'McCarthyism on steroids': Josh Hawley scorched for 'QAnon-style' attack on Ketanji Brown Jackson
Mandel Ngan for AFP

According to Don Moynihan, who holds the McCourt Chair at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has hit a new low with his attack on Supreme court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson as he sinks to pushing smears more likely to be expected from QAnon adherents.

The Missouri lawmaker would like Americans to believe that the respected judge is a friend of child pornographers -- a claim that National Review's Andrew McCarthy called it both "disingenuous" and an outright "smear."

Moynihan went even further, calling the attack "McCarthyism on steroids."

According to the political scientist, Hawley has latched onto QAnon-style attacks that rely on a misreading of facts while appealing to fears and emotions to score political points.

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Calling it the "QAnoning of our political discourse," he wrote, "The point of Hawley’s attack is not to make the charges stick in any substantive way, but to create an association between Brown and this broader trope. And in some immediate sense this worked. Simply by airing the claims, Hawley gave conservative media an excuse to run them."

"My criticism of Hawley might sound exaggerated a little paranoid. But it is easy to underestimate how widespread this problem is for a few reasons. First, the subject matter itself is troubling. Who wants to talk about pedophilia? Second, there is a tendency to treat the people advancing these claims as clowns, not to be taken seriously. Third, we might reassure ourselves that it really is just a nut-job minority," he wrote before giving some examples how Hawley's comments set off a flood of far-right conservative commentators echoing his bogus concerns.

"It is helpful for media to not just push back against actions like Hawley’s on factual grounds, but to convey the broader context of the QAnon signaling," he wrote before suggesting, "But ultimately, as with other problems on the far-right, the solution must come from conservative institutions. The degree of polarization we face means that mainstream call-outs of Hawley will only bolster his credentials among the audience he is appealing to."

He then added a warning by predicting, "...anyone who empowers or goes along with conspiracy theorists who make wild accusations are themselves vulnerable to such accusations the moment they step out of line."

You can read his comprehensive examination here.