All that many people know about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are the accusations against him by Anita Hill during his confirmation hearings in 1991.
However, such subsequent events as the "rape" accusations against Duke University students last year and, before that, a similar hoax in the Tawana Brawley case, have belatedly demonstrated how mindless it is to automatically accept accusations, as many in the media did with Anita Hill.
Now, with the recent publication of Justice Thomas’ memoir, "My Grandfather’s Son," Anita Hill has surfaced again in the media to repeat her accusations.
The time is long overdue to take a hard look at hard facts, so that we can put those accusations in the garbage can, where they belong.
The first of these hard facts is that, contrary to what has been repeated so often in the media, it was not just a question of what "he said" versus what "she said."
A whole phalanx of female witnesses who had worked with both Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill came out in support of him at his confirmation hearings.
One of those witnesses went out of her way to point out that the image that Anita Hill projected on television bore no resemblance to the behavior and attitudes of either Anita Hill or Clarence Thomas that she had seen with her own eyes.
On the other side, one witness backed up Anita Hill’s story by saying that she had been told the same things by Anita Hill when they both lived in Washington.
But then the fact came out that this star witness had left Washington before Anita Hill went to work for Clarence Thomas, so there was no way that her corroboration could be true.
There were ways in which different versions of events by Hill and Thomas were quite capable of being checked — but were not checked.
That failure to check the facts was very strange in a situation where so much depended on the credibility of the two people. Here are the two versions.
According to Clarence Thomas, he hired Anita Hill at the urging of a friend because an official of the law firm at which she worked had advised her to leave.
According to Ms. Hill — both then and now — she was not "asked to leave" the law firm but was "in good standing" at the time.
This too was not just a question of "he said" and "she said." An affidavit sworn by a former partner in that law firm supported Clarence Thomas’ version. That was ignored by most of the media.
Since the Senate has the power of subpoena, it was suggested that they issue a subpoena to get the law firm’s records, since that could provide a clue as to the credibility of the two people.
Senators opposed to the nomination of Judge Thomas voted down that request for the issuance of a subpoena.
After Anita Hill’s accusations, a group of female members of Congress staged a melodramatic march up the Capitol steps, with the TV cameras rolling, demanding that the Senate "get to the bottom of this."
But "getting to the bottom of this" apparently did not include issuing a subpoena that could have shown conclusively who was truthful and who was not.
In another instance, there was already hard evidence but it too was ignored. Clarence Thomas said that Anita Hill had initiated a number of phone calls to him, over the years, after she had left the agency where they both worked. She said otherwise. But a phone log from the agency showed that he was right.
The really fatal fact about Anita Hill’s accusations was that they were first made to the Senate Judiciary Committee in confidence, and she asked that her name not be mentioned when the accusations were presented to Judge Thomas by those trying to pressure him to withdraw his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Think about it: The accusations referred to things that were supposed to have happened when only two people were present.
If the accusations were true, Clarence Thomas would automatically know who originated them. Anita Hill’s request for anonymity made sense only if the charges were false.