Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Anita Keeps Charging the Same Hill

The Clarence Thomas interview on "60 Minutes" seems to have smoked Anita Hill out of the woodwork--and not to her credit. She continues to stick to her ridiculous charges of some 16 years ago and to no good purpose. At the time of the charges I remember finding them ridiculous. Of course, a superior who demands favors or implies that the giving of them will advance one’s career, has something to answer for. But Hill’s testimony never amounted to more than a suggestion of crude or tawdry banter. It may say something about me to divulge that I was not particularly shocked by any of it--but if it does, I guess I’ll take the criticism. Beyond that, however, I might further suggest that a woman who is shocked by such banter will find it easy enough to avoid it or put an end to it without Senate hearings or legislation on the matter. But that’s not really my point here. All talk of "sexual harassment" is and was mere distraction and diversion. Debating "sexual harassment" was a way for those forces who had it in for Thomas to move the discussion away from the real (and uncomfortable) questions his nomination brought to the fore.

What is more important here (for purposes of this discussion) is that I do not believe--and don’t think any sane person should believe--that any of what Hill described happened as she said it did. Why? The difference in the demeanors of Hill and Thomas says everything to me. Hill says: "[Thomas’ approach] is really so typical of people accused of wrongdoing. They trash their accusers." Now, if she were accusing Bill Clinton of harassment, she may have a point. That is exactly what Clinton and any other man who was less a man than Thomas would have done. A lesser man than Thomas would not have spared her the condemnation she may deserve (and public opinion might now tolerate) when giving that interview. But Thomas did not ask himself what public opinion would tolerate about Anita Hill--either in responding to the charges initially, or in reflecting on them in this recent interview and book. Thomas rightly restrained himself; seeing--not only that she deserved some charity due to her own lack of judgment--but that the real culprit in what happened to him was not Ms. Hill, but a coarsening manipulation of partisan politics that requires a much more thoughtful and directed attack. He did not waste his bullets. The worst thing he had to say about Anita Hill in that interview was that she was a "mediocre" employee. Beyond that, he showed her pity. And that, I think, was the rub all along for Ms. Hill. Perhaps Thomas’s great sin--in Anita’s but never the Public’s eyes--was in being a better man than she deserves and her keen awareness of her own mediocrity combined with his generous pity. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

Discussions - 8 Comments

To read Clarence Thomas's book is to be struck anew by the blast-furnace of his anger -- at Democrats; at liberal interest groups; at the media; at, of course, Anita Hill.

There are wounds that never heal, but, for most, time tends to at least salve the injury. Not for Thomas, even 16 years later. The 289 pages of "My Grandfather's Son" pulsate with Thomas's rage.

"Whoop-dee damn-doo," Thomas relates telling his wife when she interrupted his bath to report that he had been confirmed. "Mere confirmation, even to the Supreme Court, seemed pitifully small compensation for what had been done to me."

Thomas v. Hill is one of those questions destined to remain disputed -- Did Al Gore actually win the presidency? Was the intelligence manipulated to mislead us into Iraq? The conundrum of Thomas-Hill is the continuing forcefulness of their conflicting assertions about what happened when he was a Reagan administration official and she a young lawyer working for him.

If Thomas did what Hill claims, how to understand his undimmed anger, his absolute denials, his willingness to pick the scab anew? If he didn't, how to understand her motive for lying -- and her summoning such unlikely details as pubic hairs on Coke cans?

I covered the Thomas hearings for The Post, every excruciating hour, and I can imagine, as Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher suggest in their book, "Supreme Discomfort," that the entire story has not been told. Perhaps there was some flirtation, maybe more, that it behooved neither party to acknowledge.


But I also believe the evidence then backed Hill's version of events. What has emerged since only further buttresses her assertions.

Thomas describes Hill as a "touchy and apt to overreact" employee whom he'd refused to promote; who asked to follow him from the Education Department to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the alleged harassment; and who continued to seek his professional help after leaving the agency.

"I felt sure that I had never said or done anything to her that was even remotely inappropriate," he writes, and, if he had, "she would have complained loudly and instantly, not waited for a decade to make her displeasure known." For his part, Thomas describes himself as "one of the least likely candidates imaginable for such a charge."

