Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for her confirmation hearing Jan. 17. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

From start to finish, this week’s Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. education secretary, was a remarkable affair — remarkable as in seriously unusual, uncomfortable to watch.

While many confirmation hearings have moments when somebody says or does something that raises eyebrows, the DeVos hearing on Tuesday was something of a spectacle throughout. (It’s no wonder stories about the hearing went viral on social media, something that doesn’t usually happen with education confirmation hearings.)

[Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing as Trump’s education secretary]

It wasn’t just that DeVos — who critics say supports policies that would privatize public education — seemed unable to answer basic questions and made some rather startling statements. Among them:

  • She responded to a question about guns from a senator representing Connecticut, the site of the 2012 Newtown school shootings, by saying that schools in Wyoming might want to have a gun to protect against “potential grizzlies.” (The school she referred to as probably having a gun actually doesn’t have one.)

    [Betsy DeVos said there’s probably a gun at a Wyoming school to ward off grizzlies. There isn’t.]

  • She said that a “clerical error” had her listed on Internal Revenue Service forms — for, it was later revealed, 13 years — as the vice president of her own mother’s foundation, which had donated to controversial groups.
  • She conceded that she might have been “confused” when she said that states should have leeway to decide if they want to implement a federal law protecting the education rights of students with disabilities.

And she stuck to her talking points even past the silly point in a back-and-forth with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.):

Kaine: “If confirmed will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Equal accountability?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Is that a yes or a no?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Do you not want to answer my question?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”

It evoked memories of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) repeating himself four times during a February 2016 primary debate, saying this or something nearly identical: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to change this country.” Rubio was criticized so harshly for it that it diminished his candidacy and he never recovered.

Republicans on the committee tried their best to throw DeVos the softest of marshmallow questions, attempting to portray her education views — seen by many educators and Democrats as being radical — as actually being in the mainstream. For example:

Sen. William Cassidy (R-La.): “Ms. Devos, great to see you again. I am really struck, the kind of reaction your nomination has elicited. Let me just ask some questions. Do you support public education?”
Betsy DeVos: “Absolutely, senator.”
Cassidy: “Man, that’s amazing. Some would have us think that you do not. Do you think all children deserve to have…