Shame on You, Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly deserves every ounce of criticism she has received for a recent series of tweets. In September, Nancy French, wife of National Review’s David French, shared an opinion piece in which she argued that Brett Kavanaugh ought not to sit on the Supreme Court if the sexual assault allegations levied against him were true. Kelly’s initial response to Nancy French reads:

“OK - Nancy French screwed around with her preacher when she was a teen, so IF Kavanaugh groped a girl 36 years ago, he can't be on SCOTUS?” She goes on: “Again, ladies: Your personal experiences have nothing to do with this. And shame on you for exploiting it to help destroy a decent man.”

But Nancy French was not, as Kelly implies, just hooking up with her pastor, nor was she a “teenager.” In reality, as David French points out, his wife was only 12-years-old and was sexually abused. She was a child. The pastor was a pedophile. This was statutory rape.

So why would Kelly go after Nancy French? During the 2016 primaries, French authored a piece explaining her perspective on the 2016 election as a sexual abuse survivor. She was concerned that the members of the Republican Party were casting aside their principles by supporting Donald Trump, a man whose sexual behavior is certainly suspect, to say the least.

French’s criticism of Trump is the real motive of Kelly’s attacks. Kelly is an ardent Trump supporter and the Frenches are Never Trumpers. American Greatness, the site to which Kelly contributes, is infamous for its support of the MAGA agenda. Several of the site’s writers—including Victor Davis Hanson, Ken Masugi, and Henry Olsen—are reasonable and serious talents, but partisan ideology seems to have overshadowed any semblance of decency on Kelly’s part. Her unwarranted personal attack based on faulty premises does nothing to make America great again.

Rather than apologizing in response to the criticism she has received, Kelly doubled down on her initial statement. She expressed no remorse for exploiting someone’s traumatic personal experiences, instead making further attacks on French’s character. This time, she went after the whole family:

“If you exploit your personal experiences- including adopting a baby - to score political points, you have no moral high road. And if you use it to smear a SCOTUS nominee for attention, then you deserve blowback.”

This tweet is in reference to the French family’s adopted daughter from Ethiopia named Naomi. Their daughter has been targeted by the alt-right due to her race and her parents’ public stance against Trump. The “exploitation” Kelly refers to is the Frenches’ public defense of their family and criticism of far-right rhetoric.

In a piece for The Atlantic, David French describes the circumstances his family has faced at the hands of the most extreme Trump trolls:

“They [alt-right trolls] lifted pictures of my then-7-year-old daughter from social media and Photoshopped her into a gas chamber, with Donald Trump pressing the button to kill her. They put her image in slave fields. They found my wife’s blog and filled the comments section with gruesome pictures of dead or dying African Americans. They made me wish for the days when the left came after us; at least progressive critics didn’t want my daughter to die.”

The French family has been treated horribly by the far-right due to their public stances against Trump. There are plenty of solid arguments to be made against the Never Trump movement and Nancy French’s skepticism regarding Brett Kavanaugh, but the character assassination offered by Julie Kelly amounts to nothing more than a politically motivated hit.

Shame on you, Julie Kelly, for exploiting someone else’s traumatic experiences to score political points.