U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who cast a decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court over the weekend, said in a TV interview that she does not believe he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford.

“I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom, and I’m not certain when, but I do not believe he was the assailant,” Collins told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in 1983 when they were both teenagers rocked the confirmation process, threatening to derail his nomination. Both testified publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, when a fiery Kavanaugh denied the allegations from Ford and other women who accused the appellate judge of sexual misconduct.

The Judiciary Committee later asked the FBI to investigate the allegations, a move Collins supported, and Senate Republicans said the FBI report released late Wednesday found no witnesses who could “attest to any of the allegations” against Kavanaugh.

Collins’ decision to back Kavanaugh effectively clinched his confirmation to the high court, and the Senate approved him in a 50-48 vote on Saturday that broke almost neatly along party lines. Only Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska defected to the nays, while Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia went to the yeas.

Asked on CNN whether she ever contemplated voting against Kavanaugh, Collins demurred, saying she was “certainly undecided” but that Ford’s allegations might have been reason for him to withdraw his nomination.

“But when he came back with such a forceful denial, and the anger and anguish he showed, and then the lack of corroboration led me back to the fundamental issues that are fundamental to our legal system, a presumption of innocence.”

Her comments drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, who described Collins’ remarks as “insulting” to Ford.

“Anybody watching her testimony would know, I would say, would conclude that she was being very truthful,” Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on “State of Union” after Collins’ interview. “And the one thing that she recollects with 100 percent accuracy is that Judge Kavanaugh, Brett Kavanaugh, assaulted her.”

When pressed by Bash about Ford’s certainty that Kavanaugh assaulted her, Collins said Kavanaugh was equally forceful in his denial

“I found Dr. Ford’s testimony to be heart wrenching, painful, compelling, and I believe she believes what she testified to. … But we also had a case where Judge Kavanaugh came forward and said he was 100 percent sure this did not happen. So here you have two people who are each 100 percent certain of what they are saying under pain of perjury,” Collins said.

In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Kavanaugh sparred with Democratic committee members and said that he was victim of an orchestrated attack aimed at getting “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

Collins offered a defense for Kavanaugh, saying he “reacted with anger and anguish as a father of two young girls.” But despite her support, Collins told CNN that “I did believe that he should not have taken the shot at the Clintons and that in his questioning with certain senators, responding to their questions, particularly Amy Klobuchar, that he stepped over the line.”

Collins has taken fire over her vote to confirm Kavanaugh from protesters who gathered outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building and her home in Bangor over the weekend. One protester called Collins vote to support Kavanaugh a “betrayal” of survivors of sexual assault.

In a telephone interview with the Washington Post, President Donald Trump singled out Collins for praise because of her vote for Kavanaugh.

“I think what Susan Collins did for herself was incredibly positive,” Trump said. “It showed her to be an honorable, incredible woman. I think she’s got a level of respect that’s unbelievable. I really mean it.”

Trump also dismissed talk about a Democratic challenge to Collins when she is up for re-election in 2020.

“I think Collins is so popular right now for what she did,” Trump said.

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.