Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas seems to have gone out of his way to be offensive this week. He is releasing a new book about his life. In both the book and his interviews about the book, he makes the claim that the Anita Hill controversy was about abortion. Says CBS on an interview with Thomas that will air tonight:
Thomas, whose Supreme Court positions on abortion issues have been conservative, says the confirmation hearings in which he was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee — allegations he continues to deny — were really about abortion. “That was the elephant in the room … That was the issue. That is the issue that people are apparently so upset about,” he tells Kroft. “[That is the issue] that you determine the composition of your Supreme Court and your entire federal judiciary, it seems now,” says Thomas.
He says the hearings harmed the accuser, Anita Hill, himself, and ultimately the country by setting a precedent manifested in other highly charged, media-infused events such as the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. “The process harmed her. It harmed me and we see sort of the precedent of this kind of thing begin to harm even people like President Clinton,” Thomas says. “Things are out of control. That’s not good for the country. It’s not good for the court. What are we going to look like years from now if we can’t get people confirmed because everybody gets to attack them. They get to draw and quarter them.”
Wow. Where to start?
First off, doesn’t an “elephant in the room” describe an issue that is on everyone’s mind and yet goes undiscussed? As the NY Times points out, abortion was discussed extensively— and he refused to answer the Democrats’ questions. That’s not an elephant in the room. That is everyone being willing to talk about an issue except for you.
I’m also really thrilled to know that taking accusations of sexual harassment or sexual assault seriously is somehow harming the country. I wasn’t aware. Personally, I thought that it was a good thing, as was putting Supreme Court justices– who serve a life term— through an extensive vetting process. In fact, Thomas is the perfect example of why that type of vetting is necessary– the Dems were sure as hell right about his views, and just about every liberal alive wishes that he had never been confirmed.
A comparison to Clinton? Well, while the Clinton Impeachment was admittedly a sexually-charged witch hunt, it was technically about perjury. Though Clinton was certainly accused separately of sexual harassment, that was not the reason for his impeachment. What made the Clinton Impeachment so ridiculous, in fact, was that he was never accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault against Monica Lewinsky. And that’s the difference- Thomas was put on trial for harming a woman through sexual harassment, while Clinton was put on trial for being a sexually obsessed asshole. Not the same. Was Thomas put on trial for being a Republican in the same way that Clinton was put on trial for being a Democrat? Well, maybe. But at least in Thomas’ case, they had an actual crime that results in actual victims to use against him.
One thing is the same, though– in both cases, it was the woman whose name was actually dragged through the mud, even though they were the ones who did nothing wrong. In both cases, the men received respectful legacies and the women’s names became a punchline.
To say that the Anita Hill case was about abortion is to insult all of the women who worked tirelessly to gain a higher profile for the crime of sexual harassment. Did NOW care about abortion? Of course. But did they also care about sexual harassment and how Anita Hill was publicly insulted and humiliated? You better bet that they did.
And that brings me to my favorite part of Thomas’ offensive remarks– where he attacks Hill directly:
“She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed. That’s not the person I knew,” Thomas says. “She could defend herself, let’s just put it that way … She did not take slights very kindly and anyone who did anything, she responded very quickly.”
Oh, yes. Because women who are not demure, religious or conservative cannot be sexually harassed! Strong and independent women are immune! Only innocent, virginal women can be victims, and hey, when they are, it’s kind of their own fault for not fighting back.
I think that this speaks incredibly to Thomas’ character. Of course he’s going to say that Anita Hill was a liar. But it’s not enough for him to say that she’s a liar. He has to make her out to be an uppity bitch, too, and to insult and dismiss all victims of sexual harassment in the process. It makes the crime of sexual harassment into a question of whether or not the victim can “defend herself.” In actuality, the point behind workplace sexual harassment is that the victim is a subordinate. She doesn’t have the means to defend herself without risking losing her job. That’s why men get away with it.
And, you know, you’d think that with all of the talk about sexual harassment that poor Clarence Thomas was forced to endure, he might have learned a thing or two. Except that he never cared and still doesn’t. What all of these remarks make incredibly clear is that he doesn’t see sexual harassment as a crime. And so it doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to infer that he never did.