The husband of Republican operative Zina Bash denounced the people spreading the theory Tuesday that Bash made a white-supremacist gesture as she sat behind Brett Kavanaugh during his hearing on Tuesday.
John Bash, the United States attorney for Western Texas, called the accusations geared toward his wife, a lawyer who has spent years working in Republican politics, “repulsive” in heated tweets.
“Everyone tweeting this vicious conspiracy theory should be ashamed of themselves,” John Bash wrote. “We weren’t even familiar with the hateful symbol being attributed to her for the random way she rested her hand during a long hearing.”
Bash, who worked in the Trump White House as a special assistant on regulatory reform and legal and immigration policy, currently works as a senior counsel for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R).
It was the second sideshow to steal attention from the serious and substantive work of Kavanaugh’s hearing after trending on social media. Earlier, videos and images of Kavanaugh declining to shake the hand of Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed at the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., went viral, and Guttenberg later made the rounds on cable news shows.
The controversy over Bash’s hand placement started on Twitter in the midst of the hearing. A few liberal-leaning accounts with large followings who do not work for traditional news media outlets had noticed that Bash had been making an “okay” sign with her hand as it rested on her arm as she sat behind Kavanaugh at the hearing. The symbol — yes, that everyday hand sign with thumb and forefinger arranged in a circle and three fingers splayed upward — is not considered a hate symbol by organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, but it has been the subject of a campaign by Internet hoaxsters and trolls to be converted to that use to inflame the sensibilities of well-meaning people online.
Popular Twitter personalities and accounts such as Amy Siskind, Eugene Gu and the Palmer Report tweeted that Bash had flashed a “white-power” symbol, drawing a flurry of engagement on the social media platform. By the evening, Bash’s name was trending on the service. The video Gu tweeted out that focused on Bash’s hands, originally published by another Twitter account, had been viewed more than 2 million times.
Siskind continued to sow doubt about Bash’s intent into the evening on Twitter.
“Try it for yourself,” Siskind wrote of the hand gesture. “If you watch the video you’ll see she held it in place for a long time. It’s not a natural resting position.”
John Bash said the assertions were even more infuriating given his wife’s mixed-race background.
“Zina is Mexican on her mother’s side and Jewish on her father’s side. She was born in Mexico,” he wrote. “Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. We of course have nothing to do with hate groups, which aim to terrorize and demean other people — never have and never would.”
Mark Pitcavage, a researcher who studies extremism, shared the feelings of many when he dismissed the controversy in a statement on Twitter.
“Out of all the things you should be legitimately concerned about regarding the Senate confirmation hearings in Washington, DC, today for Judge Kavanaugh,” he wrote, “handshakes and handsigns ought not be among them. Actual serious constitutional issues are at stake.”