Key Words: Sen. John Kennedy wants Biden’s Supreme Court nominee to know ‘a law book from a J. Crew catalog’ — which means what, exactly?

Sen John Kennedy went viral on Wednesday for supposedly telling fellow Senate Republicans that he wants President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee — whom Biden has said will be a Black woman — to be someone who “knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog.” 

That’s according to a Politico Playbook report on a private Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday. It noted that the Louisiana Republican, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, “didn’t exactly tamp down his rhetoric” while discussing whether it was counterproductive for the GOP to battle against Biden’s SCOTUS nominee. 

““No. 1, I want a nominee who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog. No. 2, I want a nominee who’s not going to try to rewrite the Constitution every other Thursday to try to advance a ‘woke agenda.’””

— Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) 

His remarks drew backlash on Twitter TWTR, -4.38% after the news broke on Wednesday, leading J. Crew to trend in the afternoon as readers discussed what they thought Kennedy meant by those words. 

Many saw racial undertones in the catalog comment, noting that former first lady Michelle Obama, a Black woman, was known for wearing a lot of J. Crew. 

The senator was not immediately available for comment. But it should be noted that Kennedy has said variations on this phrase a few times before. In 2019, for example, while discussing whether then-President Donald Trump had the authority to declare a national emergency over the border wall, Kennedy told Fox News that, “Past presidents have used the National Emergencies Act 60 times. Anybody who knows an L.L. Bean catalog from a law book knows, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will give us guidance on this.” 

And he used J. Crew as a comparison again in February 2020 while discussing the first impeachment articles against Trump. “Anyone who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog does not take this charge seriously.” 

But Kennedy joined several Republicans questioning Biden’s future Supreme Court pick to fill the vacancy that will be left on the bench when Justice Stephen Breyer retires after this session.  And some of these Republicans have pointedly taken issue with Biden’s promise to name a Black woman to the country’s highest court.

Read more: Biden reaches for Republican support for his Supreme Court nominee

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called Biden’s vow to name a Black woman “offensive” because  because Biden is saying that white men and women have the “wrong skin pigment and wrong Y chromosome,” which has also drawn some backlash. Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker said he views the process as “affirmative action.”

Read more: Ted Cruz, Ilya Shapiro under fire for criticizing Black woman for Supreme Court seat

And Ilya Shapiro, a former Cato Institute vice president still contributing to the think tank, tweeted a now-deleted post claiming that Indian-American judge Sri Srinivasan should be chosen to replace Breyer instead of a “lesser black woman.” He was placed on leave from Georgetown University a day before he was scheduled to begin serving as senior lecturer and executive director for the law school’s Center for the Constitution.

The Supreme Court was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries, and Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Thurgood Marshall have been the only two Black men to serve on the court. There has never been a Black female Supreme Court Justice.

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