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Former Girlfriend Claims To Corroborate Decades Old Charges Against Clarence Thomas

On the same week that we learned that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife had, bizarrely and without any seemingly rational explanation, called Anita Hill demanding that she consider apologizing for the charges she leveled twenty years ago, The Washington Post is out with a report about a woman who dated Thomas in the  90s and claims that the charges Hill makes are consistent with the man she knew:

For nearly two decades, Lillian McEwen has been silent — a part of history, yet absent from it.

When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill’s allegations.

Lillian McEwen was that woman.

At the time, she was on good terms with Thomas. The former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel had dated him for years, even attending a March 1985 White House state dinner as his guest. She had worked on the Hill and was wary of entering the political cauldron of the hearings. She was never asked to testify, as then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who headed the committee, limited witnesses to women who had a “professional relationship” with Thomas.

Now, she says that Thomas often said inappropriate things about women he met at work — and that she could have added her voice to the others, but didn’t.

(…)

She has written a memoir, which she is now shopping to publishers. News broke that the justice’s wife, Virginia Thomas, left a voice mail on Hill’s office phone at Brandeis University, seeking an apology — a request that Hill declined in a statement. After that, McEwen changed her mind and decided to talk about her relationship with Thomas.

In other words, as with last week’s phone call, this story is in the news again primarily, if not solely, because of the stupid, some would say obsessive, decision by Virginia Thomas to re-open a decades old wound. But for that decision, her husband would not be going through this embarrassment again, and we would not reading things like this:

McEwen scoffs softly when asked about Thomas’s indignation, which has barely cooled in the 19 years since the hearings. In his vivid 2007 memoir, the justice calls Hill a tool of liberal activists outraged because he did not fit their idea of what an African American should believe.

McEwen’s memoir describes her own “dysfunctional” family in the District and, ultimately, a long legal career. She charts how she developed an “inner self” to escape the chaos of her childhood. Her story also includes explicit details of her relationship with Thomas, which she said included a freewheeling sex life.

Given that history, she said Hill’s long-ago description of Thomas’s behavior resonated with her.

“He was obsessed with porn,” she said of Thomas, who is now 63. “He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting.”

McEwen added that she had no problem with Thomas’s interests, although she found pornography to be “boring.”

According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.

Presented with some of McEwen’s assertions, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Thomas was unavailable for comment.

However bizarre they may seem, McEwen’s recollections resemble accounts shared by other women that swirled around the Thomas confirmation.

Angela Wright, who in 1984 worked as public affairs director at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which polices sexual harassment claims — during Thomas’s long tenure as chairman, shared similar accounts with Senate investigators.

Once, when walking into an EEOC seminar with Thomas, he asked her, “What size are your breasts?” according to the transcript of her Senate interview.

Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter, who told investigators that Wright had become increasingly uneasy around Thomas because of his comments about her appearance.

But Wright also had problems that made committee Democrats nervous. She had been fired by Thomas, and previously by a member of Congress. She also had quit a third job in government, accusing her boss of incompetence and racism.

Concerned about Wright’s credibility, Biden lifted a subpoena for her to testify at the hearing. Instead, transcripts of the interviews with Wright and her corroborator were simply entered into the record, drawing only modest press attention.

Another woman, Sukari Hardnett, who worked as a special assistant to Thomas in 1985 and 1986, wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee that “If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female” by Thomas.

So, there you have it. Thanks to Virginia Thomas, a woman who had remained silent for twenty years has gone public and provided a story that, for those so inclined, appears to corroborate the picture of Clarence Thomas that Anita Hill painted before the committee. It doesn’t matter for any substantive reason, other than, I imagine, the accuracy of history, but it’s yet another opportunity to talk about a story that most of us had forgotten about long ago.

