WASHINGTON (CN) - A judge known as the "tweeter laureate” of Texas left Senate Democrats exasperated on Wednesday as they questioned the Fifth Circuit nominee about his stance on employment equality for women.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., began her interrogation of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett by brining up the memo Willett wrote while working in the policy office of former President George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas.
Willett’s memo said there was no place for “talk of 'glass ceilings’” in a proclamation honoring the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women.
Parenthetically in the memo, Willett called pay equity “an allegation that some studies debunk,” and he questioned “the need to place kids in the care of rented strangers,” as well as the idea that the government must improve working conditions for women.
Asked by Feinstein if his view on these issues has changed, Willett told Feinstein about his upbringing by a single mother, who he said worked as a waitress and endured "every workplace indignity imaginable.”
Willett also pointed to letters written by his colleagues in Bush's office at the time, saying they would make clear he does not oppose woman's rights in the workplace.
Dissatisfied with the answer, Feinstein pressed Willett to state clearly whether he disavowed the content of the memo.
After several minutes of back-and-forth, Willett said he would like to edit the proclamation to make sure it did not endorse specific policy goals, which he said the initial memo did.
More Democrats pressed Willett on the memo as the hearing went on, however, prompting an explanation by the nominee that his memo was an effort to better conform the proclamation to the office's guidelines.
"There's no question that stuff is real," Willett said, referring to barriers women face in business. "The question was, is a proclamation, which is meant to be unifying, uplifting, positive, is that the right vehicle to take sides on the laundry list of specific policy proposals that were being considered by the legislature?"
That answer did not satisfy Democrats either, with Sen. Dick Durbin expressing disappointment before moving on from the subject.
"Senator Feinstein, I tried," said Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.
Willett, who has been on the Texas Supreme Court since 2005, is perhaps best known for his active use of Twitter, having been declared the Lone Star State’s first "tweeter laureate" by the Texas Legislature in 2015. Such active social media use is unusual for a judge, and Democrats were quick to bring up some of Willett’s more controversial posts.
Responding to a Fox News article in February 2014 on a transgender student being allowed to play on the female softball team at a California high school, Willett wrote: "go away, A-Rod.”