By Mahita Gajanan
September 27, 2018

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch referred to Christine Blasey Ford as an “attractive” witness Thursday during a break in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers, recounted the alleged encounter in prepared remarks to the committee before answering questions about her claim. After the Judiciary Committee hearing broke for lunch, Hatch was asked whether he thought Ford had been credible thus far in her statements. The Republican senator said it was “too early” to tell.

“I don’t think she’s uncredible,” he said, according to CNN. “I think she’s an attractive, good witness.” Asked what he meant by the word “attractive,” Hatch said: “In other words, she’s pleasing.”

As criticism grew on Twitter over Hatch’s choice of words during a hearing on sexual assault allegations against a Supreme Court nominee, the senator’s spokesperson weighed in, saying he used “attractive” to describe Ford’s personality.

“Hatch uses “attractive” to describe personalities, not appearances,” Matt Whitlock, deputy chief of staff and communications director to Hatch, said in response to reporters tweeting about Hatch’s comments. “If you search his past quotes you’ll see he’s used it consistently for years for men and women he believed has compelling personalities.”

In her testimony, Ford said said Kavanaugh got on top of her, tried to remove her clothes and put his hands over her mouth to prevent her from screaming at a house party in the 1980s in suburban Maryland. “It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me,” Ford said. Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegation, as well as the claims of several other women who have alleged misconduct by Kavanaugh.

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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