Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Who Is the Real Clarence Thomas?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Who Is the Real Clarence Thomas?

Article excerpt

NUDE CENTERFOLDS, pornographic movies and dirty talk were at the center of this week's news about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, although everyone says larger issues are involved.

"What's really important is the political story here," says Jill Abramson, one of two Wall Street Journal reporters whose findings were published in a new book about Thomas and the sexual-harassment allegations by Anita Hill that almost cost him his seat on the court two years ago.

Although the book does delve into the politics of the confirmation process, many of its pages detail more lurid evidence: Thomas, the authors found, papered his apartment wall with pictures of naked women 12 years ago. He liked to rent adult videos. And his language sometimes included gross sexual references.

The authors say these tidbits tend to confirm that Hill told the truth when she said Thomas asked her out repeatedly, made lewd remarks to her and chatted about sex movies while he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Did he or didn't he? It's the question that won't go away, although chances are that it will never be resolved because no one other than Hill was around when Thomas did or did not speak offensively to her. The airing of her grievances and Thomas' denial prompted furious backroom maneuvering over how much dirt would be aired against both sides.

Abramson said her book shows "what happens when politics becomes a total war - what was essentially a negative campaign waged by the Bush White House in concert with Republican senators to smear Anita Hill."

One of those senators was John C. Danforth of Missouri, who has written his own book on the Thomas nomination. In the book and in person, Danforth regrets the lengths to which he went to smear Hill. But he is still defending Thomas and does not have much respect for the efforts of the other authors.

"I at least learned something from the experience," he said. "I don't think they did. I think they engaged in a two-year process of digging up dirt. It's the same old stuff. It's basically just trashing him for no end."

As for Thomas' reported penchant for pornography and centerfolds, Danforth says: "Whatever happened to the right to privacy? …

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