Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sex, Lies and Congressional Hearings Revelations Raise Doubts regarding Thomas' Testimony

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sex, Lies and Congressional Hearings Revelations Raise Doubts regarding Thomas' Testimony

Article excerpt


The Selling of Clarence Thomas

By Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson

406 pages, Houghton Milllin, $24.95

THE NAMES Clarence Thomas and Gary Hart aren't linked very often. But for Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, the quest for the truth behind Thomas' he-said, she-said confrontation with Anita Hill started with the same kind of "I dare you" statement from him that led to the discovery of Hart's sexual escapades and his withdrawal from the presidential sweepstakes.

During the 1991 confirmation hearings on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Thomas said of Hill's allegations of sexual harassment: "If I had used this kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be . . . other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it, or various levels of it."

Mayer and Abramson, members of the staff of The Wall Street Journal, set out to find whether those other individuals exist. Their conclusion, bolstered by testimony from a wide-ranging group of people, is not one Thomas would agree with. But their story is much more - a tale both compelling and repellent of how the U.S. Senate confirmed a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court in the most acrimonious, adversarial, even inept manner imaginable.

The book begins by tracing the early lives of both Thomas and Hill. Thomas' beginnings are portrayed as humble, though not quite the up-by-the-bootstraps struggle from Pin Point, Ga., that he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hill comes across as almost too good to be true; "indeed," it says, "no one could recall Hill's ever having told a lie."

Told in detail is a story of Thomas' familiarity with pornography and crude conversation, one he rebutted so fiercely during his confirmation. Missourians will find particularly amusing the exchange between two young employees in the office of then-attorney general John Danforth: Thomas and John Ashcroft.

Another lawyer in the office, Andy Rothschild, now of St. Louis, told how "Thomas liked to taunt another member of the office, who was prim and painfully shy, by making outrageous, gross, and at times off-color remarks. . . . A tightly wound, strait-laced teetotaler who was the son of a fundamentalist minister and who was himself a gospel singer and songwriter, Ashcroft was easily flustered by Thomas."

The book later ties the Ashcroft episodes to Hill, noting how ill at ease both of them felt about being the target of Thomas' penchant for earthy talk.

All of the familiar accusations and denials of the Thomas-Hill debate are here, from Long Dong Silver to erotomania to high-tech lynching. Clearly, the authors of "Strange Justice" find Hill's version of events more believable, and their evidence is persuasive.

Perhaps most disturbing is the testimony that women say they wanted to present to the Senate hearing but were not given the chance. …

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