Neomi Rao — Trump's nominee for an influential seat on the D.C. Circuit Court and a potential candidate for the US Supreme Court — has a history of writing articles that blame sexual assault survivors for being attacked, disparage people of colour and those who are LGBTQ+, and doubt the existence of climate change.
Rao is being nominated for Judge Brett Kavanaugh's former seat on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which frequently deals with cases addressing executive power, and is often referred to as the second most important court in the US since many view it as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.
In an October 1994 column in the Yale Herald she wrote as an undergraduate, Rao said that if a woman is drunk when she is sexually assaulted, it is her fault. "A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted," she writes. "At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober." Then, she adds, "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."
"Neomi Rao's comments are disqualifying for a judicial nominee or anyone interested in holding public office," Jess Davidson, the executive director of End Rape on Campus, said in a statement to Refinery29. "Her comments condone victim-blaming and perpetuate the rape culture in our schools and society that are dangerous to all individuals. Survivors are not 'responsible' for the violence they experience, and I am disturbed by Rao's suggestion otherwise."
Davidson pointed out that from her position on the D.C. Circuit Court, Rao will have the opportunity to decide on issues important to survivors, as many women's rights cases, including on Title IX, could come before the court in the next few years. In her current position as the head of the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Rao signed off on the Department of Education's new Title IX policies, which advocates say prioritise protecting the accused and institutions instead of survivors.
In another article, in the Yale Free Press in 1993, Rao engages in the classic "blame women for what they're wearing, but never blame the attacker" manoeuvre that conservatives can be so good at. "When playing the modern dating game women have to understand and accept the consequences of their sexuality," she writes. "Some feminists chant that women should be free to wear short skirts or bright lipstick, but true sexual signals lie beyond these blatant signs. Misunderstandings occur from subtle glances, ambiguous words."
These writings are just the tip of the iceberg. Rao has also attacked affirmative action ("Over the past decades, Yale has dedicated itself to a relatively firm meritocracy, which drops its standards only for a few minorities, some legacies, and a football player here or there."), called the fight for LGBTQ+ rights a "trendy political movement," and suggested that climate change isn't real. She's also never challenged or reversed any of the views from her college and recent-graduate years. "She is proud of these statements and her role in articulating them at Yale," Nan Aron, president of the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice, told Mother Jones. "Her views are as relevant today as they were when she was in her 20s." In other words, she's Trump's perfect nominee — and one that is poised to wreak even more havoc on women's rights.