Here is some of the evidence Thomas omits:

First, Hill did not wait 10 years to complain about his behavior. Susan Hoerchner, a Yale Law School classmate of Hill's, described how she complained of sexual harassment while working for Thomas, saying the EEOC chairman had "repeatedly asked her out . . . but wouldn't seem to take 'no' for an answer." Ellen Wells, a friend, said Hill had come to her, "deeply troubled and very depressed," with complaints about Thomas's inappropriate behavior. John Carr, a lawyer, said that Hill, in tears, confided that "her boss was making sexual advances toward her." American University law professor Joel Paul said Hill had told him in 1987 that she had left the EEOC because she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor.

Second, Hill was not the only former subordinate of Thomas's with complaints. Former EEOC employee Angela Wright described how Thomas pressured her to date him, showed up uninvited at her apartment and asked her breast size. "Clarence Thomas would say to me, 'You know you need to be dating me. . . . You're one of the finest women I have on my staff," Wright told Senate investigators.

Wright's account was corroborated by Rose Jourdain, a former speechwriter who, like Wright, was dismissed by Thomas. Jourdain said Wright had complained that she was "increasingly nervous about being in his presence alone" because of comments "concerning her figure, her body, her breasts, her legs."

Another former Thomas employee, Sukari Hardnett, said of his office, "If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female."

Third, as Merida and Fletcher found, some of the behavior Hill complained about resonated with episodes from Thomas's past. Hill described an episode in which Thomas, drinking a soda, asked, "Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?" James Millet, a college classmate of Thomas's, recalled "an almost identical episode" at Holy Cross. "Pubic hair was one of the things he talked about," another classmate said. Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, in "Strange Justice," found two others who recalled a pubic hair-Coke can comment at the EEOC.

Similarly, Thomas had a well-known taste for the kind of extreme pornography Hill said he brought up with her. "Listening to her, it was as if I was listening to the guy I knew speak," said law school classmate Henry Terry. Washington lawyer Fred Cooke saw Thomas, while EEOC chairman, checking out a triple-X video of "The Adventures of Bad Mama Jama."

Thomas dismisses these claims as the workings of a mob -- in pinstripes instead of white robes -- seeking to "keep the black man in his place." He may have convinced himself of this. The record suggests otherwise.

Jeff,

These facts are all well and good, but you forgot about the demeanors of Hill and Thomas! As Julie says,:

"The difference in the demeanors of Hill and Thomas says everything to me."

I would like to take you seriously, but your list of witnesses, events, and corroborating complaints cannot erase my perceptions of those demeanors.

I'll take a demeanor over a fact, any day.

I know Fung means to be sarcastic . . . but it is funny how exact his perception of the truth is when he says the opposite of what he really thinks.

Anita Hill supports the third world invasion of the U.S.A., and therefore should be tried for treason. So should Clarence Thomas.

I can't understand why so many on the Right cannont accept Anita Hill's charges as basically factual. You can still admire Thomas even if he acted like a clod earlier in his career. It seems that Thomas has to be either wholly a saint or something entirely different. He probably did do the things that Hill claimed he did...that doesn't mean he isn't admirable in many other ways.

Jeff, as I mentioned above, I do not think that Thomas has to be totally innocent of the charges from Hill to be admirable. I said I think the charges are ridiculous and laughable. But, as it happens, I also believe that Thomas was innocent of them and for the reasons I mentioned. Moreover, I don't see why he'd bother to deny them if they were true. If they were true, he might just as well have attacked the ridiculousness of the charges (and possibly done so to even to greater effect and have gotten more sympathy--at least from the male population). But he didn't and he did not attack her. So I believe him. All these people with "facts" (reported second and third hand--often from people with an ax to grind) amuse me. I'd like to see how well those "facts" would hold up in an honest court. They've got nothing more than their gut to go on either and that's where they come down . . . fine. But be honest about it. I was.

Jeff, are you serious?

No matter who recounted or how many recounts there were, Al Gore lost, thankfully.

Even ... ahem ... Al Gore, the supposed true winner of that election, stated Saddam had WMD and further stated that Saddam made it impossible to be sure that WMD in Iraq was deterred.

He should know, right? He was Vice President during those years when luck made us realize that Saddam had been lying to us and to the world regarding its WMD during the 1990's ... right?

Why should I then take your supposed facts regarding Thomas's confirmation at face value?

Oh by the way, Al Gore state such things in 2002.

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