Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Monday reamed the Education Department’s civil rights chief in a letter, saying Candice Jackson’s callous remarks on sexual assault last week made her unfit for the job.
Jackson has faced a hail of criticism since telling the New York Times that “90 percent” of campus sexual-assault complaints “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
Jackson, the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which investigates sexual assault allegations under Title IX, swiftly apologized for her comments. “As a survivor of rape myself, I would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience,” she said.
Jackson, an attorney, has denounced feminism and race-based preferences at universities, once complaining she experienced discrimination because she is white. She dubbed as “fake victims” women who accused President Trump of sexual assault during the 2016 presidential election.
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Advocates say Jackson’s remarks signal the agency’s increasing willingness to back away from Obama-era policies and smear survivors.
In a letter to Murray last week, Education Secretary Betsy Devos said the Civil Rights Office needs to be more “neutral,” Politico reported. Characterizing the Obama administration’s policies as overreaching, DeVos said the approach “forced” OCR staff to make sweeping investigations into colleges’ handling of sexual violence on the basis of lone claims. DeVos in her letter decried as “politically expedient” Obama-era guidances like the one telling states that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
Murray, the ranking Democrat on a key Education Department oversight committee, hit back in a letter to DeVos, saying Jackson’s “callous, insensitive, and egregious comments” make her unfit for the job of heading an office that investigates campus sexual assault.
Jackson’s remarks “crossed a serious line and highlighted her clear biases in this area in a way that, to me and many women and men across the country, should disqualify her from service in the position of top Department of Education protector of students’ right to be safe at school,” Murray said, according to the Washington Post.
DeVos has met with survivor groups, as well as with people claiming they’ve been wrongfully accused of sexual assault, as Rewire reported.
DeVos recently met with representatives from the National Coalition for Men Carolinas and Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), groups that Jezebel reported have a history of misogynistic statements. The Southern Poverty Law center describes SAVE as an organization lobbying “to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors, while working to return the focus to the ‘true victims of abuse’—the falsely accused.” ThinkProgress reported that the National Coalition for Men Carolinas has published photos and names of women who say they were raped, labeling them “false accusers.”