Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Thomas? Not Anita Hill

Credit: Wikipedia Commons
By Cathy Scott
(Reprinted from Women in Crime Ink)

What is up with Virginia Thomas? On a recent weekend, Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, called Anita Hill’s voice mail and made a bizarre request.

In her message, Mrs. Thomas, seemingly out of the blue, asked for an apology from Hill for accusing the future Supreme Court associate justice of sexual harassment back in 1991 during his confirmation hearings--this, nearly two decades later. She won't get an apology.

Anita Hill has moved on--a long time ago, in fact--and perhaps Virginia Thomas should do the same. Now a professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Hill, after receiving the message, first alerted campus security, because she thought the voice mail was a prank. She, unfortunately, has since learned that it was no joke. Yep, Mrs. Thomas had, indeed, left Ms. Hill the message, all these years later. Brandeis officials turned the matter over to the FBI.

According to a transcript of the call made available to the Boston Globe, the recorded voice said:
“Good morning, Anita Hill. It's Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something.
“I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day.”

Say what? Lest anyone forget the sordid details from two 
decades ago, Anita Hill, after being called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said under oath that Thomas, who was married to Virginia at the time, had repeatedly made crude and inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace, boasting of his sexual prowess, and referencing pornographic 
novels. (I'll leave the exact details of the alleged comments to your imagination and not repeat them here).

Clarence Thomas adamantly has denied the allegations, calling them “a high-tech lynching.”

Hill recently told the Globe that she has nothing to apologize for and does not intend to retract her accusations that Thomas made sexually suggestive remarks to her when she was an aide and he was her boss at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“I certainly thought the call was inappropriate,” Hill said in a recent statement. “I have no intention of apologizing, and I stand by my testimony. No further explanation is needed. I testified truthfully about what my experience was back in the 1980s.”

For her part, Virginia Thomas, a Tea Party activist, confirmed to The New York Times that she was serious about wanting an apology. Here's Mrs. Thomas' official statement:

“I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed what happened so long ago.

“That offer still stands. I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

The New York Times opined that the he said-she said confrontation between Ms. Hill and the future Justice Thomas “deeply divided the country during what became a national debate about the nature of sexual behavior in the workplace.”

In addition, the paper reported, “Ms. Hill’s descriptions of unseemly conduct and his adamant denials produced one of the most polarizing Supreme Court confirmation battles of modern times.” In the end, the U.S. Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52 to 48. And he's been on the high court bench ever since. Public interest in and debate over Hill's testimony has been said to be responsible in large part for modern-day public awareness of sexual harassment.

As for Mrs. Clarence Thomas, whatever it was--an agenda?--that prompted her, at this long-ago juncture, to reach out and touch Anita Hill is baffling. Virginia Thomas has not explained, other than to confirm making the call and leaving the message.

Perhaps the FBI, in its inquiry, will get to the bottom of the ordeal and provide answers. And maybe Anita Hill can be left alone.

Photos courtesy of The Associated Press.


Vickie Pynchon said...

Many have suggested:

1. she was drunk;
2. she's suffering from dementia (would explain the Tea Party affiliation);
3. she's recently become tired of hearing about her husband's crude harassment of women and, blaming the victim, has weirdly concluded that if Hill apologized, others would stop complaining about Thomas' harassment (this would be "and she was drunk")
4. her Tea Party affiliation has roused in her the major emotions other than fear and anger that Tea Party events tend to arouse - paranoia and victimization (how the wife of a Supreme Court justice could feel victimized is a mystery but "and she was drunk" would connect the dots.

Cathy Scott said...

All possibilities -- and some inter-connected possibilities! If it was a Tea Party-driven move, it appears to have backfired on them.