Kavanaugh avoids controversy in first major appearance

Brett Kavanaugh

FILE – In this July 19, 2018, file photo, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh glances at reporters during a meeting with Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., on Capitol Hill in Washington. Justice Kavanaugh is staying away from controversy in his first major public appearance Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, since his stormy, narrow Supreme Court confirmation a year ago. The 54-year-old Kavanaugh chose a friendly audience for his remarks, a dinner of more than 2,000 members of the Federalist Society at Washington’s Union Station. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Brett Kavanaugh called himself grateful and optimistic Thursday, avoiding controversy in his first major public appearance since his stormy Supreme Court confirmation a year ago.

The 54-year-old Kavanaugh chose a friendly audience for his remarks, a dinner of more than 2,000 members of the Federalist Society at Washington’s Union Station. The conservative legal organization has championed judges appointed by President Donald Trump, including Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch.

He spoke mainly of gratitude in a talk that lasted less than 30 minutes, peppered with sports references, praise for his colleagues and humor.

The justice said friends “paid a heavy price, too heavy a price” for their support during the hearings, including losing business and being insulted and threatened. “I’m well aware of that and it pains me daily,” he said.

Kavanaugh largely avoided references to his angry denial of allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were both teenagers. He was confirmed 50-48, largely along party lines.

The liberal activist group Demand Justice, which wants Congress to impeach Kavanaugh, placed a huge video screen outside the station that played Ford’s testimony. A long line of dinner guests, many in tuxedos and gowns, snaked past women dressed in red robes, like characters from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Police escorted a few protesters from the station at the start of his talk.

Unlike past dinners featuring justices and other prominent political figures, Thursday’s talk was not aired on C-Span or live-streamed. But it was open to press coverage and still photographers. Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito also were at the dinner.

The new justice maintained a low profile during his first term on the court. His lone outside appearance was a conference of judges and lawyers in Chicago alongside retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, his former boss and the man he replaced on the court.

Kavanaugh described the past 18 months as eventful, including the Washington Capitals capturing the Stanley Cup and the Washington Nationals winning the World Series. “In between, I got a new job,” he said, prompting a standing ovation.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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