Apparently, all bets are off when you've got a book to sell. Just ask Lillian McEwen. This week the 65-year-old ex-girlfriend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, 63, decided that after two decades she should come clean about what she describes as her porn-obsessed former lover
's penchant for harassing female co-workers. Of course, McEwen's pop-up conscience comes the same week that Justice Thomas' wife, Virginia, asked Anita Hill (famous for accusing Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings) to "pray" and "apologize" for what she did to Thomas
. Sound confusing? Well, I think it's supposed to. Because this is exactly the kind of "Gossip Girl" plot line that sells books at the grocery store. And for me, McEwen's new revelations are just as cheap.
According to the Washington Post's exclusive interview with McEwen, Justice Thomas is exactly the kind of man Anita Hill accused him of being almost two decades ago. McEwen told the Post that Thomas was always on the lookout for potential sexual partners at work. "It was a hobby of his," she is quoted as saying. "[McEwen] 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," reports the Post. But why now?
McEwen, who is retired and twice-divorced, said she kept her lips sealed for so long because she saw "nothing good" coming from breaking that silence. Seriously? Plus, according to McEwen, it's not like she looked "good" in the re-telling of the story. McEwen met Thomas while both she and Thomas were married to their first spouses in 1979. Two years later, according to McEwen, she was separated, Thomas had left his first wife and the two began a romantic relationship that continued until 1986. One year later Thomas married his current wife, Virginia.
In the article, McEwen describes Thomas a being "obsessed" with pornography, a quirk she didn't find particularly alarming aside from the fact that she thinks porn is "boring." In 1991 Anita Hill, who worked with Thomas at the Department of Education, testified during his confirmation hearings: "He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes." Back then Thomas vehemently denied Hill's allegations, calling them a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves."
What troubles me about McEwen is that she is currently being cast as a whistle-blower as opposed to her more sinister role as a co-conspirator. "I have nothing to be afraid of," she told the Post, before mentioning that she hopes all this press will drum up some interest in her unsold memoirs, which chronicle her family life, legal career and relationship with Thomas. Afraid of? No. But ashamed of? Most definitely.
At a time when her voice could have actually meant something -- besides more white noise about a man who most people already think is sleazy -- she remained silent because it suited her. Two decades ago, instead of keeping her mouth shut, McEwen could have stood behind the woman who stood up for herself (and really all of us). So if anyone should be apologizing, it's Lillian McEwen. But I doubt Anita Hill wants (or needs) to hear it.