Brett Kavanaugh will make a rare public appearance Thursday night a little over a year after he was accused of assault in a high-profile confirmation battle that battered his image and nearly derailed his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh, President Trump’s second appointment to the nation’s highest court, is set to speak before a friendly audience at the conservative Federalist Society’s annual lawyers convention. According to the justice’s request, the event will not be broadcast and no video cameras will be permitted, but media will be covering the event. He will speak at 9:30 p.m.
It will be Kavanaugh’s first major speech and public appearance since his widely-watched appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September of last year. Before the committee, Kavanaugh forcefully denied allegations that he had attempted to sexually assault a woman in high school and angrily attacked Democratic senators who raised questions about his fitness for the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh’s host on Thursday night will be the Federalist Society, the influential organization that has worked to push the judiciary to the right by advocating for conservative judges.
The speech will help kick off the group’s annual convention in D.C. at a time when the Supreme Court is becoming more of a political issue, partly thanks to the bitter partisan fight over Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have touted the confirmations of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and a slew of other conservatives judges to the federal bench as a signature achievement ahead of the 2020 election.
Progressives have not forgotten the controversy. The liberal judicial activist group Demand Justice is targeting Facebook with ads blasting the company for sponsoring the Federalist Society’s event.
“Facebook should not be sponsoring the rehabbing of Brett Kavanaugh’s reputation when Dr. Blasey Ford remains unable to resume a normal life after bravely coming forward last year,” Katie O’Connor, a senior counsel for Demand Justice, said in a statement.
“You can claim to respect survivors of sexual assault or you can pay for a celebration of Brett Kavanaugh, but you can’t do both,” O’Connor added. “Any organization that doesn’t want to be complicit in normalizing Kavanaugh should withdraw its support from The Federalist Society and pledge not to give in the future.”
Asked to respond to the ad campaign, a Facebook spokesman provided a statement the company put out in response to an earlier story about its sponsorship of the event by the blog Popular Information.
“This reporting purposely focuses on Facebook’s support for one organization to distract from our lengthy track record of supporting groups from across the political spectrum,” the spokesman said in the statement.
The social media platform is one of just four corporate sponsors in the event’s “gold level” top ring of contributors — the other three are Chevron, Cognizant Technologies and the asset management firm Point72. Neither Facebook nor the Federalist Society would respond when asked how much gold-level sponsors contributed.
It’s not clear what Kavanaugh will say to the gathering of conservative legal activists, but it’s almost certain he’ll be welcomed with open arms. When he appeared at the dinner last year in the wake of his confirmation battle, he was given a lengthy standing ovation.
Updated at 2:24 p.m.