An American Spectacle Grabs Attention Overseas

The “supreme ordeal” of the Kavanaugh hearings dominated headlines beyond the United States.

A person watches a television broadcast of the Kavanaugh hearing.
A television broadcasts the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee following the testimony by Christine Blasey Ford on September 27, 2018. (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

LONDON—Even from another continent, it was obvious that America was going through a defining moment in its democracy. Millions of Americans huddled around televisions, cellphones, and local bars Thursday to watch Christine Blasey Ford testify about her sexual-assault allegation against the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The world was watching, too.

Here in Europe, there has been an effort to parse and understand Donald Trump and his White House—everything from the shifting ground of global alliances to granular palace intrigue—ever since he was sworn in. But with the Kavanaugh hearings, for a rare moment, the focus wasn’t trained on Trump, but on Congress. There, Americans were enduring a new round of national reckoning with sexual assault in the U.S., one that was simultaneously a reckoning over the function of the American government itself.

It was much more than a domestic drama. The Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions in the most powerful country in the world. And Ford’s tearful testimony, along with Kavanaugh’s angry rebuttal, was gripping in its own right. Proof of the hearing’s international significance was evident the very same day, when stories about Thursday’s nine-hour testimony appeared in German, French, and Spanish newspapers. In the United Kingdom, it was front-page news in several national dailies. The Guardian’s front page focused on Ford, as well as her statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she believed Kavanaugh “was going to rape me” in the alleged assault she said took place at a Maryland house party nearly 36 years ago. Kavanaugh has repeatedly and categorically denied that the incident occurred, including in his own testimony on Thursday.

The Guardian front page on September 28, 2018

The Financial Times centered its coverage on the “supreme stakes” of Ford’s testimony, as well as her insistence that she is “100 percent” certain about her recollections from that time.

The Financial Times front page on September 28, 2018

The hearing was also splashed on the front page of The Independent, which paid special attention to the optics—specifically, that Ford had testified about her alleged assault to a committee overwhelmingly composed of men.

The Independent front page on September 28, 2018

But perhaps the biggest front-page splash came from the free daily Metro, which dubbed the testimony a “supreme ordeal.”

Metro front page on September 28, 2018

That word—ordeal—is apt. This isn’t just a story about a consequential nomination to America’s highest court—one that, as Metro explained to its U.K. readers, stands to influence “decisive rulings that can change the course of U.S. history.” It’s also a human story, about suffering and consequences and the agony of experiencing both on the national stage, with the entire world watching.