D.C. Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao wrote a series of controversial pieces in her twenties about sexual assault, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, and climate. But Rao’s extremism didn’t stop there. Today, she heads a federal office – the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – with direct responsibility for policies in all these areas. And in that role she has helped the Trump Administration turn back the clock on public protections and safety standards for all Americans.

It’s clear: Neomi Rao’s views were dangerously extreme then, and they’re dangerously extreme now. She should not be confirmed to Brett Kavanaugh’s former D.C. Circuit Court seat.


Sexual Assault

What She Said

Rao wrote, “Unless someone made her drinks undetectably strong or forced them down her throat, a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was a part of her choice.”

Rao said, “It has always seemed self-evident to me that even if I drank a lot, I would still be responsible for my actions.” While Rao conceded that someone “who rapes a drunk girl should be prosecuted,” she continued to blame survivors by arguing “[a]t the same time, a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.”

Rao has stated that the “controversy” – referring to sexual assault and date rape – “has been painted in terms of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, reducing sex to something merely consensual.”

What She’s Done

Under Rao’s leadership, OIRA is rolling back Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors on campus through a proposed rule change. The weakened protections would change important processes that currently work to ensure survivors’ rights, and instead focus on protecting the alleged sexual assailant.

During her tenure as the head of OIRA, the agency has blocked the issuance of vital sexual harassment guidance for employers to implement in the workplace. The proposed guidance would assist the EEOC and companies in preventing, investigating, and addressing sexual harassment. It has been delayed at OIRA since November 2017.


Racial Justice

What She Said

Rao wrote “Over the past decades, Yale has dedicated itself to a relatively firm meritocracy, which drops its standards only for a few minorities, some legacies and a football player here or there.”

Rao also asserted “Race may be a hot, money-making issue, but even [Cornel] West seems to realize that it can be talked to death.”

What She’s Done

Under Rao’s leadership, OIRA reviewed and is in the process of working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to roll back protections against housing discrimination based on race. These protections had previously allowed courts to consider “disparate impact” when evaluating housing discrimination claims. The previous protections were reinforced following a landmark Supreme Court case in 2015, and the proposed roll back directly undermines this Supreme Court precedent.


LGBTQ Rights

What She Said

Rao criticized LGBTQ equality and rights. She expressed her view that “[h]omosexual activism in its most visible form engages mainstream society in a total cultural challenge. The ‘promotion of queer expression’ comes in the form of explicitly sexual printed material, as well as national rallies and marches.” 

Rao called the decades-long struggle for LGBTQ rights and equality part of “[t]rendy political movements” which, in her opinion, “have only recently added sexuality to the standard checklist of traits requiring tolerance.”

Rao wrote that “[t]he multiculturalists are not simply after political reform. Underneath their touchy-feely talk of tolerance, they seek to undermine American culture. They argue that culture, society and politics have been defined – and presumably defiled – by white, male heterosexuals hostile to their way of life. For example, homosexuals want to redefine marriage and parenthood.”

What She’s Done

Under Rao, OIRA is currently finalizing a new policy proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services that would allow health care providers to refuse to provide medical care to patients toward whom providers might have “conscientious objections” – in other words, LGBTQ patients and women seeking reproductive care.

OIRA and the Trump Administration have engaged in a process to eliminate protections for LGBTQ patients provided by the Affordable Care Act.


Climate 

What She Said

Rao described “the greenhouse effect, the depleting ozone layer, and the dangers of acid rain” as “[t]he three major environmental bogeymen.” She criticized environmental groups at Yale for “accept[ing] issues such as global warming as truth with no reference to the prevailing scientific doubts.”

Rao bashed environmental groups for “promot[ing] a dangerous orthodoxy that includes the unquestioning acceptance of controversial theories like the greenhouse effect.”

Describing environmental activism on college campuses, Rao explained, “These are just a few examples of eco-insanity on college campuses. But funny as they may be, environmental hysteria in the university has dangerous implications for the real world.”

Claiming environmentalists want to force people to “live up to their standards of environmental purity,” Rao cautioned that “they seem perfectly comfortable discarding scientific evidence and common sense in their crusade to ‘save’ the Earth.”

What She’s Done

Rao approved a proposal to rescind the Clean Power Plan, a public protection program  that reduced greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Rao supported the weakening of public protections against mercury pollution. Her decision endangers infants, as high levels of mercury cause brain damage to young children.

Under Rao’s watch, OIRA allowed corporate lobbyists to influence public policy when her office turned back the clock on protections preventing natural gas leaks.

 

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