Sen. Kennedy to ethics expert: ‘My aunt’s Facebook page is more credible than you.’

Richard Painter / YouTube screenshot

Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) slammed liberal law professor Richard Painter at a Senate hearing on Wednesday for his history of making unsubstantiated claims about high-profile conservatives.

Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, was invited by Senate Democrats to testify on the influence of fossil fuel interests on public policy and elections. In his published testimony, Painter attacked the Supreme Court’s application of the First Amendment to political speech and compared being skeptical of climate change to believing that the earth is flat. Questioning his credibility as a witness, Kennedy grilled Painter on past tweets he had made about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.).

Painter had called Graham “Putin’s favorite senator” in 2020 when discussing an ill-fated bid by Democrat Jaime Harrison to unseat him. Graham has emerged as one of the strongest Republican opponents of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the Russian government even going as far as to issue an arrest warrant for the senator.

When Kennedy asked Painter to explain his tweet, the law professor initially denied having knowledge of it. When Kennedy pulled out a printout of the tweet, Painter pivoted to questioning what it had to do with the topic of the hearing.

“It has to do with your credibility,” the senator responded.

Kennedy also referred to a tweet where Painter insinuated that Justice Thomas was beholden to the interests of the wealthy because he had accepted gifts from friends. When Kennedy asked Painter to tell the Senate panel “which members of the Supreme Court you believe are bought,” he declined to give a straight answer. Instead, Painter deferred to the alleged concerns of the American people regarding Thomas’s personal life. At the end of Kennedy’s line of questioning, Painter conceded somewhat, saying that he “stand[s] by that tweet.”

“I’m out of time but let me just say for the record,” Kennedy said at the end of his questioning, “my aunt’s Facebook page has more credibility than you do.”

Painter has a history of making false statements. In 2018, the then-Senate candidate and former Bush ethics lawyer claimed that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire from the Supreme Court was influenced by Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank, the justice’s son’s employer. The Washington Post gave Painter “Four Pinocchios” for the statement, its worst possible rating for false claims.

Painter, who ran the much-maligned “dumpster fire” ad during his Senate campaign, also holds some unorthodox views on American history. Painter in 2018 asked his Twitter followers, “What was the point of the Revolution if subjects of the British Crown get single payer health care and university education at a fraction of what it costs us and we are stuck with a President guilty of treason, bribery and other crimes, and a Congress unwilling to get rid of him?”

Formerly a Republican, Painter switched to the Democratic Party in 2018, citing then-president Donald Trump as having driven him to the liberals.

You can watch the full exchange between Kennedy and Painter here.



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