Of all the cringe-inducing and explosive statements made during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, one of the most inadvertently entertaining came from the late Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin, who was trying to understand why Hill would accuse Supreme Court nominee Thomas of sexual harassment.
“Are you a scorned woman?” Heflin asked in his heavy Alabama drawl.
In retrospect, perhaps the question was legitimate. But it was directed at the wrong woman.
Scorned? That moniker seems better assigned to Virginia Thomas, wife of the associate justice, who called Hill this week, asking that the Brandeis University professor apologize for saying Thomas had made sexually explicit and otherwise inappropriate comments to Hill when he was her boss.
The call--which Hill has told news organizations she originally assumed was a prank--was bizarrely chummy for a woman who believes Hill attempted to ruin her husband’s career:
“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas,” Hill heard on her voicemail. (“Ginni?” What are they, best friends?) “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK. Have a good day.”
Mrs. Thomas has long contended she doesn’t believe her husband would behave the way Hill described under oath before the Judiciary Committee. And that makes sense; she’s married to him. But if she genuinely has no doubts, why would she need the validation of an apology from Hill, who maintains she was telling the truth? It was nearly two decades ago, and the issue hasn’t come up in many years. Ginni Thomas hasn’t been on the national radar screen either, until recently, when the New York Times reported on Mrs. Thomas’s fundraising for Liberty Central, a conservative group. Because of its nonprofit tax status, Liberty Central does not have to reveal its donors, making it impossible to track whether the donors have interests before the high court.
Either there’s a contemporary political reason for Mrs. Thomas to resurrect the Anita Hill episode, or down deep, she needs the reassurance of a confession--even a false one--from Hill.