The Clarence Thomas Hearings
Editor's Note: Supporters of Clarence Thomas considered the leaking of last-minute charges by Thomas opponents the sleaziest kind of gutter politics, and the logical outcome of a 100-day search for any "dirt" that would deny him the nomination. After the public watched the hearings and believed Thomas, Democrats supported Hill and accused the Republicans of dirty politics. Which view did the media advocate? Read on:
"Given the detail and consistency of her testimony, it
was almost inconceivable that Hill, rather than describing her own
experiences, was fabricating the portrait of a sexual-harassment
victim....Thomas' two sessions of angry rebuttal were compelling. But
even so riveting an appearance could not mitigate the impact of Hill's
own eight hours of virtually uninterrupted testimony....her tale struck
a resonant chord with countless women across America."
-- Time Associate Editor Jill Smolowe, October 21 issue.
"And then there was Anita Hill, the poised daughter of
so many generations of black women who have been burned carrying
torches into the battle for principle. The cause of civil rights and
social justice has so often fallen to them to defend. Harriet Tubman
and Sojourner Truth were slaves by birth, freedom fighters by
temperament. Rosa Parks was a tired seamstress who shoved history
forward by refusing to give up her seat on the bus....The latest to
claim her place in line is Anita Hill, a private, professional woman
unwilling to relinquish her dignity without a fight."
-- Time Associate Editor Nancy Gibbs, October 21 issue.
"Thus did Rita Braver look ridiculous on CBS when she
told Rather, earlier, that there'd been nothing said by Hill that was
likely to have changed the mind of any Senator who'd been watching. Hey
-- what about the Coke can? And what about the fact that Hill
maintained such dignity and stamina in such sordid and sleazy
surroundings? It had to occur to some viewers as they watched the way
she handled herself that she would have made a much better Supreme
Court nominee than Thomas does."
-- Washington Post television critic Tom Shales, October 12.
"At the end of the hearing, her version may have been
more plausible, and she seemed to have less to gain from lying than
-- Washington Post reporters Marjorie Williams and Joel Achenbach, October 15.
"Well, it seems that women have lost yet again....Here
we have an example of, everyone in America got to see what happens when
one woman stands up to a man in an all-male tribunal. She was
-- Wall Street Journal reporter Susan Faludi on Today, October 16.
"No Evidence of Thomas Harassment, 9 Women Say"
-- Washington Post headline, October 11
"Seventeen women who have worked with Supreme Court
nominee Clarence Thomas appeared at a Capitol Hill news conference
yesterday in a show of support for their former colleague, with nine of
them taking the microphone to say they had never seen, nor heard rumors
of, any improper behavior on his part."
-- First paragraph of the Post story.
"There was plenty of reason to vote against him without this. It seems to me that if he were an experienced jurist, if he'd ever written an opinion that was notable, that we wouldn't be so obsessed with what is a marginal issue. But senators who want to vote against him have plenty of reasons. They don't have to hang it on sexual harassment....
"Using racism when civil rights organizations oppose
him, when his accuser is black, and when he himself has walked away
from the civil rights movement and affirmative action is really
intellectual dishonesty....[Anita Hill] has done nothing to suggest she
has a credibility problem, whereas Clarence Thomas has done a lot to
suggest that he can lie pretty easily."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, October 12 McLaughlin Group.
"I've despised how some nonthinking African-Americans
-- who once loudly disagreed with every personal and legal decision
Clarence Thomas ever made -- decided that his merely leveling the
charge of racism made him a man worth supporting....What else do I
hate? The warp speed with which bootstrapper extraordinaire Clarence
Thomas adopts the pose of black victim whenever it suits him. If anyone
had told me that a black man defended by President Bush, Sens. Strom
Thurmond and Orrin Hatch, his loyal white wife and statesmanlike white
sponsor would cry `Racism!' after an accusation by a black woman, I'd
have busted a gut....There was so much more to hate. The flowing
pro-Thomas speeches by committee Republicans that Chairman Joe Biden
-- Washington Post reporter Donna Britt in a "Style" section essay, October 15.
"Judge Thomas has consistently played the race card, in
the tradition of his patron, George Bush, whose Willie Horton
commercial in 1988 touched a low point in political
campaigns....Clarence Thomas has always benefitted from his race and
victimization. It's just that he has made his case slyly, in subtext,
most recently with his sharecropper grandfather in the starring
role....Who lynched whom? Judge Thomas's appeal to that brutal imagery
was at once his shrewdest and most deplorable tactic."
-- New York Times editorial writer Brent Staples, October 17.
