Indian American law professor Neomi Rao, who has been nominated by President Donald Trump to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in place of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, is in the middle of a national firestorm over her past writings.
She suddenly became a controversial figure after a story published in BuzzFeed Jan. 14 prompted concerns about her nomination.
The BuzzFeed story highlighted those contentious op-eds – on race, date rape, and LGBT rights, among others – that Rao wrote between 1994 and 1996, when she was a student at Yale and shortly thereafter.
Rao is the daughter of Zerin Rao and Jehangir Narioshang Rao, both Parsi physicians from India; she was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and graduated from Yale (Read earlier India-West story here: bit.ly/2zdoAps).
A lot of those pieces were compiled by the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice, which shared it with BuzzFeed.
Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, told BuzzFeed that Rao’s columns were “consistent with the administration’s support of candidates who make racially insensitive statements and comments hostile to sexual assault survivors.”
“She shouldn’t be awarded a seat on what many view as the second highest court in the country, which is often a stepping stone to the Supreme Court,” Aron said.
Rao, who currently heads the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote those pieces in two campus publications, the Yale Free Press and The Yale Herald, as well as in the Washington Times as a journalism fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to BuzzFeed.
Here’s what Rao wrote on those hot button topics:
In “Shades of Gray,” a piece published in The Yale Herald, she wrote that “A man who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted,” adding, “At the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.”
“Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink,” she continued. “And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice.”
She went on to add that “Implying that a drunk woman has no control of her actions, but that a drunk man does, strips women of all moral responsibility.”
In an April 1993 article titled “The Feminist Dilemma,” Rao wrote: “I am certainly not arguing that date rape victims ask for it, when playing the modern dating game women have to understand and accept the consequences of their sexuality. Some feminists chant that women should be free to wear short skirts or bright lipstick, but true sexual signals lie beyond these blatant signs.”
Concurring with social critic Camille Paglia’s view on date rape, Rao wrote that Paglia “accurately describes the dangerous feminist idealism which teaches women that they are equal. Women believe falsely that they should be able to go anywhere with anyone.”
In a 1994 piece for the Washington Times denouncing “multiculturalists” on campus, Rao wrote that, “Underneath their touchy-feely talk of tolerance, they seek to undermine American culture.”
“They argue that culture, society and politics have been defined – and presumably defiled – by white, male heterosexuals hostile to their way of life,” she wrote. “For example, homosexuals want to redefine marriage and parenthood; feminists in women’s studies programs want to replace so-called male rationality with more sensitive responses common to women. It may be kinder and gentler, but can you build a bridge with it?
In the same piece, titled “How the Diversity Game is Played,” Rao took on multiculturalists, writing: “Arriving at Yale three years ago, I thought diversity on campus would mean that racial and gender differences would be taken in stride. I thought wrong…Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt that one day people would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. This dream has no meaning to the multiculturalists, who separate and classify everyone according to race, gender and sexual orientation.”
An article on Washingtonexaminer.com noted that Rao is a “brilliant legal mind” and an “extremely well-qualified” pick to replace Kavanaugh. “But because she’s a rising star on the Right who has been floated as a potential replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she must be destroyed. So it’s natural that the Left is trying to make her the latest victim of character assassination,” it said.
It further added that though the college writings won’t block Rao’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit, given that Republicans have 53 seats and there is no filibuster of judicial nominees, “the hit job,” it said, “should be seen as the opening salvo in the potential battle to replace Ginsburg.”
Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that Rao’s writings were “intentionally provocative.”
“The views she expressed a quarter century ago as a college student writing for her student newspaper were intentionally provocative, designed to raise questions and push back against liberal elitism that dominated her campus at the time,” Kupec was quoted as saying.