Hawley's Ketanji Brown Jackson Child Porn Attack 'Meritless': Ex-Prosecutor

Conservative columnist and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has slammed Senator Josh Hawley's child porn attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as "meritless."

Hawley, a Missouri Republican, accused Jackson, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Joe Biden, of having a "pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" in a Twitter thread last week.

He pointed to Jackson questioning the sex offender registry and support for ending mandatory minimum sentences for people who receive or distribute child pornography as proof that she is "soft" on child pornography laws—a claim that many have labeled misleading.

McCarthy, a Republican who previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, dismissed the criticism as "meritless to the point of demagoguery" in a column for the conservative publication National Review on March 20.

McCarthy defended Jackson's viewpoint on the matter of mandatory minimums for first-time offenders charged with child pornography possession as "mainstream" and "correct in my view."

He explained that many other people in the legal system—including conservatives—also consider the mandatory minimum laws enacted by Congress for those offenders to be too harsh.

"It's not soft on porn to call for sensible line-drawing. Plenty of hard-nosed prosecutors and Republican-appointed judges have long believed that this mandatory minimum is too draconian," McCarthy wrote.

He went on to explain that he would still oppose Judge Jackson's nomination on philosophical grounds—adding that she "may in fact be too solicitous of criminals"—but dismissed Hawley's criticism as a "smear."

"The implication that she has a soft spot for 'sex offenders' who 'prey on children' because she argued against a severe mandatory-minimum prison sentence for the receipt and distribution of pornographic images is a smear," he wrote.

Ahead of Jackson's confirmation hearings that began Monday, other Republicans have also sought to accuse her of being "soft on crime," an argument they're likely to push during the hearings.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for instance, expressed concerns that she has a "special empathy for convicted criminals" but is still undecided on how he will vote.

But Democrats have come to her defense, with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin dismissing Hawley as being "inaccurate and unfair in his analysis."

Supporters point to her experiences as a public defender and on the United States Sentencing Commission as potentially bringing a new perspective to the Supreme Court.

If confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve on the highest court. She does not need any Republican support, so long as every Democratic senator votes for her due to the even split of the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote.

Newsweek reached out to Hawley's office for comment Monday afternoon but did not hear back in time for publication.

Hawley's attack on Judge Jackson called "meritless"
Conservative columnist and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy slammed Senator Josh Hawley’s child porn attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as “meritless.” Jackson is seen during her confirmation hearing Monday. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images