Things got a tinge awkward during confirmation hearings for Tennessee Valley Authority board nominees on Wednesday when Sen. Joni Ernst confronted one of President Biden's picks with a blown-up image of a past insensitive tweet she posted.
The nominee, Beth Prichard Geer, a former chief of staff for Al Gore, had just finished touting her respect for civility and ability to "build relationships and work together" when Ernst trotted out a life-size skeleton from Geer's closet indicating otherwise.
Those words "appear to be a recent sentiment," Ernst chided, as she directed the audience's attention to a floor chart showcasing a tweet Geer sent in 2015 that mocked either Ernst's physical appearance, political views, or both.
"That's me with darker hair, much shorter, in 2015," Ernst said. "You can see that Beth Geer tweeted out at [the accounts of] Fox News and at Sen. Joni Ernst, ‘hideous.'"
Geer's tweet was in reaction to Ernst's delivery of the Republican response to President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.
"Can you explain that tweet?" Ernst asked, putting Geer on the spot.
Clearly flummoxed by the situation, the nominee first responded by claiming she couldn't read the image.
"I just read it to you. 'Hideous,'" Ernst shot back, going on to read a quote from her speech that was highlighted in Fox News' original post.
Geer then mustered up a half-hearted apology.
"Well, I apologize if I offended you, and I appreciate you bringing it to my attention," she said. "And I do, in fact, believe that civility is key, and I’m sorry that I did not demonstrate that, in your opinion, with that tweet."
Ernst then wondered aloud if Geer has "made a habit of calling women that disagree with you ‘hideous,' or if it was simply an exception."
She then said: "Folks, this tweet is from 2015. We heard a lot about tweets in the former administration. This is prior to that. This is not Iowa nice and I’m calling you out."
Later in the hearing, the senator was even more direct in her questioning.
"Ms. Geer, when you called me hideous, were you referring to my appearance or to the views that I held and are held by many Americans across this country?" she asked.
Geer denied that she was referring to Ernst's physical appearance when she posted the tweet. But the senator turned Geer's response on its head, noting that if it was her views that Geer was attacking, the problem is even worse.
"Ma’am, I’ll cut you off right there," she said. "How else could this come across? The word hideous, to me, only has one meaning. And the views I expressed in my State of the Union response were personal experiences. So maybe you didn’t appreciate that I grew up on a small, rural farm in an economically disadvantaged area of Iowa. Maybe you didn’t like that my mother had to put bread bags on my shoes when I went to school. Maybe you didn’t like that, but a lot of Americans have had the same experiences that I have had. And so to call my personal views as hideous is an affront to half of America."
In conclusion, Ernst noted that "in a world begging for civility, we should give them that civility," but expressed doubt that Geer would be fit for doing so. The senator stated her intention to vote against Geer's nomination.