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Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill: The Bizarre and the Unsurprising

3 years ago
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Virginia Thomas' entreaty to Anita Hill seems strange. But it does not strike me as surprising.

Wouldn't anyone find it strange that lo' these two decades after Justice Clarence Thomas' infamously embarrassing confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas' wife seems not to have moved on with her life? Anita Hill certainly has gotten beyond her 15 minutes of tormented fame.

What in the world would give Ginni Thomas the idea that she might succeed at getting a woman who is not apologetic in the least, to apologize? This especially when Anita Hill has nothing for which to apologize.

On the other hand, as one who covered the Supreme Court for nine years, including Clarence Thomas' 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings and his first six years on the bench, there is little by way of bizarre behavior that he or his wife could exhibit that might surprise me.

Last weekend, Mrs. Thomas breathed new life into a long-dormant story when, according to ABC News, as quoted by the New York Times, Mrs. Thomas left the following voice mail at Professor Hill's office at Brandeis University at 7:30 a.m. Brandeis is where now-Prof. Hill teaches law:

"Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas," she said. "I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something.

"I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay have a good day."

Wacky? Yes. But not surprising. Strange behavior is nothing new to Ginny Thomas. The Washington Post reported that in 1999, she called Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman after he wrote a front-page article about a Virginia man falsely accused of being a sex pervert. Weeping, she told Jackman that the story reminded her of the ordeal she and her husband had endured. "My husband's name is Clarence Thomas," she said.

Professor Hill, on the other hand, comes across as a more centered human being who was unintentionally dragged into making history. Yes, dragged. During those now-infamous confirmation hearings, Hill appeared uncomfortable in the spotlight and scared at having been vacuumed into the high drama that Senate confirmation hearings can become.

Hill is not someone who sought public attention. She filed a confidential affidavit about her personal encounters with Thomas. She said he acted quite strangely, discussing pubic hairs on soda cans and other notable off-color remarks. It took not one but two reporters to talk her into going public with her story, after they were leaked information about why the committee was trying to rush Mr. Thomas' nomination to a floor vote. NPR's Nina Totenberg was one of those reporters and the one who talked Hill into her first public interview:

"...(Totenberg) discovered that Anita Hill, a University of Oklahoma law professor and former employee of Thomas, had filed a confidential affidavit with the Judiciary Committee alleging that Hill had been sexually harassed by the judicial nominee. Another reporter, Timothy Phelps of Newsday, also discovered this independently and broke the story on October 5, 1991. But it was Totenberg who obtained a copy of the affidavit as well as an interview with Hill and issued the complete report a day later on NPR's Weekend Edition."

I should note for the record that personal friends of Thomas and some of his former law clerks describe him as affable, selfless and fun to be around. But that is not the persona he projects in public.

During the years I covered him as a justice, for example, he never once asked a question during a Supreme Court argument. And he was frequently seen to be falling asleep during arguments. He was famously unfriendly toward the Supreme Court press corps, and seemed to regard us as a bunch of vultures. He did not appear affable nor friendly.

His book, "My Grandfather's Son," speaks for the most part admiringly about his grandfather, who took him in and raised him and his brother after their father abandoned them as young children. But I recall, too, an incident in which I once saw him speak publicly about his grandfather as unrelentingly tough on him and his brother, forcing them into physical labor on weekends and during early mornings when they were not in school.

Thomas' grandfather famously denied the boys the chance to ever sleep late and taunted them for acting like rich kids when they complained about routine pre-dawn wake-up calls, as recounted in the book, "Judging Thomas: The Life & Times of Clarence Thomas" by Ken Foskett.

"The morning ritual became so ingrained that Clarence often sensed his grandfather's presence in the predawn darkness before he heard his deep voice. "Get up, Boy," he barked. "Y'all think y'all are rich!" Clarence Thomas cannot remember a single morning of his childhood that he was not up to see daybreak.
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14 Comments

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lwb4939

It is sad that Mrs Thomas feels like so many women worldwide, that their husband could not possible be interested in any woman but them. She is like an ostrich that prefers to stick her head in the ground, then to believe her husband could be a cheater. We can only be responsible for believing what our loves say. We are not responsible for what they do and being close minded, only encourage their bad behavior. He could be telling the truth, but she also could be telling the truth. We all see signs in our relationship of what our love one are capable of doing, we just chose to annoy them to keep the peace in our household.

October 21 2010 at 10:26 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ret21af

Clarence Thomas is a disgrace to our race. He played the race card to get appointed to the Supreme Court. George Bush should have found someone more quantified. Mrs Thomas want Anita Hill to apologize is a BIG JOKE

October 20 2010 at 1:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ret21af's comment
Tom

ret21af, of course you mean the human race, correct?

October 20 2010 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
petehc

I watched the entire debate, as televised. In my opinion Anita wss clearly truthful. It is a disgrace to the Congressinal Process and their professionalism that Thomas was confirmed. As I remeber it, one group/Association of senior, unquestionably qualified evaluators of the qualifications of a Supreme Court judge found that Thomas simply should not have been in the race, which specks poorly of the president that nominated him As usual Anita hendled herself as respects this issue, up front, professional, and with the dignify that embodies her being.

October 20 2010 at 1:37 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Worlds Best Dad

"Thomas left to become an attorney with MONSANTO COMPANY in St. Louis, Missouri, the only private sector job he would ever have," (WIKIPEDIA, 2010). The point here being that individuals like Chief Justice Thomas have no place in politics or in a government position with the stature and responsibility in which it pertains. This challenges the ethics of our society today. If we want things to turn around in this country we must reform socially. We the American people are failing ourselves and especially our children. I call for a formal investigation on Monsanto Company and others within the food distribution and pharmaceutical industries. We the American people have been led down a path of lies and it is time for the truths to be heard before it is too late.

October 20 2010 at 12:26 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Worlds Best Dad's comment
Tom

You can bet that Monsanto has already implemented all of their legal resources to forestall any investigation of their actions/operations including their superfund site at Muscatine, Iowa!

October 20 2010 at 2:22 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
jqrus

Anita Hill needs to set things right with herself and apologize for lying all those years ago.

October 20 2010 at 11:20 AM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply
Beautiful

Maybe he was unfriendly to the Supreme Court press corp because the press corp treated him as though he were ready to be picked clean by a bunch of vultures. It was a he said/she said situation, with no proof of anything. Apparently he was able to prove his worthiness, as he still sits on the SCOTUS. Innocent until proven guilty ring a bell with you, Ms. Erbe? Your opinion piece turned into more of a hit piece with no new information. Did you even have a point?

October 20 2010 at 8:39 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
ConnieJ

"Anita Hill has nothing for which to apologise"????? This woman, who followed Clarence Thomas around like a puppydog for years, trying without success to make headway, and then, when he was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, went before the cameras and tried to play the part of "wronged woman"???? Tales of "pubic hair" and "offcolor remarks"??? What a crock!!! This woman was so "offended" by his actions that she followed him from job to job, to stay in his company (I duly note that that was conveniently left out of this tale). So I'm sure that Mrs. Thomas is still resentful of Ms Hill's saga. So what? And who cares? Ms. Hill should never have gone before the world with her pitiful whining.

October 20 2010 at 7:59 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

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