Justice Thomas Girlfriend McEwen Breaks 19-Year Silence in Washington Post

 
Lillian McEwen Breaks Her 19-year Silence About Justice Clarence
Thomas

By Michael A. Fletcher
     Oct. 22 (Washington Post) -- For nearly two decades, Lillian
McEwen has been silent -- a part of history, yet absent from it.
     When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment
during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing,
Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited
his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to
deflect Hill's allegations.
     Lillian McEwen was that woman.
     At the time, she was on good terms with Thomas. The former
assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel
had dated him for years, even attending a March 1985 White House
state dinner as his guest. She had worked on the Hill and was
wary of entering the political cauldron of the hearings. She was
never asked to testify, as then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who
headed the committee, limited witnesses to women who had a
"professional relationship" with Thomas.
     Now, she says that Thomas often said inappropriate things
about women he met at work -- and that she could have added her
voice to the others, but didn't.
     Over the years, reporters and biographers approached her
eager to know more about Thomas from women who knew him well. But
McEwen remained mum. She said she saw "nothing good" coming out
of talking to reporters about Thomas, whom she said she still
occasionally met. She did not want to do anything to harm her
career, she added. Plus, she realized, "I don't look good in
this."
     Today, McEwen is 65 and retired from a successful career as
a prosecutor, law professor and administrative law judge for
federal agencies. She has been twice married and twice divorced,
and has a 32-year-old daughter. She lives in a comfortable
townhouse in Southwest Washington.
     And she is silent no more.
     She has written a memoir, which she is now shopping to
publishers. News broke that the justice's wife, Virginia Thomas,
left a voice mail on Hill's office phone at Brandeis University,
seeking an apology -- a request that Hill declined in a
statement. After that, McEwen changed her mind and decided to
talk about her relationship with Thomas.
     "I have nothing to be afraid of," she said, adding that she
hopes the attention stokes interest in her manuscript.
     To McEwen, Hill's allegations that Thomas had pressed her
for dates and made lurid sexual references rang familiar.
     "He was always actively watching the women he worked with to
see if they could be potential partners," McEwen said
matter-of-factly. "It was a hobby of his."
     McEwen's connection to Thomas was strictly personal. She had
even disclosed that relationship to Biden, who had been her boss
years earlier.
     In her Senate testimony, Hill, who worked with Thomas at two
federal agencies, said that Thomas would make sexual comments to
her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core
pornographic films.
     "If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person,
it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout
the employees who worked closely with me, or the other
individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of
it," Thomas responded to the committee.
     McEwen scoffs softly when asked about Thomas's indignation,
which has barely cooled in the 19 years since the hearings. In
his vivid 2007 memoir, the justice calls Hill a tool of liberal
activists outraged because he did not fit their idea of what an
African American should believe.
     McEwen's memoir describes her own "dysfunctional" family in
the District and, ultimately, a long legal career. She charts how
she developed an "inner self" to escape the chaos of her
childhood. Her story also includes explicit details of her
relationship with Thomas, which she said included a freewheeling
sex life.
     Given that history, she said Hill's long-ago description of
Thomas's behavior resonated with her.
     "He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now
63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films,
if there was something worth noting."
     McEwen added that she had no problem with Thomas's
interests, although she found pornography to be "boring."
     According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women
he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large
breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so
impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled
him telling her.
     Presented with some of McEwen's assertions, Supreme Court
spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Thomas was unavailable for comment.
     However bizarre they may seem, McEwen's recollections
resemble accounts shared by other women that swirled around the
Thomas confirmation.
     Angela Wright, who in 1984 worked as public affairs director
at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -- which polices
sexual harassment claims -- during Thomas's long tenure as
chairman, shared similar accounts with Senate investigators.
     Once, when walking into an EEOC seminar with Thomas, he
asked her, "What size are your breasts?" according to the
transcript of her Senate interview.
     Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter,
who told investigators that Wright had become increasingly uneasy
around Thomas because of his comments about her appearance.
     But Wright also had problems that made committee Democrats
nervous. She had been fired by Thomas, and previously by a member
of Congress. She also had quit a third job in government,
accusing her boss of incompetence and racism.
     Concerned about Wright's credibility, Biden lifted a
subpoena for her to testify at the hearing. Instead, transcripts
of the interviews with Wright and her corroborator were simply
entered into the record, drawing only modest press attention.
     Another woman, Sukari Hardnett, who worked as a special
assistant to Thomas in 1985 and 1986, wrote in a letter to the
Judiciary Committee that "If you were young, black, female and
reasonably attractive, you knew full well you were being
inspected and auditioned as a female" by Thomas.
     For his part, a parade of women who worked with Thomas
defended him before the Judiciary Committee, calling it
impossible that he would engage in the type of inappropriate
behavior described by his accusers.
     McEwen recalls writing Thomas a short note before the
confirmation hearings, curious about what she should say if she
were quizzed about their relationship. She said Thomas preferred
that she would take "the same attitude of his first wife," who
never talked publicly about their relationship.
     In 2007, the Howard University Law School graduate retired
and grew reflective on her life. Her career had included stints
as an administrative law judge for both the Social Security
Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission. She
also had turns as a law professor and a private attorney -- all
after her work as a federal prosecutor and Senate Judiciary
Committee lawyer.
     She spends her days in her Southwest townhouse. She
frequently meets up with friends for movies, golf and other
outings. Regularly, she stops by the National Museum of the
American Indian for lunch.
     In her short leather jacket, ankle-high boots and leather
cap, she looks younger than her age. And when she talks about
Thomas, her tone is devoid of rancor. She sees him mainly as
someone who occupied a chapter of her life.
     Still, McEwen, a Democrat, acknowledges growing increasingly
irritated with Thomas's conservative jurisprudence and his
penchant for casting himself as a victim in the Hill controversy.
     Thomas himself has obliquely referred to the McEwen both in
his 2007 memoir and during his confirmation hearing.
     In an exchange with Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who was then a
Republican, he said there appeared to be tension between Hill and
him "as a result of the complexion of the woman I dated and the
woman I chose as my chief of staff." Both are light-skinned.
     McEwen met Thomas in 1979, when both were among a tiny
handful of young, black Capitol Hill staffers. A group of them
would hold monthly meetings at neighborhood watering holes, and
soon enough McEwen and Thomas had struck up a close friendship.
     At the time, Thomas was married to his first wife and
working for then-Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.). McEwen, meanwhile,
had recently separated from her first husband.
     Over time, she said, Thomas would come by her place for
drinks. She said the relationship grew intimate after Thomas left
his wife in 1981. She said they broke off their relationship in
about 1986.
     Through the years, McEwen said, she has remained reasonably
friendly with Thomas. On two or three occasions, she said, she
brought friends to his Supreme Court chambers where they sat for
long conversations.
     But now, she says, "I know Clarence would not be happy with
me."
     "I have no hostility toward him," McEwen said. "It is just
that he has manufactured a different reality over time. That's
the problem that he has."
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