After announcing this morning that he planned to vote yes on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Jeff Flake had some sort of come-to-Jesus moment while sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this afternoon. After huddling with Democrats and much palace intrigue, he ultimately announced he would not support final confirmation until the FBI had a week to further investigate the accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. And many people are pointing to two women in particular as responsible for this dramatic twist.
What we just witnessed is a Republican man have his mind changed by the raw suffering of women presented to him in a meaningful way. Never give up on changing hearts and minds.
— Did you... read the article? (@bungarsargon) September 28, 2018
If there is a delay, we can thank those women who held that elevator door open and confronted Flake.
— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) September 28, 2018
Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila were the two women who confronted Flake inside an elevator in the Capitol soon after he made his initial pro-Kavanaugh announcement. They refused to allow him to leave until they were done telling their stories of sexual abuse, channeling "a rising anger among many who feel that, too often, women’s voices are silenced and their pain ignored," as the Times wrote.
"On Monday, I stood in front of your office, I told the story of my sexual assault," said Archila. "I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford's story that she is telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them."
"Don't look away from me," added Gallagher, who is from Westchester. "Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies." You can see the whole encounter below.
Archila is a Queens native, a 39-year-old mother of two, a national committee member of the Working Families Party and an executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. She told BuzzFeed she has been in Washington, DC, since Monday protesting Kavanaugh's nomination, and was meeting with Gallagher when Flake happened to walk by. "Having just seen the news of his statement, and knowing what he was about to do, had us both enraged," she said. "His staff kept saying 'You can talk to us. 'I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to him. He’s the one that’s going to vote." Not being able to get to him made her feel like "our democracy is in the ICU...We can't even get through to the people who are elected to represent us."
Let’s go QUEENS, NY 🙌🏽 ⬇️ https://t.co/zXLx4rADcN
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) September 28, 2018
Gallagher, 23, told The Daily Beast she had come to the Hart Senate office building on Friday morning to protest Kavanaugh as well when she and Archila ran into Flake. "He wouldn’t meet my eyes,” she said. "It made me very angry. He kept saying thank you and I’m sorry and wasn’t taking into account what his actions would be doing to millions of people and what this means for everyone."
I feel relieved that @JeffFlake seems to have heard my and @AnaMariaArchil2’s voices in the Senate elevator today. We absolutely need an FBI investigation and for him and all Senators to vote NO. #StopKavanaugh pic.twitter.com/VnsfTIRGXJ
— Maria Gallagher (@mgallagher822) September 28, 2018
"I want to believe in that moment he understood the gravity of the message his vote was sending to the country," Archila added to BuzzFeed. She was somewhat reluctant to take the full credit for getting through to Flake: "Yes, I had that interaction with him but yesterday we heard Dr. Ford be questioned for hours, telling her story because she’s trying to protect the country."
I'd like to commission a baroque painting. pic.twitter.com/ZFQrKfVTe6
— Dan Bobkoff (@danbobkoff) September 28, 2018
Archila also told the Times that her father messaged her after the footage of the elevator confrontation spread around the internet: “I’m so sorry for not being able to protect you,” he said. She added, “It was Dr. Ford’s story that allowed me to tell this secret to my parents. I now have to do the work of how me and my parents process this experience, and I don’t know how this is going to go."