An Alaska-based lawyer says that conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999.
The National Law Journal reported Thursday that attorney Moira Smith posted on Facebook earlier this month that she was sexually assaulted by Thomas when she was 23 and a resident scholar at the Truman Foundation.
Smith — now vice president and general counsel of Alaska’s Enstar Natural Gas Co. — said that Thomas grabbed and squeezed her buttocks multiple times at the Falls Church, Virginia home of her then-boss.
On October 7, as the rest of the world reeled from the revelation of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s 2005 Access Hollywood audio tape, Smith quietly posted to Facebook about her encounter with Thomas.
“He groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit ‘right next to him,’” she recalled.
The Journal contacted Smith’s housemates from 1999 and all three of them confirmed that Smith told them about the incident 17 years ago when it took place. The housemates all said that when Smith gave them the news, they had no idea what to tell her to do.
Smith said that she had gone to the dinner thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to meet a Supreme Court justice, but came away with feelings of “shock and distress.”
When the Journal contacted Thomas’ office, the justice released a statement through a court spokeswoman that said, “This claim is preposterous and it never happened.”
Other guests at the dinner, when contacted by the Journal, “said they had no prior knowledge about any claim of untoward activity.”
Thomas was confirmed to the court only after a contentious confirmation process in which Thomas’ employee Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment and sexualized bullying in the workplace.
Conservative media and its operatives immediately set about discrediting Hill, calling her emotional stability into question and accusing her of being an attention-seeking hysteric.
Thomas denied the allegations and was ultimately confirmed to the court in 1991.
In an interview with the Journal, Smith said, “We now know that many men in power take advantage of vulnerable women. That willingness by men in power to take advantage of vulnerable women relies on an unspoken pact that the women will not speak up about it. Why? Because they are vulnerable. Because they are star-struck. Because they don’t want to be whiners. Because they worry about their career if they do speak out. But silence no longer feels defensible; it feels complicit.”