Thinking about Clarence Thomas
Jude Wanniski
January 26, 1998

 

Memo To: Eleanor Clift (Newsweek), Maureen Dowd (NYTimes), Nina Totenberg (NPR)
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Clarence Thomas

I'd really like to know what you think now in retrospect, about the way you handled the Senate confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. If you recall, the three of you were in the front rank of the national press corps reporting with self-confident certainty that he was guilty of the charges of sexual harassment leveled against him by Anita Hill. I don't bring this up in an attempt to spur you into a barrage against the President. I do so in the hope that you will admit in the dark of night, when you are all alone, that you were terribly unfair to Clarence Thomas and that he deserves your quiet apology.

If you recall, Anita Hill was pulled into the partisan conflict over the Supreme Court seat just as Monica Lewinsky became ensnarled in the current crisis. They did not step forward on their own. The political process dragged them to center stage.

Please recall that Anita Hill never said Clarence Thomas touched her. NEVER TOUCHED HER!!! She never testified that he tried to touch her. The staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee talked her into the story that while he was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) he made suggestive remarks to her. The most memorable assault on the poor woman not an intern, mind you, but a grown professional woman was when Thomas remarked about a pubic hair on a can of Coca Cola. The three of you ladies went bananas, bonkers over the seriousness of this charge!!! When testimony was presented showing that Anita Hill may have studied an actual case involving pubic hair and a Coke can in law school, there was no "whoops" from any one of you.

As the testimony unfolded, the American people learned that after Anita Hill was shocked, shocked, shocked by Clarence Thomas' behavior, he asked her if she would like to ride along with him on his drive from DC to the University of Oklahoma. Anita not only said yes, but said not a single word to Senate Judiciary about the fact that he never touched her on that drive, never propositioned her, never said anything about pubic hairs and Coke cans. IN RETROSPECT, the three of you ladies should be ashamed of your behavior as journalists, foaming at the mouth and trying to get a noose around the poor man's head. Polls showed at the time of the Senate vote that two-thirds of the American people believed Justice Thomas, not Anita Hill.

Now we have President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, ET AL. A President accused of scooping up everything in sight! There are no subliminal suggestions from him. He simply zips down his zipper and a variety of young ladies have at it. Perhaps he is innocent. I still would like to think this whole thing is a bad dream. But however it turns out, I would like the three of you to examine your conduct as journalists in the Thomas case. I personally thought he was probably guilty after I heard Anita Hill testify, but after I head his defense and the holes in her story opened up a mile wide, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Anita Hill was making it all up. Or she would never have traveled unescorted to Oklahoma with him. None of this mattered to Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer of The Wall Street Journal, who wrote a book that continued the prosecution in print two years after he had been confirmed -- a book, I'm ashamed to say, my old employers at the Journal excerpted in November 1994. The most solid evidence they had to prove Justice Thomas was a sex fiend and Anita Hill a little innocent was that when in his early 30s he divorced his first wife, he moved into an apartment, bringing with him a collection of Playboy magazines. This was a book you folks celebrated.

Again, I bring this up not to ask for equal treatment for the President. Nobody deserves the kind of treatment Clarence Thomas got from the white feminists whose lynch mob you joined. I'm only encouraging you to reflect on what you have learned about how easy it is for women to find themselves in a lynch mob and not realize what they are doing.