Federal appeals court nominee Don Willett defended his "Twitter habit" during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Willett explained his tweets about bacon and former baseball player Alex Rodriguez during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Texas Supreme Court justice's nomination to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Willett has remained largely silent on Twitter following his nomination by President Trump, but he had earned the title of "Tweeter Laureate" of Texas from the Lone Star State's legislature.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, grilled Willett about the bacon and the A-Rod tweets. Leahy noted that Willett shared a Fox News story about a transgender student with the message, "go away A-Rod."
Willett responded by answering that, "It's always perilous to divorce text from context" and "the tweet was an A-Rod focused tweet" following Rodriguez's decision to accept a suspension from Major League Baseball.
Leahy, who had a staffer display an image of the A-Rod-themed tweet on a large placard, then moved on to a Willett tweet about bacon.
"You've equated a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, which the Supreme Court has upheld, with a constitutional right to marry bacon," Leahy said to Willett. "I don't think one would see that as praising the Supreme Court decisions."
"Senator, as for the bacon tweet, that was the day after the Obergefell decision [legalizing same-sex marriage] was issued, and it was my attempt to inject a bit of levity," Willett answered. "The country was filled with rancor and polarization. It was a divisive time in the nation."
"And you think that cut back the divisiveness with a comment like that?" Leahy asked.
"Senator, I believe every American is entitled to equal worth and dignity," Willett responded. "I've never intended to disparage anyone. I would never do so, that's not where my heart is."
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican presiding at Wednesday's meeting, asked Willett if he would continue tweeting if confirmed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. After inquiring about whether his wife had planted the question, Willett noted that he was unsure about how he would proceed on social media if seated on the federal bench.
"I have been up to this point the most avid and prolific social media judge in America, which I admit is sort of like being the tallest munchkin in Oz, but I think people find it astonishing that a fuddy-duddy judge can step out from behind the bench and come across as halfway engaging and demystify the judiciary," Willett said to Cornyn. "The short answer is I don't know if I'll continue tweeting, I haven't thought a lot about it, but if I do certainly the frequency and the content would change. I think I would focus my energies more ... on improving Americans' civic education."
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sought to praise the Texas justice's Twitter use during Cruz's opening remarks introducing Willett as one of his "dear friends ... for more than two decades."
"You have managed to be humorous and incisive on Twitter without crossing any of the lines, a perilous endeavor for a judge, but with a love of life and a personality that is irrepressible," Cruz said to Willett.