When 1999 ends and rewinds of the '90s begin, won't the Hill-Thomas hearings look a lot different than they did eight years ago? See the dramatic double standard between Hill's sexual harassment accusations against Thomas, dragged to the Senate floor by angry feminist politicians, and Christine Niedermaier's sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Last Friday, Niedermaier, recently fired as Baucus's chief of staff, officially filed a complaint with the Senate. So why are the media - the whole culture - saying next to nothing?
Niedermaier's a bimbo. No. Before heading Baucus's staff, she was a lawyer and two-time Democratic House candidate in Connecticut.
It's a partisan conspiracy. No. See above. While Hill was painted as a conservative, everything she's said since then shows the opposite.
These are just unproven rumors. Yes, so far. And so are Hill's charges, even now, after drawing million-dollar book deals and big speaking fees.
Baucus's staff supports him. En masse, they signed a declaration that Niedermaier was a nightmare of a boss, and they believe him. But Clarence Thomas's staff stood by him in press conferences and even in congressional testimony, yet it didn't restrain Anita's story.
Even if true, he didn't touch her. Niedermeier says Baucus asked about boyfriends, commented on her outfits, compared her to his wife, and implored her to go away for the weekend with him. This may seem timid after Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick, but Hill never claimed Thomas (then single) had touched her.
No network newscast has covered these allegations, and neither has Newsweek or U.S. News. National Public Radio and Newsday, who took pride in breaking Hill's unproven rumors, have done nothing. Margaret Carlson wondered in Time if she had to care. Despite repeated stories by Roll Call and the Associated Press, most national newspapers filed just one story in September.
Isn't Baucus's potential hypocrisy, after voting for feminist legislation (including the law Niedermaier is exercising here), a story? One of the few reporters to dig into this story, Capital Style magazine writer Susan Crabtree (in a piece for Salon.com), noted foes of Thomas and Sen. Bob Packwood like Sens. Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray have defended Baucus, and "The National Organization for Women did not return repeated phone calls for this article."
Another hypocritical supporter is Baucus's wife, who threw herself into the Hill-Thomas aftermath with a Washington Post Style section story full of unpro-ven rumors and unnamed assailants. [See box.]
In a September 15, 1996 Sally Quinn Washington Post piece on the Dick Morris scandal, Mrs. Baucus claimed, "There's a thin line between being a martyr and being a masochist...men have such strong egos. They expect women to take anything from them. Hillary is the same as Eileen [McGann, Morris's wife] for taking this stuff." When Quinn asked if a female Dick Morris would be surrounded by elite attention after a sex scandal, she said: "They would have done to Jane Morris what they did to Anita Hill. There is a huge double standard." Yes, there is. - Tim Graham