Writing for the Washington Post, a former legislative aide to an Illinois lawmaker recalled that he was told by his boss to write a speech that was delivered on the Senate floor that helped propel Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court — and that he has regretted it ever since.
According to writer Stephen Roderick, in 1991 he took a job as deputy press secretary for Sen. Alan J. Dixon (D-IL) where he mostly wrote up less important documents including service academy recommendations.
Roderick said that Dixon had listened to testimony from both Thomas and Anita Hill the former aide to Thomas who accused him of sexual harassment in the office — regaling employees with tales of the size of female genitalia he witnessed in porn movies he watched.
According to Roderick, “Dixon was up for reelection in 1992, and victory seemed assured. He was known as Al the Pal for his inoffensive, middle-of-the-road views and passion for making deals. Then Thomas was nominated. Dixon announced that he was going to vote for Thomas early in the confirmation process, and the decision made few ripples.”
“But then Anita Hill came forward,” he recalled. “The nation paused to hear Hill’s thoroughly credible story of workplace harassment: the pubic-hair jokes, Thomas’s proclamation of his love for porn, his boasting of his oral sex skills.”
“I was grossed out and disgusted, and assumed that Dixon would denounce Thomas after Hill’s brave testimony,” Roderick added. “He didn’t. Instead, the silver-haired head of Dixon’s D.C. office told the press secretary, my boss, to craft a statement for the Senate floor in which Dixon would announce why he wasn’t changing his vote. I was enlisted to help.”
Saying he considered quitting, Roderick claims a look at his student loan debt convinced him he needed to keep his job, so, “I wrote some gibberish about the long and storied presumption of innocence that may or may not have been included. “
On the floor of the Senate, Dixon told his colleagues, “If Judge Thomas had been credible, and Professor Hill had not, the Senate’s choice would be equally clear. Since both were credible, however, and since it is impossible to get to the bottom of this matter, I think we have to fall back on our legal system and its presumption of innocence for those accused.”
“The category error of this statement — its grievously false analogy — didn’t hit me until much later and has been on my mind since the Ford-Kavanaugh allegations emerged,” the writer confessed. “Dixon voted for Thomas, who slipped through the Senate with the closest confirmation vote in the 20th century: 52 to 48. Afterward, a few of us adjourned to a Capitol Hill bar to drink our frustration away. The senator’s chief of staff was there and sent over a round of drinks, knowing we were miserable. It didn’t help. I went home and threw up.”
Roderick admitted that he was relaying his story as a cautionary tale to other young Senate staffers who may find themselves in the same situation over the hearings pitting the word of Brett Kavanaugh against Christine Ford who has accused him of sexual assault when they were teens.
“I can’t urge a young Senate aide to quit his dream job over the Kavanaugh allegations. I didn’t — at least not right away. But if you stay and write words you don’t believe in, it will haunt you,” he advised, before lamenting, “For how long? I’m at 26 years and still counting.”
You can read his whole column here.