If nothing else, this earns Virginia Thomas the dubious honor of having placed the dumbest phone call in history.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    The woman has a book she is peddling. The book existed before Vigina’s phone call. Also she corroborates nothing. Hearsay is just hearsay and this woman is just attempting to make a buck on hearsay. And your a lawyer?

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  2. Michael,

    Hence the phrase “claims to corroborate.”

    I stopped debating the “who do you believe Clarence or Anita ? ” question around the time I gave up on that topic in October 1991 when I used to hang out in the political forums on CompuServe.

    That wasn’t my point of the post. My point was that Virginia Thomas opened a scab for no rational reason and once again made public a story that damages her husband.

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  3. Jay says:

    Granted, it was dumb of Mrs. Thomas to make that call, but there are a couple of reasons to doubt Ms. McEwen’s veracity.

    A. She’s a Democrat who admits that she doesn’t care for Thomas’s conservative jurisprudence.

    B. She’s shopping her memoirs to publishers. As her life seems to be rather normal, it appears the only thing she has going for her is that she dated Justice Thomas. So by providing all the hot sexy gossip, she’ll be able to hawk the book to the type of idiots that grab every tabloid magazine on the rack on their way out of the grocery store.

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  4. anjin-san says:

    > She’s a Democrat who admits that she doesn’t care for Thomas’s conservative jurisprudence.

    Ah, so. Proof positive that she is a liar.

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  5. Tano says:

    “…for those so inclined, appears to corroborate the picture of Clarence Thomas that Anita Hill painted ”

    She doesn’t corroborate Hill “for those so inclined”. She corroborates Hill objectively. Of course, you could claim that this woman is a liar, as is Hill, as are the other women who spoke out at the time of the hearings. As is everyone who disagrees with you. But you are not going to be very persuasive with that line…

    And this talk of her selling a book is utter nonsense. If she were interested in the really big bucks, then there is obviously a lot of money to be made writing a book for the huge rightwing market – the people who make millionaires out of every loony that finds a new way to combine adjectives to slam “the left”. She could have written a glowing defense of Thomas, making him out to be the most noble creature on God’s good earth, and trashing Hill There would be a lot more money in a story like that…

    “It doesn’t matter for any substantive reason, other than, I imagine, the accuracy of history”

    Yeah, there is that. After the shameless race-card playing defense that Thomas used in the hearings, after the corroboration available at the time, after David Brock’s complete recantation and exposure of the smear campaign against Hill, after the Wall Street Journal book written about the whole episode, and now this corroboration, the historical record seems rather unambiguous.

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  6. Steve Plunk says:

    What corroboration? She doesn’t corroborate specific claims but merely says Thomas was capable of making inappropriate comments. That’s weak and especially weak when the charges are twenty years old and against a sitting Supreme Court justice. The standard should be higher for such claims.

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  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, for the first time in history. You are correct. She is a self admitted Democrat. Therefore, if her lips are moving, she is lying. How astute of of. This axiom applies equally to fellows who lift their name from novels about Shoguns.

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  8. Tano says:

    Oh c’mon Steve, don’t make us get dragged down into all this.
    She corroborates that he was obsessed with porn, was constantly evaluating women as sex partners, even talking about it with his current lover, made sexually suggestive comments to women at work and talked about that with his lover also.

    She even says that she though Anita Hill was not telling the complete truth, because she always assumed that Thomas would never have hired Hill if they weren’t engaged in a sexual relationship. Thats the character of the man.

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  9. ponce says:

    When crazy Ginny Thomas goes too far maybe we can impeach her mediocrity of a husband.

    Is there a statute of limitations for lying to Congress?

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  10. Mithras says:

    “Hearsay is just hearsay and this woman is just attempting to make a buck on hearsay. And your a lawyer?”

    Michael-
    For that matter, are you a lawyer? Because whether they’re true or not, Ms. McEwan’s claims are not “hearsay” in the legal sense.

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  11. sam says:

    “especially weak when the charges are … against a sitting Supreme Court justice”

    Uh, why does the profession of the subject of the allegations weaken the allegations? Is there something inherent in being a member of SCOTUS that per se invalidates charges against said member?

