Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Anita Hill is refusing to apologize to Clarence Thomas after receiving a message on her work voicemail from Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia.
Hill, you may recall, accused Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings back in 1991. The message left on Hill’s voice mail:
Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginny Thomas. 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.
Hill said she initially thought the message was a joke, and reported it to the police at Brandeis University, where she is a professor. But Thomas confirmed she did indeed call Thomas, and told ABC News that she wanted to get past what happened “so long ago.”
It’s not clear whether Justice Thomas knew his wife had tried to contact Ms. Hill.
In 1991 during Clarence Thomas‘ Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Anita Hill accused him of sexually harassing her while she worked for him in the Department of Education and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The hearings were brutal both for Clarence Thomas and for Ms. Hill. Some speculated Hill lied; others claim they were dispatched to make up lies about her.
Investigative journalist David Brock sharply criticized her in a 1992 article for the American Spectator magazine, an article that later evolved into a book that put Brock on the map in the conservative pundit world. Brock later disavowed the book as a “character assassination” and apologized to Hill in a subsequent book in which he accused himself of being “a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine.”
Hill has always stood by her testimony. She told ABC News:
Even if it wasn’t a prank, it was in no way conciliatory for her to begin with the presumption that I did something wrong in 1991. I simply testified to the truth of my experience. For her to say otherwise is not extending an olive branch, it’s accusatory.
On a book tour for his autobiography in 2007, Justice Thomas was asked about Hill and whether she had lied or not. He told ABC News, “I really don’t care,” recalling what he went through during the hearing, “What I care about is that the responsible people didn’t put an end to this nonsense.”
Virginia Thomas replied, “I think there’s a lot of theories, but I hope she one day calls up and apologizes and I look forward to forgiving her.”
We’ll never know the ultimate truth in this story. hard to say whether it was wise for Thomas’ wife to open up a can of worms with a phone call. It’s over, unresolved perhaps except for the two people involved. Not much of anything anyone else says about it will change that.
There seems perhaps an element of hubris or arrogance on Virginia Thomas‘ part –perhaps she’s being genuine, who knows? It just feels uncomfortable. There lingers also the spectre of a possibility that Ms. Thomas is trying to draw attention to drum up donations for her new Tea Party non-profit group, Liberty Central. If that’s true (and no one will ever find that out, either), that would be an ugly shame.
Would you ever try to reach out like that, nearly 20 years later, and would you do it the way Ms. Thomas did? And if you truly were interested in extending an olive branch, why wouldn’t you do it privately, at least privately at first, to see if a positive might result?