] was as cool as the Cantina Scene in Star Wars,” Playboy White House reported Brian Karem said. “But your presence anywhere Sen Kennedy guarantees a freak show will soon follow.”
Progressive commentator Jess McIntosh guessed that, since Democratic lawmakers hadn’t made any anti-Catholic comments, Kennedy was making up his own with the Rosemary’s Baby reference.
"They might call you rosemary's baby. I hope they don't." Kennedy is just making up his own anti-catholic slurs since none are being leveled at the nominee.
— jess mcintosh (@jess_mc) October 12, 2020
“Kennedy is just making up his own anti-Catholic slurs since none are being leveled at the nominee,” she wrote,
“I don’t even get this one tbh,” someone replied.
Fox News reporter Chad Pergram attempted to plot a through-line of Kennedy’s blaze of references, starting with the Harry McClintock country song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
“That’s a song about a Xanadu on Earth ‘where handouts grow on bushes’ and ‘streams of alcohol come trickling down the rocks,'” Pergram noted.
Kennedy may have been implying that, although Senate Judiciary Hearings are not anyone’s idea of heaven, they are not intended to be so partisan as to descend into “the cantina bar scene out of Star Wars.”
McClintock’s lyrics, in part, go like this:
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There’s a land that’s fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars all are empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees
And the cigarette trees
The lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
Kennedy Was Also Called Out for the Comments He Made on Being Called ‘Racist’ — ‘Then Stop Being a Racist,’ Many Responded
Kennedy says that being called a racist is one of the most deeply hurtful things you can be called as an American.
YOU KNOW WHAT'S WORSE, @SenJohnKennedy? BEING A VICTIM OF RACISM
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) October 12, 2020
When Kennedy told Barrett that “racist” is “one of the worst things you can call an American,” many online noted that there are, likely, worse things people can be called, including racial epithets.
The Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal said, “You know what’s worse, John Kennedy? Being a victim of racism.”
Ask black people if there's something worse than being called a "racist".
Hint: it starts with an "n".https://t.co/wrwkWrri6N
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) October 12, 2020
Columnist Holly Figueroa O’Reilly agreed.
“Ask Black people if there’s something worse than being called a ‘racist,'” she said, “Hint: It starts with an N.”
“Then he should probably stop being a racist,” comedian Dana Goldberg said.
And young adult author @debraj112 was even more specific in condemning Kennedy’s words.
Senator John Kennedy said he knows it hurts to be called a: racist, white, colonialist, and it must hurt to be called a religious bigot.
They always miss the part where it hurts economically, psychologically, & emotionally to experience racism, colonization & bigotry.
— debraj1121 expand a child's world w a diverse book (@debraj112) October 12, 2020
“Senator John Kennedy said he knows it hurts to be called a: racist, white, colonialist, and it must hurt to be called a religious bigot,” she said. “They always miss the part where it hurts economically, psychologically and emotionally to experience racism, colonization and bigotry.”
Day 1 of Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing adjourned at 2:15 p.m., and will continue Tuesday morning, October 13, at 9 a.m. with rounds of questioning from committee members.