Virginia Thomas’s mistake wasn’t so much that she looked up someone from her husband’s past to heal lingering pain.
“I would love for you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband,” Thomas said on the phone message she left at Anita Hill’s office at Brandeis University.
Taking that call at face value, Virginia Thomas obviously believes Hill lied when she testified that Clarence Thomas relentlessly and vulgarly hit on her when he was her boss at the very agency charged with protecting women against precisely that sort of conduct.
It has been 19 years since Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas, as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s, would speak to her graphically of porn movies and pubic hair, sex organs and sex with animals. He would urge her to go out with him, no matter how often she said no.
Virginia Thomas’s error was in beginning and ending with a single phone call. If she wants to set the record straight, she should dial up other apparent perjurers, too.
She should ask them to clean their consciences of the lies they fed the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 to try to keep Thomas off the U.S. Supreme Court as puppets of the liberal elite.
High on her call list should be Ellen M. Wells, a friend of Hill’s who must have lied. She testified that Hill told her about her harassing boss in 1982.
So did Susan Hoerchner, another friend of Hill’s, who recounted Hill’s discomfort over her boss’s unwillingness to take no for an answer. He kept saying things like, “‘You know I’m your kind of man, you just refuse to admit it,’” Hoerchner said, recounting what Hill told her.
Then there was John W. Carr, with whom Hill was involved in a long distance relationship in 1983. According to his testimony, when he asked during one conversation what was troubling her, Hill said her boss “was making sexual advances toward her. I recall that she was clearly very disturbed by these advances.”
Nor should the justice’s wife overlook Joel Paul, a law professor at American University. He told the committee that in 1987, when professors at the law school were interested in recruiting Hill, he asked her why she’d left the EEOC.
She answered “reluctantly and with obvious emotion and embarrassment, that she had been sexually harassed by her superior,” Paul testified.
When state prosecutors try to corroborate a claim of rape, it helps if the victim made an “outcry,” or told someone of the attack at the time that it happened. I don’t equate rape with sexual come-ons, however unwanted. I mention it because in both cases, an outcry can tip the scales for those trying to decide whether to believe what she said instead of what he said.
Perhaps it was all some sort of sexual fantasy that Hill herself believed. That would explain all that outcrying. The “nutty and slutty” theory was bandied about in the hearing, too.
Or maybe it was just part of the liberal effort to deny Thomas a seat on the Supreme Court where he could enshrine his conservative views into high court precedent.
Oh, right. Hill worked in the Reagan administration and was an outspoken defender of his views.
Well, it’s not as if other women came forward with stories of Thomas’s sexual predation, right, Mrs. Thomas? Wrong.
Angela Wright, who had been Thomas’s press secretary at the EEOC (and another conservative Republican) told the Senate staff that Thomas had repeatedly pressured her for dates. He had asked about her breast size and frequently commented on her body and those of other women, she said. One night he showed up at her apartment uninvited and unannounced, and again pressed her to go out with him.
Wright, too, cried out. Rose Jourdain, another EEOC employee, told committee staff that Wright had complained to her about Thomas’s conduct.
Thomas had his defenders, too, some of whom tried to poke holes in Hill’s testimony. It was an ugly, painful time for all involved.
If I were Clarence Thomas’s wife and wanted to finally clear the air, Hill wouldn’t have been my first call.
I’d first dial up Hoerchner, Wells, Carr, Paul, Wright and Jourdain. I would probably also reach out to the men who knew Thomas in college, law school and later, who confirmed to book authors Thomas’s interest in pornography and his habit of quipping about pubic hair.
They, too, corroborated Hill’s characterization of him.
Once all those other people admitted they lied, then I would contact Hill and urge her to apologize.
But if those others stuck to their guns and I still wanted to clear the air, I would dial up Anita Hill, anyway. This is what I would say:
“Please consider my apology for what my husband did to you when you were at the EEOC and when you came forward to tell the truth about him.”
And if I were still speaking to my husband, I would tell him to either apologize to Hill, too, or get over it.
Be satisfied, I would say. You won lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land where you are a leader in the movement to push American jurisprudence further to the right.
And one more thing. Be thankful that some people still believe Anita Hill lied.
(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at firstname.lastname@example.org
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