In his new book, The Real Anita Hill (Free Press), my onetime Insight colleague David Brock does what the U.S. Senate and the rest of the press conspicuously failed to do when confronted with Hill's accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas: He seeks the truth.
After the show trial, the Senate, to be sure, appointed a special counsel to conduct an investigation. But Peter Fleming's mandate was narrow -- to find out who had violated Senate rules by leaking Hill's confidential allegations, not to weigh the evidence for and against her charges.
As I recall, several senators during the Hill/Thomas hearings made the point that the Proceedings were not a trial. This was said as if it were some boon to the nominee. Based on the evidence gathered by Brock, however, the inescapable conclusion is that Thomas -- and the truth -- would have been far better served by a real trial. The facts and corroboration were all on his side.
Here is Brock's devastating summary of Hill's testimony, after comparing the many different stories that were told to the Senate and the media:
"If one wanted to believe that she had told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, one would have to believe that all of the other people who had offered conflicting testimony and evidence were incorrect, or simply lying: Diane Holt, Harry Singleton, John Doggett, Phyllis Berry-Myers, Andrew Fishel, Carlton Stewart, Stanley Grayson, Charles Kothe, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, Harriet Grant, Joe Biden, the two FBI agents, and all four of Hill's own witnesses -- Susan Hoerchner, John Carr, Ellen Wells, and Joel Paul. Alternatively, all of these individuals could have been correct, and Hill could have made more than a dozen false statements under oath."
The truth that emerges from Brock's account is that the Hill/ Thomas story had a simpler plot than we were led to believe at the time. The senators, their staffs and the journalists and activists on both sides overwhelmingly believed that the ends justified the means. For one side the goal was to deny Thomas a seat on the high court. For the other it was to assure his nomination. If that meant character assassination, so be it.
"Hill's supporters," Brock writes, "portrayed Thomas as a dangerous, ambitious, psychologically unbalanced, self-hating black, capable of boundless hypocrisy. Thomas's supporters, in turn, suggested that Hill was a fantasizing spinster put up to testifying by a sinister left-wing conspiracy. …