Opinion: Josh Hawley says he’s concerned about abused kids, but he ignored them as Missouri AG

Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]

April 13, 2022

By Rebecca Randles Special to The Star

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrestled with difficult decisions her whole career. She made sentencing decisions; she wrote briefs; she defended those who committed crimes — because that’s how our justice system works. Regardless of her political leanings and whether one has misgivings about her lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, no one can argue that she hasn’t worn a heavy mantle of decision-making and judgment. Her black garment is a metaphor for the difficult decisions she has made that impact the lives of others.

Sen. Josh Hawley’s decisions also impact the lives of others. His garment, however, should be a lime green leisure suit on a hanger. He attracts a lot of attention; he’s loud; he makes a lot of statements. But he doesn’t do anything. He fist-pumped the insurrectionist mob that attempted a Keystone Kops coup. He derided the decisions that Judge Jackson made on sentencing of criminals. He has introduced a handful of symbolic culture war legislation, including his “Love America Act” that would require so-called “patriotic” texts to be read in certain grades and suppress discussions of race in schools, specifically limiting free speech about racism and white supremacy.

Hawley’s political shenanigans obscure the truth about victimization. He has introduced legislation about pornography, but only in concert with his bashing of the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. When he grilled Jackson on her sentencing of an 18-year-old in a child pornography possession case, he was winking at QAnon true believers’ delusions about fictional networks of celebrity and politician pedophiles. However, Hawley ignores his own failure to protect sexually abused children who are very real.

Hawley was the attorney general for the state of Missouri when a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report made the news in August 2018. It revealed that hundreds of Catholic priests in that state had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of children, representing more than 1,000 victims. On review, my law partners and I found that Missouri had even more. Where was the then-attorney general’s outrage?

After we challenged Hawley in letters, through advocacy organizations and in press conferences, he agreed to investigate priests who had abused children. Then he left for the Senate, having done nothing. He left the so-called “investigation” to his successor. He did not contact our clients (we have had hundreds). He did not contact us for information, and he did not make any kind of report regarding these abuses.

Eric Schmitt, Missouri’s current attorney general, did conduct an investigation. However, again it did not engage those of us who have represented victims for decades, or reach out to the victims themselves. It relied upon self-reporting by the bishops and archbishops in Missouri — the same bishops and archbishops who for decades had covered up the abuses found in their geographic territories. Nonetheless, the inquiry identified 12 priests who could be referred for prosecution. One prosecution has occurred.

Where is Hawley’s outrage that the children of his own state have been used as sexual toys by some of the most powerful figures in their lives? His outrage stays in Washington, D.C., directed at symbolic issues. His embrace of conspiracy theory dog whistles aimed at his political opponents grabs attention as he ignores actual allegations of sexual abuse of children. His booming baritone voice reinforces his fiery diatribes, but he does nothing.

Loud. Attention-grabbing. Do-nothing. A lime green leisure suit on a hanger. We challenge Sen. Hawley to take a fresh look at the crimes against children committed in his own state, including allegations against elected officials in his own party, and actually do something to protect kids.

Rebecca Randles is an attorney at Randles Mata, LLC in Kansas City.