ABC's Roberts Tosses Softballs to Anita Hill, Touts 'Legacy' of Thomas Accuser
ABC's Robin Roberts tossed softballs to Anita Hill on Monday, wondering what the "legacy" will be for the "quiet" law professor who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment 20 years ago. The Good Morning America co-host only once challenged Hill about skepticism of her charges.
Although co-host George Stephanopoulos teased the segment by calling the 1991 Supreme Court nomination hearings "controversial," Roberts' questions didn't indicate that at all. She prompted, "Take us back. What were your emotions?...Are you still angry?" Later, Roberts fawned, "I know there's still many books to be written, but [what's] your legacy?" [MP3 audio here.]
Only once did the anchor even hint that many Americans, then and now, believed Hill had lied: "Some people, they hear your name and for all the people who sent you the telegrams and were supportive, there are some that are, like, hmm."
More representative was when the journalist speculated that, had the hearings "taken place during the social media age, where people would have been tweeting about it and posting...perhaps other women would have come forward?"
Other than a reference to spouse Virginia Thomas, Roberts had no one supportive of the Supreme Court judge on to represent his side. This shouldn't be surprising, however.
As the MRC's November 1994 Media Watch explained:
Six days before the November 8 elections, ABC News decided to promote a new book by Wall Street Journal reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer, Strange Justice, that argued that Democrats did not look hard enough into the sexual proclivities of Thomas before his confirmation.
ABC devoted not only 60 minutes of Turning Point and 30 minutes of Nightline on November 2, but also another three interview segments on Good Morning America November 2 and 3.
A transcript of the October 10 segment, which aired at 8:32am EDT, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: But, we're going to get right to the woman at the center of one of the most explosive sexual harassment cases in U.S. history. Do you believe it? 20 years ago, Anita Hill testified before a national TV audience that a man she worked with, Clarence Thomas, reportedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her. Thomas, as you know, was later confirmed to the Supreme Court. Well, I had a chance to recently speak with Hill about her brand new book- It's out today. It's called "Reimagining Equality"- and how that chapter impacted her life.
ANTIA HILL: My name is Anita F. Hill.
ROBERTS: Take us back. What were your emotions?
HILL: There were so many going on. [cut to hearing testimony] He spoke about acts he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals.
CLARENCE THOMAS: I deny each and every single allegation against me today.
HILL: [Present day.] There was anger. [Hearing testimony] Looking at this can and saying, "Who put pubic hair on my Coke?"
THOMAS: I think that this, today, is a travesty.
HILL: There was a lot of confusion, too, I think.
ROBERTS: It was exactly 20 years ago that Anita Hill, a quiet Oklahoma law professor, was thrown into a media fire storm, called to testify about the alleged behavior of her former boss, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, at his fiercely partisan confirmation hearings.
HILL: I felt that I had to tell the truth.
THOMAS: It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.
ROBERTS: The nationality televised he-said/she-said was watched by so millions and became a watershed moment for the country on the issue of sexual harassment.
HILL: The Senate just didn't seem ready to accept the reality of women's experiences in the work place.
ROBERTS: So, what about now? Is it better?
HILL: It's better, but it's not perfect.
ROBERTS: In the end, Clarence Thomas was confirmed 52-48, the second narrowest margin of any nominee in Supreme Court history.
HILL: I was clearly angry that the process seemed to me to have failed so miserably.
ROBERTS: 20 years later, you still angry?
HILL: Am I still angry? I'm sure there is still some anger in me. But I have really made a concerted effort in all these 20 years to get understanding and wisdom. And learn and grow from that experience.
ROBERTS: Do you think it would have been different, had they taken place during the social media age, where people would have been tweeting about it and posting and perhaps other women would have come forward?
HILL: I still have copies of telegrams. There were telegrams sent to me in 1991. So, we're talking about the difference between a telegram era and the tweet.
HILL: Would other women have come forward? You know, there were three other women ready to testify in 1991 and they weren't called to testify.
ROBERTS: Some people, they hear your name and for all the people who sent you the telegrams and were supportive, there are some that are, like, hmmm.
HILL: Well, I got telegrams from them, too.
ROBERTS: One of those people still skeptical is Clarence Thomas' wife, Virginia, who last year, and out of the blue, left an odd voice mail on Hill's phone asking her to consider apologizing. What was the first thought you had?
HILL: I really thought this has got to be a prank, that this could not be Virginia Thomas calling me. I actually turned it over to campus police to find out who it was. And if it were her, it- it, you know, was really, in my mind, a veiled threat.
ROBERTS: Hill, of course, has no plans to apologize. Her focus right now is her new book. "Reimagining Equality," a book about gender and race and the importance of home. And that's really what you keep hitting home in the book, that it's more than just four walls.
ROBERTS: That it's being equal once you get outside the home.
HILL: It's being equal inside as well.
ROBERTS: You write movingly about how your family in one generation, went from being property to owning property. And there is a sense of pride there.
HILL: Well, it was amazing. I had heard that- stories that my grandfather, Henry Elliott, was, was born a slave. I thought, that cannot be. I'm much too young to have a slave grandfather. But, in fact, when I went and I looked back at the records in Arkansas. He was born a slave. I talk about my own family's struggle. My grandfather and grandmother's struggle to find a home in Arkansas. Courage that they had really is an example for me.
ROBERTS: I know there's still many books to be written, but your legacy?
HILL: I have been approached by so many people who have said my testimony at the hearings allowed them to find their own voices. And that is the greatest legacy I think that I could ever hope for.
ROBERTS: Once again, the name of Anita Hill's new book is "Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home." And home for her, since 1998, has been Brandeis University, right on the outskirts of Boston. That's where we shot and-
STEPHANOPOULOS: To see those clips again, that was a huge cultural moment.
ROBERTS: I remember, it was my grandmother's funeral, 1991. And we would run home. And the whole family was together. And you had to watch on television. Not like today with tweets and things like that. It was just such a moving time for the country to watch that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure was.
— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.