On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) suggested that precedent-setting Supreme Court rulings on abortion and interracial marriage should be undone — and then attempted to walk back his comments after they were met with widespread criticism.
Braun, who was on a conference call with reporters about the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, had been discussing what kind of qualities he looked for in a potential justice. Braun is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is currently questioning Jackson about her qualifications to serve on the nation’s highest bench, but he will eventually vote on Jackson’s nomination when the full Senate decides whether or not to approve her to the Court.
Braun admitted that Jackson appeared qualified, but said that he doesn’t want to vote for someone who will be an “activist” on the court. “Stick with interpreting the law. Don’t legislate from the bench,” he said.
One reporter noted that the Supreme Court currently appears set to undo nearly 50 years of precedent on abortion rights, and asked Braun whether he would consider such a move to be activism.
Braun explained that he wouldn’t view it as such because he saw the original 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling as activism, adding that justices shouldn’t “homogenize” issues for the entire nation. Instead, he said, they should leave matters like abortion up to the states.
In response, the reporter asked Braun if he had a similar view on other issues that were once argued under the banner of states’ rights, like interracial marriage. Braun responded in the affirmative, saying that his opinion on the matter wouldn’t change because “you can’t have it both ways.”
The reporter then sought to clarify Braun’s position. “So, you would be OK with the Supreme Court leaving the question of interracial marriage to the states?”
“Yes,” Braun responded, adding:
I think that that’s something that, if you’re not wanting the Supreme Court to weigh in on issues like that, you’re not going to be able to have your cake and eat it too. I think that’s hypocritical.
After the interview was published, the Republican senator’s remarks were widely condemned, including by Indiana Democratic Party Chair Mike Schmuhl.
“When Indiana Democrats say the Indiana Republican Party’s culture wars are diminishing our nation’s future, this is exactly what we mean,” Schmul said. “Democrats implore all Hoosiers to ask themselves if they want to be associated with someone as embarrassing as Mike Braun.”
Braun also faced pushback on social media.
“My God. GOP @SenatorBraun of IN just condemned the Supreme Court 1967 ruling to end the ban on interracial marriage,” wrote human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid. “He makes this racist statement while evaluating Judge Jackson — who is Black and married to a white man.”
Braun attempted to walk back his remarks later that day, claiming that he had “misunderstood a line of questioning that ended up being about interracial marriage” — in spite of the fact that the reporter had asked the question twice, in clear and simple language.
“Let me be clear on that issue — there is no question the Constitution prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race, that is not something that is even up for debate, and I condemn racism in any form, at all levels, and by any states, entities, or individuals,” Braun said in a statement to The Hill.
But many didn’t accept Braun’s explanation as legitimate, particularly because the question was posed so clearly.
“Don’t let Mike Braun walk back his insane comments & claim that he misunderstood,” wrote political commentator Lindy Li. “He said exactly what he meant: that the Supreme Court was wrong to legalize interracial marriage [and] that Roe should be destroyed.”
Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University of Ohio, agreed.
“There is no way Braun misheard the question based on the answer he gave,” Kelley said.