TWO NEW BOOKS on the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas dispute that
have reached bookstores in recent days are stirring up that
controversy anew, inviting us once more into partisan debate about
the allegations that so engrossed and divided us in October 1991.
A book by Sen. John C. Danforth, "Resurrection," paints a
personal, sympathetic picture of an emotionally overwrought
Clarence Thomas unfairly and savagely put upon in Senate hearings.
The other, "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas,"
was written by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Jane Mayer and
Jill Abramson. They quote about 20 people who say they would have
supported Hill or contradicted Thomas had they been allowed to
testify at the time.
Last year, David Brock published his book "The Real Anita Hill:
The Untold Story," contending that the evidence proves that Anita
Where lies the truth?
Every now and then, the media have to grapple with the problem
of providing impartial coverage for such highly controversial
issues that split the nation down the middle.
Did Bruno Hauptmann really kidnap and kill the Lindberghs' son
in 1936? That debate outdid the O.J. Simpson case.
In 1954, did Dr. Sam Sheppard, rather than an intruder, really
murder his wife on a Lake Erie shore, as he stoutly maintained? He
was convicted and then acquitted in a second trial.
Was President Nixon a crook or a victim of a third-rate
burglary at the Watergate apartments? Did President Clinton break
the law in the Whitewater development? What about Rep. Dan
Our Founding Fathers decreed that some truths are self-evident,
but a great many more are not. Wise heads maintain impartiality
until a jury tells us the truth - or until historians reach
In the meantime, editors, doing as they best see fit,
traditionally give some events more weight than others. Some
writers are more reliable. Some publications are more trustworthy.
Some news sources are more credible. Some allegations ring truer.
Some photos are more appealing.
But many readers aren't marching to those same drumbeats. They
can't - and don't - accept all such news judgments before the final
verdict is in.
Thus, last week's front-page display given to the new
Mayer-Abramson book supporting Anita Hill logically drew reader
Why was that on Page One - those are still unsupported
allegations, aren't they? Those people weren't testifying under
oath, were they?
David Brock didn't get Page One treatment for his book, did he?
His sources were as credible as those in the pro-Hill book, aren't