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Meet Fred Guttenberg, the Grieving Parkland Father Who Says Kavanaugh Rebuffed Him at Senate Hearing

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When Fred Guttenberg approached Judge Brett Kavanaugh during Tuesday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings to talk about his daughter Jaime, who was shot and killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre on Valentine’s Day, he hoped to shake the nominee’s hand and start a conversation. Instead, Kavanaugh turned his back and walked away. We speak with Fred Guttenberg about Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and his record on the Second Amendment.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we talk about the Kavanaugh hearings.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, protests, arrests and repeated calls from Democratic senators to adjourn the proceedings. That’s how confirmation hearings began Tuesday for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court.

AMY GOODMAN: After the hearing, Fred Guttenberg tweeted, “Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended. Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence,” Fred Guttenberg tweeted.

White House spokesperson Raj Shah disputed Guttenberg’s account, saying a security guard intervened to escort Kavanaugh away. And Shah tweeted, “As Judge Kavanaugh left for his lunch break, an unidentified individual approached him. Before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened.”

Well, we’ll ask Fred Guttenberg himself what happened. Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg. She died on Valentine’s Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when a gunman opened fire.

Fred Guttenberg, our condolences on the loss of your daughter. Talk about why you’re in Washington at the Kavanaugh hearing and what happened.

FRED GUTTENBERG: Thank you for having me. Unfortunately, since the day my daughter was murdered, my life flipped. And I don’t get my daughter back, but I’ve become an advocate for doing something about the issue of guns in our society, so that I don’t end up being a dad who goes year after year to visit other parents of mass shootings. And so this is all that I do now, anything I can. I meet with legislators. And for me, this is not a partisan issue. Gun safety is not partisan. The responses are sometimes partisan, but I’ll talk to anybody about this who’s willing to listen and consider my point of view.

Senator Feinstein invited me yesterday as her guest, so I was there all day as an invited guest. I was sitting in the third row behind Judge Kavanaugh, to his right. In fact, I wasn’t sitting. Whenever I do anything as it relates to what happened to my daughter, I do not sit. I stand. And it’s just my way of making sure people know I’m around and that I won’t sit down and make them feel comfortable talking about what happened. So, I was very clearly obvious. In fact, when Senator Feinstein introduced me, I was standing, and I waved. So, I was known there. It wasn’t like I was a random person who walked up to him.

When they announced lunch break, I walked to the area around, you know, where all the senators were and where Judge Kavanaugh was, to shake hands with some of the senators and thank them for allowing me to be present. When I saw Judge Kavanaugh behind me getting up, I turned around, and I walked over to him to shake his hand and to simply say, “Hi, my name is Fred Guttenberg. I’m the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was murdered in Parkland,” which is what I pretty much say to everybody in this town when I meet them for the first time. I want them to know who I am. As soon as I got to the “Jaime Guttenberg, who was murdered in Parkland,” he did a really quick turn and started walking the other way. And you can see it.

And I don’t even think it was security who actually came up to him first. I think it may have been some of the administration officials who walked up to him first, but I’m not 100 percent sure. I have to look at the video again. But, yes, as soon as he heard that and turned and started walking away, then there was a lot of activity to move him out. So, the White House spokesperson lied, did not tell the truth about what took place.

But it doesn’t matter. I don’t even care about that. I simply wanted to go up to Judge Kavanaugh as a father. He was there yesterday with his beautiful family. And I get the sense, listening to him talk about his family, that he is a really great dad, and he would be horrified if he or someone he knew directly ended up going through what I’m going through. And I wanted to talk to him about what his potential new job would mean on this issue. And that’s it. And have him look in my eye. I didn’t get the chance. You know, it’s unfortunate. I intend to be back there today.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, could you talk about your concerns in terms of what you’ve heard about his record on—

FRED GUTTENBERG: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —the issues of gun control and gun rights?

FRED GUTTENBERG: You know, in his rulings and in his comments, he’s pretty consistent in the belief that there should be nothing more related to gun safety done. He holds a view of the Second Amendment which kind of gets to a place of we should not put any limits in law on it. And here’s my direct concern. Across this country right now, state by state, you see gun safety taking place. States are passing legislation all over the place right now. And after every piece of legislation, the NRA is filing lawsuits. For example, in Florida, they filed a lawsuit. And those lawsuits, or some of them, will eventually make it to the Supreme Court. There is a reason why the NRA is spending so much money right now to get him selected: because those lawsuits will eventually make their way in front of a Justice Kavanaugh, should he be selected. And he’s made it very clear, things like the age of 21, which is what they’re suing on in Florida, or red flag laws, which they’re suing on elsewhere, he would not think of them as constitutional. That concerns me. Those two things alone are already saving lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Fred Guttenberg, going back to that moment with Judge Kavanaugh, can you explain exactly what happened?

FRED GUTTENBERG: Well, yeah. You know, as I was saying earlier, after—and I can’t remember which of the senators I was shaking hands with at the time, but I was in that area. I saw he was getting up. I turned around. He was just a couple of feet behind me. And I walked over. I reached out my hand. And I said, very specifically, “Hi. I’m Fred Guttenberg. I’m the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was murdered in Parkland.” And up until I got to that last piece, you know, the “murdered in Parkland” part, he was looking at me and listening. But as soon as I got to that part, he turned around, and he moved. And that’s what you see.

The other folks, I think there was an administration—it might have been Rosenstein. And there were—and that’s where you saw an administration official come in, and you saw some security, as well.

I did not go there to cause trouble. I really did not. I went there to listen, because this is, for me, right now, the most important thing that I could possibly be doing. And I had an opportunity to extend my hand and look, dad to dad, in the eye with him, and I wanted to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you respond to the White House spokesperson, Raj Shah, saying, no, he was taken away and had had no idea who you were?

FRED GUTTENBERG: You know, I’ll say he’s not telling the truth. And what—listen, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here. I don’t—whether or not Kavanaugh, in that moment, knew who I was, I was there as an invited guest, and I was introduced to everybody who was there by Senator Feinstein earlier in the morning. So, my presence there wasn’t as a protester who had to get tickets to sit in the back. I was sitting third row behind Judge Kavanaugh and to his right. And I was there all day. You know, I don’t know if—I’m not going to get into his head to say did he definitely know who I was or not. I don’t know. But I introduced myself. I said who I was. And when I said who I was, he heard me loud and clear. And it was when he heard “the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was murdered in Parkland,” that he turned around.

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