She was authentic. He was passionate. She wasn’t remembering correctly. He wasn’t truthful.
Across the nation, Americans grappled with the extraordinary drama unfolding in the Senate on Thursday and, though passions ran high, it was hard to find people whose minds had truly been changed.
Echoes of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill abounded, with many recalling that fraught 1991 hearing. And some addressed the momentous nature of the event. “This is history,” said Laura Williams, a law student from Mississippi.
AP journalists around the country talked to citizens to gauge their reactions. Here is some of what they heard:
JARRED BY EMOTION:
Jalon Alexander was expecting to hear soft-spoken, deferential testimony when Kavanaugh took the stand. Instead, he said, he heard a fiery, raised voice — and he didn’t find it convincing.
“The more and more I listened to him, there was nothing he said that made me doubt Dr. Ford’s accusation,” he said.
Alexander, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Pittsburgh, identifies as a Democrat but said he began watching Thursday’s proceedings as neither a supporter nor a detractor of the nominee.
That changed with Kavanaugh’s testimony. The student was rattled by the temperament he felt Kavanaugh exhibited and the anger he showed at Democrats while vying for a nonpartisan job.
He even questioned the judge’s displays of emotion. “I didn’t see tears of genuine concern,” Alexander said. “Those tears to me scream, ‘I’m losing something I’m entitled to.'”
Alexander found Ford’s account of Kavanaugh and a friend laughing after the alleged attack the hearing’s most moving moment, and he wondered if that detail might sway Republicans.
“At what cost are we willing to taint the court and to taint the image of what a Supreme Court justice is supposed to represent?” he asked
TEARS FOR KAVANAUGH FAMILY:
Republican strategist Jennifer Jacobs, watching the hearing from her home in San Diego, was struck both by Ford’s sincerity and Kavanaugh’s depth of emotion.
Both seemed believable, Jacobs said, but she felt convinced toward the end that Kavanaugh was not guilty. “I don’t want to discount that Dr. Ford had something happen to her, but I don’t think it was him,” she said.
As to Kavanaugh’s evident emotion — which some saw as unsettling — Jacobs said: “Clearly, this is a compassionate man. He’s not some crazed barbarian. You can’t help but have compassion for him.”
She was especially moved on behalf of Kavanaugh’s wife and children. “I literally was welled up with tears,” she said.
The whole spectacle left her upset for both Ford and Kavanaugh — and for the country. She called it “one of the worst days in American history.”
AT YALE, EMPATHY FOR ACCUSER:
The Kavanaugh hearing had students glued to televisions and their phones at Yale University, the Ivy League institution where the U.S. Supreme Court nominee attended college and law school.
As Ford testified, some students gasped aloud, said Alyssa Peterson, a third-year law student from Glen Ellyn, Illinois. “As a survivor of sexual assault myself, my heart aches for her,” Peterson said. “What she’s going through is just unimaginable.”
Samantha Peltz, a 26-year-old law student from Chicago, likened Thursday’s hearing to the proceedings years ago involving Thomas and Hill.
“Anita Hill went to this school,” Peltz said. “We felt she wasn’t given due consideration to her allegations. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
CONCERNED BY THE TONE:
Philadelphia attorney Shabrei Parker multitasked from her office during Ford’s testimony, jumping from her computer monitor to the television screen to her social media feeds.
Her initial impressions confirmed her worries going into the hearing: It had the feeling of a trial. “It’s supposed to be a space for open-mindedness … to at least give the impression of being transparent,” said Parker, who pointed out that questions from GOP senators came through a prosecutor.
As the hearing progressed, Parker said she felt Ford was getting a fair hearing, but also saw bias, noting that “the tone is one where she’s being expected to prove something.”
Parker, 33, said she believes the biggest impact of the hearing could be far from Washington, on American society…