Conventional Wisdom or Liberal Perceptions?
"C. Thomas He's Lying! (Isn't he?) Effective denials, but stop crying racism."
"A. Hill She's a brave truth teller. (Isn't she?) Her details, lack of motive tip the balance."
-- Newsweek, October 21
"Whom do you believe is telling the truth?
[Pie chart showing] Thomas 47%
Don't Know 19%"
-- USA Today poll, October 14
Dirty White House Politics
"Just as they did in the 1988 campaign, the Republicans
battered the other side by going ugly early with nasty, personal
attacks, by successfully linking the Democrats with liberal advocacy
groups and by using volatile images of race."
-- New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd in a page 1 news story, October 15.
"I think that he [Thomas] had the advantage of prime
time on Friday night. He had everything going for him. The Democrats
did not ask him tough questions about the facts of her charge and they
did, the Republicans did a great job of hammering her. It's basically
what happened in the '88 campaign. The Republicans know how to fight
-- NBC congressional reporter Andrea Mitchell, October 15 Today.
"The White House went into those hearings with a clear
strategy: they were going to get Clarence Thomas confirmed. And the
Democrats came in, having been under a lot of heavy criticism for
trying to cover up this whole story or whitewash it, and they said
`we're going to be the seekers of the truth.' And so, Clarence Thomas
has lawyers sitting on that committee who were working for him, and
Anita Hill didn't have any, and in the end, the strategy worked for the
-- U.S. News & World Report Assistant Managing Editor Gloria Borger, October 18 Washington Week in Review.
"Isn't this the irony, that the White House that came
in with Willie Horton, that has been against affirmative action and
quotas, has now been able to trump with race and is even looking to the
next elections as a way to perhaps induce or lure more black votes?"
-- Time reporter Julie Johnson, same show.
Arlen Specter: Source of All Evil
"The lowest point on the first day of the hearing came
when Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter implied that Hill had simply
fantasized Thomas' asking for dates and his lurid remarks about
pornography. It is all but inconceivable that a similarly qualified
man, black or white, would be accused not merely of lying but of
-- Time Senior Editor Jack E. White, October 21.
"Arlen Specter took on this role as the Great
Inquisitor. Some people [feminists] think he pilloried Anita Hill, that
with his sort of low-blow hit on perjury, they're saying to a friend in
Pennsylvania, who's been pro-choice, been on their side: 'How could you
do this to me?'"
-- Time reporter Julie Johnson, October 18 Washington Week in Review.
"Arlen Specter accused her of perjury. If you read the
record, Arlen Specter was the one who distorted what she said. Orrin
Hatch even suggested that she got one of her charges by reading The Exorcist,
I mean that she was besieged by demons. Orrin should really stick to
talking dirty. He does that better. Alan Simpson, for those of us who
were too young to know what Joe McCarthy was really like, Alan Simpson
showed us. `I have in my pocket two dozen card-carrying smearers
against this awful woman,' and then he produced those smears, those
bombshells, and they were duds."
-- Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Al Hunt on CNN's Capital Gang, October 19.
Alan Simpson: Source of All Evil
"The days of Simpson Chic are over. Now he is more
often compared to Red-baiter Joe McCarthy. The image of Simpson
flinging open his jacket and declaring he had lots of `stuff' against
Anita Hill -- while revealing nothing -- was the lowest of many low
points in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Any Senator with a sense of
history should have said, as attorney Joseph Welch eventually did to
McCarthy, `Senator, have you no shame?'....[Simpson] is writing a book
about the media -- a little like Stalin discussing intergovernmental
-- Newsweek Washington reporter Eleanor Clift, October 28 news story.
"Senator Alan Simpson, who usually manages to hide his
meanness behind an Andy Rooney facade, warned Hill that she would be
`injured and destroyed and belittled and hounded and harassed -- real
harassment, different from the sexual kind, just plain old
-- Time Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson, October 21.
"I've been in this town for 21 years, and they play a
vicious brand of politics in Washington. Washington can be a mean town.
This was as vicious a fight as I've ever seen except it was totally
one-sided....When you had Alan Simpson standing up there like Joe
McCarthy, reaching in his pockets and saying `I'm getting stuff through
faxes, and all over the country,' he sounded just like Joe McCarthy,
let's face it. And you had Arlen Specter, who was a prosecutor at one
time, saying that she committed perjury, when probably you couldn't
find another prosecutor in the country that would tell you that she had
-- Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson on Washington Week in Review, October 18.
"You had Senators accusing people of perjury; Senator
Simpson, `I have faxes, I have letters' -- the closest thing to
McCarthy that we've seen. It was not a kinder, gentler Republican
panel....George Bush called this a smear before he even heard her. He
clearly cannot win on this."
