Wonder Women: Jan. 6 hearings highlighting strong women with courage and integrity

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation.

One persistent theme now runs through all of the House Select Committee’s Jan. 6 hearings. Forget Hollywood studios, forget the Marvel universe — taken together, these hearings are the most compelling television series in years about the power of women.

Several important figures have been presented so far, but few equal the bravery of Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, and committee vice-chair Liz Cheney.

Edwards kicked off the series with its opening primetime event on June 9. Her testimony quickly set the standard for what the committee hoped to demonstrate: that a few good people stood in the way of constitutional disaster. Edwards, in stolid and professional testimony, described how she was beaten, dragged to the ground, and knocked out — only to recover, get on her feet and dive back into the fray in front of the Capitol.

She described the battle scene this way: “I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage, it was chaos.” Edwards’s testimony signaled how the committee meant to re-capture the word “patriot.”

Hutchinson’s testimony this past week took the House’s effort to a different level. Just 25 years old, the former West Wing aide sat under the heat of TV klieg lights, with a scrum of photographers and camera crews crouched between her and the committee bench. She’d already been deposed on video several times, but then choose to testify live.

Hutchinson was not beaten; she didn’t slip in blood — but her testimony was another kind of courage. A committed conservative who still spoke of “the good things” Trump had done for the country, she could’ve played it safe – but stepped forward anyway.

“As an American, I was disgusted,” she said about a tweet Trump sent out as the Jan. 6 attack unfolded. “It was unpatriotic, it was un-American. You were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

Like Edwards, Hutchinson displayed poise and confidence, two qualities television cameras love. You can hide who you are on TV for a little bit — through an evening news soundbite or a round-table appearance on a Sunday talk show — but it’s nearly impossible to face the camera for hours and not reveal who you truly are.

Which leads to Liz Cheney.

From the beginning, Cheney came across like the anchor of an important national newscast or investigative report — confident, credible, in control of facts and context. In each televised episode, she’s called on to set the scene for video and testimony to come, and then sum up what it means for the investigation and the nation. As the hearings increasingly center on actions inside the West Wing, the stakes for Cheney — for her career and her safety — only increase. But she doesn’t seem to hesitate. Instead, she names names.

There has been, of course, forceful testimony from several men as well. Former Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, for one, appeared to walk into the hearing room straight out of a Clint Eastwood movie. He memorably testified to the committee that Rudy Giuliani told him, “We’ve got lots of (stolen election) theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”

But many other men have not stepped in front of the glare of a national audience.

Mark Meadows, Trump’s Chief of Staff and Hutchinson’s boss, is now tied up in court for defying a committee subpoena. Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone spoke to investigators but won’t sit for a formal deposition. Michael Flynn, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, Roger Stone and Alex Jones have all taken the Fifth — even in response to questions as seemingly uncontroversial as “Do you believe in the peaceful transfer of power?” 

Several others, inside the White House and Congress, asked for or inquired about pre-emptive pardons from Trump in the days after Jan. 6.

Many women in this country suffered a blow more than a week ago, when the Supreme Court overturned the five-decade right they had to choose whether or not to have an abortion. Some said they felt utterly powerless.

Working for change may take a long time. But for now, women can turn away from the depressing spectacle of the Supreme Court and look over to Capitol Hill. There, a profound television documentary is unfolding in real time. It details a dark moment still threatening democracy — and it’s highlighting the power and courage of bold American women refusing to let that happen.

Joe Ferullo is an award-winning media executive, producer and journalist and former executive vice president of programming for CBS Television Distribution. He was a news executive for NBC, a writer-producer for “Dateline NBC” and worked for ABC News. Follow him on Twitter @ironworker1.

Tags American democracy Caroline Edwards Cassidy Hutchinson Congressional testimony Courage House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack Integrity Jan. 6 hearings Liz Cheney Liz Cheney pleading the fifth pre-emptive pardons presidential pardons strong women Television witness testimony Women in politics Women in the workforce Women of Courage women voters Women's rights

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