Endowed with a razor-thin Democratic majority, the United States Senate continues to consider President Joe Biden's appointments to his administration.
Among those appointments is civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke, whom Biden has tapped to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights division.
In a Wednesday Senate committee hearing on the appointment, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas attempted to trip Clarke up with a "gotcha" question about an essay she wrote while attending Harvard University.
John Cornyn grills assistant attorney general nominee Kristen Clarke about an article she wrote for her college pap… https://t.co/J03goEg7rs— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1618413876.0
"Dating back to your days in school when you seemed to argue that African Americans were genetically superior to Caucasians. Is that correct?"
In her 1994 essay for the Harvard Crimson, Clarke was pointing out the logical fallacies of The Bell Curve, a book on class and intelligence by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. It continues to spark controversy for its emphasis on the disparities in IQ scores among Black people and white people, suggesting that race is an adequate indicator of a person's intelligence.
Clarke illustrated the absurdity of The Bell Curve's implications by claiming Black people were inherently superior to whites due to their melanin.
Clarke easily pointed out to Cornyn the intent of the piece.
"As a Black student at Harvard that time, we took grave offense to this book. It was co-authored by a Harvard professor. We held a number of events to speak out against the book, and this op-ed opened with a satirical reference to the statement that you just noted. ...What I was trying to do was to hold up a mirror and put one racist theory alongside another to challenge people as to why we were unwilling to wholly reject the racist theory that defined the Bell Curve book."
She went on to point out that contemporaneous reporting in the paper at the time confirmed this wasn't her actual position.
Cornyn's attempt to discredit Clarke ultimately backfired.
Why can't Texas senators hire staff who save them from their public idiocy? https://t.co/7DFeYY0ZMp— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence O'Donnell) 1618418168.0
Embarrassing from Cornyn. But also (even though in this case it was satirical), we should really all be able to a… https://t.co/wM94buv6uA— Sarah Longwell (@Sarah Longwell) 1618416588.0
Look up “buffoon” in the dictionary. This should be the example. https://t.co/bx27B3bpPA— David Corn (@David Corn) 1618424156.0
Trying to explain satire to conservatives, and I say this from experience, is EXTREMELY difficult. https://t.co/9fhziBKHBJ— Rex Huppke (@Rex Huppke) 1618414362.0
lmao he really thought he was gonna expose her as a racist when actually he just strengthened the whole point of he… https://t.co/p9IPExFBNq— theruthshallsetyoufree (@theruthshallsetyoufree) 1618502535.0
Imagine having this much power and being this dumb. https://t.co/VJLupkeqQS— beth (@beth) 1618421846.0
The Senator's face as Clarke explained the article was satire evoked mockery from many social media users.
It’s the look of baffled confusion on @JohnCornyn’s face at the end for me. https://t.co/7NLMmkgcog— Joy-Ann Pro-Democracy & Masks Reid 😷 (@Joy-Ann Pro-Democracy & Masks Reid 😷) 1618491762.0
Finally watched this, and Cornyn's face at the end is priceless. I bet some staffer got screamed at after the heari… https://t.co/P0nwQcD2ie— Gary Legum (@Gary Legum) 1618496867.0
This was extraordinary. Cornyn appeared genuinely surprised when Clarke pointed out that the article was satirical.… https://t.co/QfEXOVWLF8— Ian Millhiser (@Ian Millhiser) 1618416937.0
If confirmed, Clarke will become the first woman of color to lead the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department.