Woman who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harrassment pens stinging retort in Times
"I stand by my testimony."
So writes Anita Hill in Tuesday's New York Times, the woman whose sexual harrassment charges unsettled the nomination hearings of Clarence Thomas some 16 years ago.
Addressing his new book, “My Grandfather’s Son," Hill, a Brandeis sociology professor currently in residence at Wellesley, writes, "I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me."
"Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights,” she says. "A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his."
In his book, Thomas portrays Hill's attack as part of a campaign by special interest groups Powerful interest groups to use "the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct."
Among the more striking parts of Hill's testimony (which can be read here), is when Thomas allegedly asked her about pubic hair on his Coca-Cola.
"One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office," she stated. 'He got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has pubic hair on my Coke?' On other occasions, he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal, and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex."
In her op/ed, Hill contests in detail Thomas' allegations about her employment.
"In a particularly nasty blow, Justice Thomas attacked my religious conviction, telling “60 Minutes” this weekend, “She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed,” she added. "Perhaps he conveniently forgot that he wrote a letter of recommendation for me to work at the law school at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa. I remained at that evangelical Christian university for three years, until the law school was sold to Liberty University."
Hill pens the second half of her piece to discuss the attacks on women who accuse men of sexual harassment in general.
"Regrettably, since 1991," she continues, "I have repeatedly seen this kind of character attack on women and men who complain of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In efforts to assail their accusers’ credibility, detractors routinely diminish people’s professional contributions. Often the accused is a supervisor, in a position to describe the complaining employee’s work as “mediocre” or the employee as incompetent. Those accused of inappropriate behavior also often portray the individuals who complain as bizarre caricatures of themselves — oversensitive, even fanatical, and often immoral — even though they enjoy good and productive working relationships with their colleagues."
"When attacks on the accusers’ credibility fail, those accused of workplace improprieties downgrade the level of harm that may have occurred. When sensing that others will believe their accusers’ versions of events, individuals confronted with their own bad behavior try to reduce legitimate concerns to the level of mere words or “slights” that should be dismissed without discussion.
Despite her line by line rebukes of Thomas' accusations, Hill ends with a seeming message of hope.
"Fortunately, we have made progress since 1991. Today, when employees complain of abuse in the workplace, investigators and judges are more likely to examine all the evidence and less likely to simply accept as true the word of those in power," she says. "But that could change. Our legal system will suffer if a sitting justice’s vitriolic pursuit of personal vindication discourages others from standing up for their rights."
"The question of whether Clarence Thomas belongs on the Supreme Court is no longer on the table — it was settled by the Senate back in 1991. But questions remain about how we will resolve the kinds of issues my testimony exposed. My belief is that in the past 16 years we have come closer to making the resolution of these issues an honest search for the truth, which, after all, is at the core of all legal inquiry. My hope is that Justice Thomas’s latest fusillade will not divert us from that path."
Read Hill's full editorial here.
The following video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast on October 2.