-- NBC News Washington Bureau Chief (and former counselor to Mario Cuomo) Tim Russert on Today, October 14.
Hatch and Other Republicans: Source of All Evil
"Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whose painstaking smear of
Hill had been one of the uglier aspects of an inordinately ugly ordeal,
rose yesterday to repeat gratuitously many of the innuendoes against
Hill on the Senate floor."
-- Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales, October 16.
"Lee Atwater must be smiling somewhere. His fellow
Republicans haven't forgotten how to go for the jugular, as
demonstrated during their `investigation' into Anita Hill's charge that
she was sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas. The Republicans showed
just how dirty and effective their throw-all-the-mud-you-can act can
be. (William Kennedy Smith's defense team might want to think about
hiring Orrin Hatch of Utah for Smith's upcoming rape trial.)"
-- Boston Globe business reporter Joan Vennochi, October 16.
It's Bush's Fault
"The spectacle, however, really began with Mr. Bush's choice of Judge Thomas who, for all his virtues, was no more qualified for the Court than Dan Quayle was to be Vice President....
"But it was Mr. Bush who carried politics too far. By
trying o pack the Court with conservatives and by seeking to
predetermine rulings on the most important issues before the nation, he
robbed would be justices of their protective dignity and the Court of
if its judicial impartiality and majesty. He took the Court into the
political pit and, predictably, ignited an ugly political brawl. For
justice now, he must be made to choose another Justice."
-- New York Times columnist and former national security affairs reporter Leslie Gelb, October 13.
"I think it's mind-boggling and appalling that the
Republicans and the Administration would regard this debacle as
partisan political triumph and I suspect that they too will pay a price
for their smugness....George Bush could have done something to improve
the nomination process himself by coming up with a more credible and
impressive nomination to begin with."
-- Time Editor-at-Large Strobe Talbott on Inside Washington, October 19.
The Court's Future
"Whatever happens to the nomination of Clarence Thomas,
this Supreme Court is going to stay extremely conservative. If Mr. Bush
were to follow Eisenhower's example, he could nominate a Democrat, even
a liberal Democrat and that one vote wouldn't affect the rulings of the
Court. No political damage, the President wouldn't have to change his
political stripes. But millions of Americans would know that they had a
friend on the highest court. The country's confidence in its
institutions would increase. Ike showed the way. George Bush could do
-- NBC Nightly News commentator John Chancellor, October 10.
"This case has enormous implications for the almost 500
other once-segregated school systems still under court supervision.
Given the Court's increasingly conservative makeup, it also could end
the era in which the Court has led the fight against racial injustice
in this country."
-- NBC reporter Lisa Myers, October 7 Nightly News.
"Under Rehnquist, the Supreme Court no longer sees
itself as the defender of civil rights and civil liberties, the
champion of the individual. Gone is the Court majority that breathed
new life into the Bill of Rights, dismantled Southern segregation,
disciplined police who violated the rights of citizens, removed
religion from the public schools, pushed a President into resignation,
and swept aside the laws forbidding women to end their pregnancies."
-- Los Angeles Times Supreme Court reporter David Savage in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, September 29.
Hammer Hands Hatch & Homicide Help
"Looking at this hearing as it got under way this
morning, one had the impression that in terms, strictly in the narrow
sense between Senators, that Orrin Hatch sort of played the part of
Mike Tyson. Before Senator Biden could sort of get off his stool, Hatch
was at him, all over him, and decked him."
-- Dan Rather after the Hatch-Biden argument following Thomas' opening statement, October 11.
"Either Clarence Thomas is lying or Anita Hill is
lying. Now, if the FBI can't determine who's lying between the two,
let's have some homicide detective out from Phoenix or New York City to
spend a few days on this."
-- Dan Rather to Senator DeConcini during a Saturday morning hearing break, October 12.
Supreme Court Sports
"Saints over Eagles: So you want the real deal on what
happened with Clarence and Anita Hill? Here it is: She extended her
hand to introduce herself to him, and he thought she said, `I need a
thrill.' Clarence, being the gentleman that he is, sheepishly tried to
accommodate her with a graphic rap about animal porn. Next thing you
know, it's 10 years later and everyone's doggin' the dude. All over a
-- From Hondo's football picks in The New York Post, October 11.
-- L. Brent Bozell III; Publisher
-- Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors
-- Nicholas Damask, Sally Hood, Marian Kelley, Tim Lamer; Media Analysts
-- Jennifer Hardebeck; Circulation Manager