Hill-Thomas Case Still Matters

By Ellen Goodman Copyright The Boston Globe Newspaper Co. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 16, 1994 | Go to article overview

Hill-Thomas Case Still Matters


Ellen Goodman Copyright The Boston Globe Newspaper Co., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


It's remarkable how much it still matters. Three years ago, Clarence Thomas ascended to the Supreme Court with charges of sexual harassment clinging to the hem of his black robe like tenacious mud.

Three years ago, Anita Hill went home to Oklahoma, passing a gantlet of fellow travelers in the Dallas airport who hissed and yelled "shame" at her.

The man from Pin Point, Ga., became the Alfred Dreyfus of wronged conservatives. The woman from Lone Tree, Okla., became the Rosa Parks of sexual harassment. He is secluded and bitter. She describes her life as "dismal."

The confirmation hearings splintered Americans by race, gender, political persuasion. Candidates ran for public office on platforms that read "I Believe Anita."

Today, spines still stiffen and eyes still narrow at the question: Whom do you believe? Friendships hang on the answer.

It still matters.

So the controversy erupts again and again, pouring lava over the wounds. Last year David Brock's book trashed Hill as "a little nutty, a little slutty." Now Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson have published "Strange Justice," which says that "the preponderance of the evidence suggests" that Thomas "did lie under oath."

They reveal the White House war, a search-and-destroy-Anita mission. They describe an "impartial" Senate Judiciary Committee that wanted nothing more than to get the hearings over with.

Most damning, they write about other women who had "experienced, witnessed, or were told about behavior on his part that was strikingly similar" to Hill's story - women who agreed to testify on her behalf - but were never called.

It's true that we may never know exactly what happened between Thomas and Hill. But her testimony not only fit the facts as they are carefully assembled in this book, it also fits the two characters.

One is Thomas, who remembers being called "ABC" - America's Blackest Child. Born to a line of illegitimate children, he was raised by the rules and rod of a stern grandfather and strict nuns in a South so segregated that blacks swore on separate Bibles in court.

Through college, law school and the years of his climb toward the court, friends knew of his enthusiasm for pornographic films and magazines, of his hostility to women, of his sexual "wild talk. …

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