Lindsey Graham, Fox News hero

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

“Unless something new comes forward, you have just an emotional accusation and an emotional denial without corroboration.” That was Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) response Thursday to Christine Blasey Ford’s gut-wrenching testimony that Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, and the would-be Supreme Court justice’s furious, conspiracy-minded response. But Graham was not interested enough in uncovering that “something new” to request that the FBI investigate the case, demand rigorous questioning of Mark Judge and other potential witnesses, or prod Kavanaugh himself about the holes in his defense. Instead, when his turn came to question Kavanaugh, Graham stepped into the breach -- not to try to get to the bottom of what may have happened, but to bang on the table and accuse his Democratic colleagues of malfeasance.

In an angry, often-shouted diatribe, Graham accused Democrats of wanting to “destroy this guy’s life” and putting him through “hell” via “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.” Turning to the Republican members, he added, “If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”

Apocalyptic, viciously partisan, unhinged, and with negligible concern for the truth, Graham’s polemic could have been ripped from Fox News’ red-meat evening lineup any night of the week. And sure enough, in the hours that followed, Graham was feted, praised, and applauded by the network’s commentators.

On programs that typically focus their adulation on President Donald Trump -- and whose hosts are among the president’s closest outside advisers -- Graham is now being lauded as the hero of the hour. “I don't think you ever had a more powerful moment in your career,” Sean Hannity said at the beginning of a fawning interview with the senator. “I really thought Lindsey Graham became the leader of the U.S. Senate today,” he added later in the broadcast. Lou Dobbs said he had been rendered “almost speechless” by Graham’s address, which the Fox Business host added “reminded the Republican members of the U.S. Senate of their consciences.” Laura Ingraham, who credited the South Carolina senator with having saved the day, said she had “never seen anything like that moment and I've been in this town for almost 30 years.” “I think that moment justified Lindsey Graham's entire career,” Newt Gingrich mused. “He was courageous, blunt, honest, direct, emotional, and effective.”

Graham is largely an orthodox conservative Republican and one of the biggest hawks in the Senate. But his willingness to join any Senate gang that will have him and his former role as a harsh critic of Trump has at times brought him into conflict with his party’s most prominent communications organ. Some commentators suggested that his speech yesterday -- which follows a months-long embrace of the president -- had changed their view of the senator. “I may not have always been a big fan,” as Dobbs put it, “but I am such a fan of Sen. Lindsey Graham after what he did today -- how he stood up today -- that I can now say I've always been a fan of Sen. Lindsey Graham.”

Just as Graham’s rant was met with unwavering praise on the right, Kavanaugh unified the conservative movement behind him with his own Trumpy performance at the hearing. An establishment stalwart, Graham has at times seemed vulnerable to a primary challenge as the Republican Party has become the party of Trump. But in a party united by white male grievance and owning the libs, enraged harangues -- and the praise they draw from the White House and Fox -- are priceless. As Fox contributor Bill Bennett put it on the network Thursday night, “I think any of those conservatives, those true red-blooded conservatives in South Carolina who’ve had their doubts about Lindsey, not anymore, not after today.” Now they know that he’s on their side -- after all, Fox is telling them so -- and will act accordingly.