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  12. Davebo says:

    “If she were interested in the really big bucks, then there is obviously a lot of money to be made writing a book for the huge rightwing market – the people who make millionaires out of every Spawn of Dick Cheney that finds a new way to combine adjectives to slam “the left”.”

    Talk about getting into the family business! At least they are no longer on the tax payers dole.

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  13. Rick Almeida says:

    “She doesn’t corroborate specific claims but merely says Thomas was capable of making inappropriate comments.”

    Actually, she indicates that he was willing to harass female subordinates sexually.

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  14. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve always felt that the Anita Hill charges should not have been brought up unless there was strong evidence of a pattern of such behavior. Not because I believed or disbelieved it but because it boiled down to he-said, she-said, with no way to know the truth. This latest revelation adds some corroboration, but the source is not the best. As someone pointed out, she is hawking a book and this certainly adds a zero or two to the value to the book. Of course, that doesn’t automatically make it false, but it does increase the level of skepticism I feel.

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  15. I wonder if Virginia Thomas knew a book was coming and thought she would try and get ahead of the story by trying to make Anita Hill the focus of the story.

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  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Appears to corroborate the story.” Yeah right Doug. And as for the “source is not the best” comment she only went out with the guy for eight years. For how many years were you in an intimate relationship with Clarence? As must have been obvious to anyone other than a complete dope Thomas’ claims were more or less accurate. At the time I didn’t think it should have disqualified him because when it comes to women not many men are saints but I have never doubted she was telling the truth. My problem with Thomas is that he is clearly intellectually and as a legal scholar a total bust. The attempts of people like Doug to portray him as a some sort of black Louis Brandeis are risible. He’s also a very odd guy as would be apparent to anyone who read that short book of his. Very strange.

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  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    Missed a key word “Hill’s Thomas’ claims” Sorry.

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  18. ponce says:

    “I wonder if Virginia Thomas knew a book was coming and thought she would try and get ahead of the story by trying to make Anita Hill the focus of the story.”

    Why bother?

    Thomas has a lifetime appointment.

    More likely crazy Ginny got hammered and drunk-diled Anita.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    Drunk dialed? I doubt it. One thing that bothered me about that call: what the heck was Virginia Thomas doing with Anita Hill’s number? It stretches the bounds of credulity to believe she is listed in the phone book. Ms. Thomas must have deliberately sought it out. It’s a little creepy when looked at in that light. I think Hill did the right thing to call the police.

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  20. george says:

    Well, taking the word of an ex for someone’s behaviour is always a bit iffy – not too many tend to be fair to people they’ve broken up with. I doubt many people would pass that test well, as almost any family court judge will tell you. But yeah, the phone call was incredibly stupid.

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  21. André Kenji says:

    Well, Anita Hill´s number can be found here:

    http://heller.brandeis.edu/facguide/person.html?emplid=e69d2f368b67d963832f9d1d8a5b8a07c6e976d5

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    Andre Kenji – I stand corrected, and a little less creeped out. For some reason I thought she had left the message on Hill’s home voicemail. Rereading the original article shows it was her office voicemail, presumably the number you linked to. Given that it was to a publicly available number, and one very easily found at that, I do a 180 and now feel Hill over reacted in calling the police.

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  23. anjin-san says:

    Zels… Remember this, it’s important. Everything I say is a lie. Everything. Now listen carefully, this is critical… I am lying to you.

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  24. […] mostly to last week’s Washington Post interview with a former girlfriend purporting to corroborate the claims that Anita Hill made about Clarence Thomas some two decades […]

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  25. jay pines says:

    The man is a poro-king. I bet his wife knows all his dirty little games, just like his former lovers knows him. WHATEVER YOU DO IN THE DARK, ONE DAY WILL SHINE IN THE LIGHT.

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