Taking a stand

U.S. senator always asks nominees the same tough question at confirmation hearings

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, the Senate’s only immigrant and its first female Asian American, is unique for more than her background. She’s developed a reputation as a “badass,” a description she embraces, for her tough line of questioning at confirmation hearings. “I always was [a badass],” Hirono said in an interview with NPR. “I just wasn’t very noisy about it. I’ve been a fighter all my life. I just don’t look like that.”

The Democrat from Hawaii has one tough question she always asks any and all nominees put before the Senate, regardless of the government post they’ve been nominated for: whether they have ever been accused of sexual misconduct or signed a nondisclosure agreement. Her goal, she says, is to ensure that the nominees answers are on the record in case it is later revealed that they lied.

Originally born on a rice farm in Japan, Hirono was taken by her mother to Hawaii when she was a child, where they lived in poverty in a crowded boarding house. Her interest in potentially serving in politics, she said, came after she read Betty Friedan’s second-wave feminist classic The Feminine Mystique — when inspired in Hirono a feminist awakening of her own.

“Literally, the light bulb went on, and I thought, ‘Why do I think that some guy is going to take care of me?” Hirono told NPR. “Where did that come from?”

By age 34, Hirono was a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives. By the time she was married at age 42, she was already a political force to be reckoned with. At age 70, Hirono is now one of Donald Trump’s most outspoken critics, and routinely refers to the president as both “xenophobic” and a “liar.” Hirono’s intolerance for sexual assault extends to either side of the aisle — she was one of the first senators to call on former Democratic Senator Al Franken to resign. Last October, she also acknowledged that “pretty much every woman that I know, myself included, has a #MeToo story.

Read the full story at NPR.

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