MediaWatch: February 1992
Table of Contents:
The Anita Hill Coverup
On February 2, network television's top-rated news program, 60 Minutes, aired an interview with Anita Hill. CBS spokesman Roy Brunett told MediaWatch that 60 Minutes did no investigation of Hill beforehand, and it showed. The story was 12 days early: in their Valentine, CBS noted that Hill had received "more than 30,000 letters of support," and the interview was just as tough. Instead of employing its normal take-no-prisoners interview style, 60 Minutes treated her not like a controversial political figure, but like a celebrity to be adored. In fact, they were actually tougher on Barbra Streisand earlier this season than they were on Hill.
60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley began by asking Hill: "You've been described as someone who is conservative in your positions. Is that a fair description of you?" In a roundabout way, Hill agreed: "I think I am conservative to a number of people because I do have a religious background. I do go to church. I'm very close to my family. I have a strong belief in the family structure. And I work in a very conservative profession. As a law professor, generally, it's a conservative profession, so I think in that sense it is fair to say that on some issues or in some respects I am conservative."
Bradley pushed further: "How would you describe yourself politically?" Hill admitted "I'm a Democrat." That's the only revelation the interview produced. During the hearings, liberal activists asked what Hill would have to gain from testifying against Thomas, since she was a conservative. One of Hill's witnesses stressed that Hill supported Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. But when Hill publicly contradicted that conservative image, Bradley failed to probe Hill about Bork, or about Roe vs. Wade, the primary obsession of the first Thomas hearings.
Instead, Bradley queried: "I'm told you have a picture of Eleanor Roosevelt on your office wall, with a quote from her that says: `You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do things you think you cannot.' Is that...you do have that?"
Bradley followed up with softball questions: "What were the costs to you?....Do you think that's what in essence happened to you, that you came forward, and they didn't believe you? That in some ways you were made to be the culprit?....Do you think you got a fair hearing?....You think it would have been different if there would have been a woman on the committee?....Do you think this becomes an issue in the upcoming election?....Are you going to have any kind of role in that?" During these questions, Bradley refrained from interrupting, letting Hill speak as long as she wished. In conclusion, Bradley handed Hill a question that sounded more like a Barbara Walters question to a movie star: "When someone looks at you and sees Anita Hill, what do you want that to mean?" What could 60 Minutes have asked Hill about?
The American Spectator Exposé. Investigative reporter David Brock filed an astonishing exposé on Anita Hill in the March issue of The American Spectator that suggests Hill's story may have been built on false testimony. Brock's best investigative scoop came from the Senate Judiciary Committee's depositions of Susan Hoerchner, the California judge who testified on behalf of Hill during the televised hearings. According to Brock, "In her [Senate] staff deposition and on another occasion, Hoerchner told interviewers that the call in which Hill said she was being sexually harassed occurred before September 1981, i.e., before Hill had gone to work for Thomas." After consulting with her lawyer, Hoerchner changed her story, telling Senators she could not remember the precise date when Hill called.
Brock detailed many other revelations. A former Education Department official told Brock that then-Education Secretary Terrel Bell "received several allegations of sexual harassment from Anita Hill during the time she worked at the department... directed at Education officials other than Clarence Thomas."
And: "According to Hill's former co-workers at the EEOC, she knew [Democratic Sen. Howard] Metzenbaum aide James Brudney quite well. They say that Hill spoke often of going out with Brudney, and of having spent weekends at his apartment when she worked there....More than any other Hill staffer, Brudney...made it his aim to defeat Clarence Thomas." These revelations may be less ironclad than Hoerchner's lying to Congress, but they do cast large doubts on Hill's credibility -- and the media's.
The Post-Newsweek Coverup. Newsweek dispatched Supreme Court reporter Bob Cohn to investigate Hill. But for all Cohn's effort, Newsweek only printed a tiny one-sided December 2 "Periscope" item on how "Republican leaders tried to dig up information that would discredit Anita Hill and applied strong-arm tactics to witnesses reluctant to come forward against her."
Cohn later summarized his investigation in The New Republic (January 6 & 13 issue). In it, Cohn reported revelations similar to some of Brock's findings: "I tracked down Lawrence Shiles, who had signed a [Judiciary] committee affidavit describing events that occurred while he was enrolled in Hill's legal writing class in 1983. In the three-page affidavit and subsequent interview, Shiles said -- get this -- that he and two male friends found a dozen short black pubic hairs inside papers returned by Hill." The Shiles affidavit was signed on the last day of the Hill hearings, but no one reported it.
Cohn also found: "The former students seemed to share an aversion to Hill. All complained she was an incompetent professor whose liberal views infected her teaching. Several said off the record that she represented, as one put it, 'the worst case of affirmative action.'"
Like Brock, Cohn mentioned the testimony of a fundraiser for the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), who told him that NARAL head Kate Michelman told her: "This will not be a difficult job. We have Anita Hill. She's agreed to come forward. We've been working with her since July." Since Hill assured Senators that she had not been in contact with liberal interest groups, it would show Hill to be a perjurer. But Newsweek refused to print any of this, forcing Cohn to turn to The New Republic.
Similarly, Lally Weymouth, a frequent contributor to The Washington Post "Outlook" section, submitted her investigation of Hill to the Post, but they rejected it. Instead, the daughter of Post and Newsweek owner Katharine Graham offered it to The Wall Street Journal, which printed the story last November 20.
Weymouth revealed that Hill served as an adviser to a feminist group at the University of Oklahoma, the Organization for the Advancement of Women. Susan Stallings, a former member of that group, told Weymouth: "Anita Hill is a liberal...she was for such things as `comparable worth.' At our meetings, if it wasn't Reagan-bashing, it was Bush-bashing. They were terrified of Roe v. Wade being overturned."
Ironically, Brock told MediaWatch that Cohn and Weymouth appeared to be the only other national reporters on Hill's trail, and their stories were both rejected by their employer. Brock saw no sign of the other national media outlets, which spent months trailing Thomas tidbits, but apparently wouldn't think of investigating the "Rosa Parks of sexual harassment." Perhaps avoiding the appearance of insensitivity is now more important than the pursuit of truth.
For all of the media's pious declarations of moral indignation over Oliver North lying to Congress, their failure to investigate Anita Hill's credibility reveals a blind eye to corruption of the political process by liberals.