Earlier this week, I responded to an op-ed in which Jay Kaganoff said conservatives should call on Justice Clarence Thomas to resign. I distinguished the Thomas-Anita Hill controversy from recent cases of sex harassment charges against public figures in three ways.
First, Thomas categorically denied Hill’s allegations. Second, no one other than Hill testified that Thomas engaged in inappropriate behavior. Third, Hill never accused Thomas of sexual touching or of demanding sex in exchange for career advancement, and the things she did accuse him of don’t amount to sexual harassment under the law.
My post, which came in at nearly 1,000 words, did not discuss the question of Anita Hill’s credibility. Carrie Severino takes up that matter at NRO’s Bench Memos. It’s a long post, but well worth reading in full.
Severino stresses the discrepancies between Hill’s initial affidavit and statement to the FBI on the one hand, and her Senate testimony on the other:
[Hill] had preceded her committee testimony with the affidavit and a September 23 interview with the FBI that differed so much from her later testimony, both interviewing FBI agents produced affidavits detailing what one of them called “comments that were in contradiction with” her earlier statement. In short, they attested that none of Hill’s specific, headline-grabbing charges about Thomas during the hearing—allegations of lurid references to himself, to a pornographic movie character, and to an indecipherable description of a Coke can—had been made during their interview despite their request for any such information.
To the questioning senators who were wondering why they were hearing these allegations for the first time, Hill testified that an interviewing agent advised her that she did not need to discuss subjects that were too embarrassing. Both FBI agents also repudiated this part of Hill’s testimony, stating in their affidavits that the interviewer had asked her to provide specifics of all incidents.
Every witness who knew both Thomas and Hill stated they believed Thomas. A dozen women who worked with Thomas testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee (one by affidavit) with strong statements defending his character, such as describing the allegations against him as “unbelievable” or “totally preposterous” or deeming him “absolutely incapable of the abuses described by Prof. Hill.”
Hill’s credibility was also undermined by her testimony about whether Senate staffers told her that her affidavit would cause Thomas to stand down (thus enabling her to avoid testifying):
During the hearing, Specter asked Hill about a USA Today article reporting that Senate staffers told her that producing an affidavit alleging sexual harassment would “quietly and behind the scenes” compel Thomas to withdraw his name. Although the conversation would have happened within approximately one month of her testimony (in contrast to her allegations of a decade earlier), she repeatedly denied recalling any mention of Thomas’ withdrawal—or even that such a “comment would have stuck in my mind.”
As Specter recounted, Chairman Biden reacted to this exchange by calling an early lunch recess, at which point he told his chief of staff, “Go down and tell her lawyers that if her recollection is not refreshed by the time she gets back, I will be compelled to pursue the same line of questioning the senator [Specter] did. Because it seems to me, she did what he said.”
After Specter resumed his questioning following the recess, Hill, apparently alarmed at the prospect of losing the committee’s Democratic chairman, not to mention being contradicted by other testimony, backtracked with an awkward admission that the discussions at issue included “some indication” that Thomas “might not wish to continue the process” as a result of her allegations.
As late as 1998, Biden told Specter regarding her evasions, “It was clear to me from the way she was answering the questions, she was lying.” To be sure, Biden would distance himself from the spectacle over which he chaired and publicly claim to believe Hill; to do any less would be to defy the base of the Democratic Party, which quickly turned her into a totem of workplace harassment.
After the dramatic and widely watched and commented upon televised hearings, public opinion polls showed that more Americans believed Thomas than believed Hill — and with good reason. The country moved on, but the left never gives up. It has tried to resurrect Hill’s credibility and to make her a hero. In the absence of push back, the left has succeeded to some degree.
Hill, in turn, has loyally served the left’s interests. During the Bill Clinton sex scandals, she steadfastly and shamelessly stood up for the serial sex harasser.
If we’re having a genuine reckoning, Hill’s standing should return to what it was when Americans heard from her under cross-examination — tool of the left.
Jay Kaginoff says he’s a conservative who admires Justice Thomas’ jurisprudence. Questions have been raised as to whether Kaganoff is who he says he is.
Whoever Kaganoff is, his dive back into the facts of the Thomas-Hill matter (“I looked up the case again,” he tells us) was not deep. Conservatives are not about to call on Clarence Thomas to resign, nor should they.