(CNN) — Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley interrupted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat, in the midst of her opening statement at Thursday’s hearing on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a sign of the partisan tension that has surrounded the hearing.
During the brief exchange, Grassley and Feinstein talked over one another. Grassley cut in to say that he had planned to introduce Ford himself after Feinstein said that she wanted to make sure that that Ford was “properly introduced” before testifying.
Just before the interruption, Feinstein pointed out that Grassley had not formally introduced Ford during his opening remarks. Addressing Ford, the California Democrat said, “Before you get to your testimony — and the chairman chose not to do this — I think it’s important to make sure you’re properly introduced.”
At that point, Grassley interjected to say, “I was going to introduce her. But if you want to introduce her, I’d be glad to have you do that, but I want you to know I didn’t forget to do that because I would do that just as she was about to speak.”
Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in their high school years at a social gathering in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegation.
The back-and-forth over who would introduce Ford came after Grassley was critical of the California Democrat’s handling of Ford’s allegation in his opening statement at the hearing.
“I lament how this hearing has come about,” Grassley said in his initial remarks.
He went on to say, “Only at an 11th hour, on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, did the ranking member refer the allegations to the FBI. And then the allegations were leaked to the press. That’s where Dr. Ford was mistreated. This is a shameful way to treat our witness, who insisted on confidentiality, and Judge Kavanaugh, who has had to address these allegations in the midst of a media circus.”
Feinstein responded to Grassley’s criticism when she began her opening remarks, saying, “Yes, I did receive a letter from Dr. Ford … the next day, I called Dr. Ford, we spoke on the phone, she reiterated that she wanted this held confidential. And I held it confidential, up to a point where the witness was willing to come forward.”
In his opening statement, Grassley said that both Ford and Kavanaugh have “been through a terrible couple of weeks” as “they and their families have received vile threats.” He said that he wanted to “apologize” to both of them “for the way you’ve been treated.”
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