Tweets by Vanita Gupta, the nominee for Associate Attorney-General, came up on Tuesday when she appeared before Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing, where she also received praise for her civil rights advocacy.
Gupta expressed regret for the tweets and said that she had “fallen prey” to “the rhetoric has gotten quite harsh over the last several years”.
“I wish I could take it back, I can’t,” she added.
The nomination of an Indian American, Neera Tanden, to be a member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet was torpedoed by her vitriolic tweets and statements.
Gupta, who unlike Tanden has broader support in both parties, faced similar questions about her past social media presence and statements in her quest for the third-highest position in the Justice Department where she will be in charge of civil and human rights issues.
She asked the senators to instead “look at my lifelong record” as a believer “in the importance of building consensus” and as “a deeply pragmatic person and relationship builder”.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, while praising some of her civil rights work, brought up her tweets, one of which called the Republican Party National Convention in which some senators on the Judiciary Committee participated as “three nights of racism”.
He said that she would have to be involved in cases before several judges who she had attacked online.
Committee Chair Dick Durbin, a Democrat, recalled her work in Texas as a young lawyer and praised her record as a civil rights lawyer.
Introducing her, he said that she had successfully worked to overturn the wrongful conviction of 38 people, most of them African Americans, in Tulia and it had been endorsed by Rick Perry, the Republican Governor of Texas at that time, and the victims received $6 million in settlement.
He compared her work to that of Thurdgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Judge, who had also worked like her with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) Legal Defence Fund.
Her achievement in the Tulia case just after graduation from law school brought her to national attention.
Dismissing the criticism of her as soft of crime and anti-police, Durbin pointed to the support she has received from several organisations of law enforcement officials. These include the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major County Sheriffs of America and the Federal Law Enforcement Officials Association.
In her opening statement to the committee, Gupta spoke of her immigrant background and the opportunities her family received in the US.
She said, “My parents (Rajiv and Kamla Gupta) are proud immigrants from India, and they believe more than anything in the promise of America. Growing up, they taught me that loving this country brings with it the obligation to do the necessary work to perfect our union.”
She added, “That belief is shared by my husband (Chinh Q. Le), whose family fled violence and war in Vietnam and sought refuge on these great shores”.
During questions about her commitment to religious freedom, she said that she was from a family of faith and that her husband’s family had fled Vietnam to be able to practice their religion.
So far, the indications are that she will be able to get the votes required to be confirmed as no Democrat has come out against her as it happened with Tanden.
She is also likely to pick up support of some Republican Senators.
The conservatives are split on her nomination, with two groups running massive advertising campaigns for and against her.
Defending Democracy Together (DDT), an organisation of prominent Republicans, countered the campaign against declaring, “Don’t let Washington play politics with the nomination of Anita Gupta.”
DDT includes former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Linda Chavez, the highest-ranking woman among former President Ronald Reagan’s White House staff.
Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, speaking at the hearing, denounced senators repeating what he said was an unfair and inaccurate smear campaign against her that was “despicable rancid”.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)