GOP Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana attempted to accuse Dr. Saule Omarova of being a communist, but was immediately shut down by the Professor herself.
Dr. Omarova was nominated by President Biden to serve as comptroller of currency, and the insult from Kennedy came during her confirmation hearing.
Dr. Omarova, who grew up in Kazakhstan while it was still part of the Soviet Union, was rendered momentarily speechless several times while Senator Kennedy was questioning her.
Dr. Omarova is a professor of Law at Cornell University, and became an American citizen in 2005, but that didn't seem to be enough for Senator Kennedy to accept that she was fully American and fully qualified for the position.
Kennedy first questioned her on her previous membership in a communist youth group during her childhood in Kazakhstan—a group which every child and adolescent in the Soviet Union was legally required to participate in.
He then told her:
"This is America. I don't mean any disrespect. I don't know whether to call you professor or comrade."
Senator Kennedy seemed to completely miss several points, including that Dr. Omarova would be called Professor even if she were a communist—which she made clear she is not.
Kennedy also seemed to willfully ignore the professor's explanations that her membership in the group that the senator referred to as "The Young Communists" was a mandatory part of life as a child in the Soviet Union, and not a reflection of her personal beliefs decades later.
Her response to Kennedy's outrageous insinuation was simple and devastating:
"Senator, I am not a communist. I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born."
She even went on to talk about how she and her family suffered under Soviet rule.
"My family suffered under the Communist regime. I grew up without knowing half of my family. My grandmother herself escaped death twice under the Stalin regime. This is what's seared in my mind. That's who I am. I remember that history."
She then completely shut down Kennedy's arguments:
"I'm proud to be an American. I am here today because I am ready to serve in public service."
You can watch the whole exchange below:
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA): “I don't know whether to call you professor or comrade."
Someone off-camera: “Oh my goodness."
Dr. Saule Omarova, Biden's comptroller currency pick: “I'm not a communist. I do not subscribe to that ideology. I could not choose where I was born." pic.twitter.com/CEiCWNwx2N
— The Recount (@therecount) November 18, 2021
The general consensus on Twitter seemed to be that Kennedy deserved to be mocked—and possibly dismissed firm the hearing.
John Kennedy whose mission is to do as little for his state of Louisiana as possible.— \ud83c\udfde\ufe0f (@\ud83c\udfde\ufe0f) 1637254279
This message brought to you by: XENOPHOBIA— JO (@JO) 1637253471
Kennedy: I don't mean any disrespect...\nNarrator: He did.— Deinos (@Deinos) 1637254174
Why aren't senators who make comments like this immediately called out by the chair? Why is this allowed?— Charon Best - Fully Vaccinated!!! (@Charon Best - Fully Vaccinated!!!) 1637255661
Her response was incredible. He would be shamed if he were capable.— Lori (@Lori) 1637254134
Kennedy: "But I'm going to keep saying or implying it until lots of people believe it."— Joan is still sleep-tweeting (@Joan is still sleep-tweeting) 1637253438
Do people not understand that every time they say \u201cI don\u2019t mean disrespect\u201d, \u201cI am not a racist/sexist/hater but\u2026\u201d, they show their true colors to everyone?— S\u00e6mundr Sigf\u00fasson (@S\u00e6mundr Sigf\u00fasson) 1637255555
\u201cI don\u2019t mean any disrespect by this\u201d is always followed with something disrespectful. \u201cI\u2019m not a racist by any means, but why does blank, blank\u201d— Gunn (@Gunn) 1637254106
Several people applauded Dr. Omarova's composure in the face of such blatant disrespect during her confirmation hearing.
Bravo to her for staying composed— JJ Ponce (@JJ Ponce) 1637253492
My response to him would have not been NEARLY so respectful.— "International Strategery" (Ret.) (@"International Strategery" (Ret.)) 1637253760
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, interrupted Senator Kennedy more than once during his questioning of Dr. Omarova to tell him he was out of line. He stated that Kennedy's questions were irrelevant to the Professor's candidacy for the position of comptroller of currency.