Nearly two decades after their "she said, he said" public battle, Anita Hill and Justice Clarence Thomas are back in the news. The reason? Thomas' wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, left a voice mail message seeking an apology from Hill, who accused her husband of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991.
The bizarre incident has sparked speculation as to why Ginni Thomas decided to contact Hill after all these years.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Jansing & Company" Wednesday morning, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist Eugene Robinson said, "One gets the sense this is just something that's been eating at her for nearly two decades."
It's not hard to imagine that the confirmation hearings might still eat at Thomas' family members. Writing about his mother in his 2007 memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," Thomas noted: "Between the day President Bush announced his intention of nominating me to the end of my testimony, she lost more than thirty pounds as a result of stress and worry."
Other pundits have been less generous than Robinson in speculating why Ginni Thomas might have picked up the phone.
Journalist Karen Hunter, also appearing on MSNBC, countered, "It'll probably come out that she was in an Ambien stupor -- or maybe she's taping a reality TV show."
The call to Hill comes on the heels of other news about Ginni Thomas, who has become a major player in politics since founding a nonprofit "Tea Party" organization called Liberty Central Inc
., which, in part, targets President Obama's "tyranny" and tries to influence the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Ginni Thomas, an attorney, has for more than three decades worked in Washington for conservative institutions such as Hillsdale College, the Heritage Foundation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But until founding Liberty Central in January, her activism was not widely known.
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Even before the voice mail, her involvement with Liberty Central sparked controversy, as its 501 (c)(4) tax status means it is not required to disclose donors, a point that some critics view as a potential conflict of interest for her husband. The New York Times
noted that the group's first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors and recently editorialized that, "Justice Thomas needs disclosure to know if either of those donors is a party in a case before the Supreme Court or has an interest in a party."
Typically, justices and their spouses eschew such political activity, in order to preserve the appearance of nonpartisanship, and of transcending the pettiness of politics.
According to her bio
on the group's Web site, "Ginni, the 'proud' Nebraskan, is a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham and other talk radio hosts. She is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully. She also enjoys motor homing and watching '24'."
That's the present, this is the past: During the exhaustive, nationally televised Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, Hill accused him of harassing her sexually when he was her boss. Thomas was ultimately confirmed to the high court, but the accusation divided the nation and left scars that have clearly not healed. At the time, Justice Thomas described her testimony as "a high-tech lynching."
Ginni Thomas' Oct. 9 voice mail reignited the story.
According to a transcript published by ABC News
, Ginni Thomas' message asked Hill to "consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband." She also asked Hill to "give it some thought and certainly pray about this." Hill, a professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., called campus security, which then called the FBI.
Through a spokesman, Ginni Thomas acknowledged making the call, and described it as "extending an olive branch to [Hill] after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago."
For her part, Hill said in a statement released to the AP that she thought the call was inappropriate.
"I have no intention of apologizing because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony."