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Thomas’ wife demands Hill apologize for confirmation charges

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: Front Page

Truth to Power: Professor Anita Hill spoke at a round table discussion on Sept. 17 about the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan where she said candidates for the Supreme Court should ‘reflect not only the law, but also the beauty and breadth of the country.’ Hill has been in the limelight this week after Virginia Thomas left a voicemail on Hill’s Brandeis answering machine requesting Hill apologize to her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for allegations she made against him for sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings in 1991.
PHOTO BY Alan Tran/The Hoot

Virginia Thomas called Professor Anita Hill Oct. 9 requesting that Hill apologize to her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for allegations she made against him for sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings in 1991.

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginny Thomas,” she said in a voicemail left on Hill’s Brandeis office phone on the 19th anniversary of the confirmation hearings. “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. OK, have a good day.”

A spokeswoman for Thomas provided a statement to The Hoot in which Thomas wrote, “I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years in the hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago.

“The offer still stands,” she continued. “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.”

Hill, who is a professor at Brandeis’ Heller School for Social Policy and Management, said in an interview with The Hoot that she has “no intention of apologizing or explaining my testimony.”

Upon hearing Thomas’ voicemail Hill immediately called Brandeis Public Safety, who subsequently handed the tape over to the FBI.

“It was really unclear to me whether it was really Ginny Thomas or some prank,” Hill told The Hoot in an interview Thursday. Hill said she has received prank mail and phone calls in the past when she has been traveling, but never on her work or home phones.

In 1991 Hill came forward with allegations that Clarence Thomas had made inappropriate sexual comments toward her when she worked as his aide at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s.

“The conversations were very vivid,” Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. “He described acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes.”

Thomas responded to the allegations calling them “a high-tech lynching.”

“Now a days people think about sexual harrassment and talk about it all the time, but before 1991 people hadn’t talked about it,” Hill said in the interview. “Things just came together and resonated with a lot of people, both men and women.”

“I was subpoenaed, I had no intention of stirring the pot, I didn’t know that’s what would happen,” Hill said. But I knew his decision would influence the law and the lives of every day people, so I went to the hearing, and the rest is history.

The allegations deeply divided the nation and spurred debate about the nature of sexual behavior in the workplace with people being forced to take sides. Bumper stickers saying either “he lied” or “she lied” were sold in response to the controversy. In the end, the Senate confirmed Justice Thomas by a vote of 52 to 48.

“It was a moment in time when the political system really came into conflict with the reality of peoples lives,” Hill said. “I was speaking from my real life and what I knew. For me it was different from politics. It was that I had information about Clarence Thomas that related to the kind of judge he would be.”

Hill has been a professor at Brandeis since 1998 and the campus has united around her since the news of the voicemail broke in the national media Tuesday night.

Professor Mary Baine Campbell (ENG) sent an e-mail to the “concerned” listserv Wednesday night with a link to a petition asking Clarence Thomas to apologize to Hill.

In introducing the petition in support of her colleague, Campbell called the voicemail a “bizarro-world phone call.”

Nathan Robinson ’11 wrote on the Brandeis-based blog Innermost Parts that Hill should be “left alone to get on with her career.

“The disgusting and relentless pursuit of her that started in 1991 and seemingly never ends sends a very poor message to other potential victims of sexual harassment who may be debating whether or not to speak out,” he wrote. “The best way we can react is to not think of Anita Hill as the woman Clarence Thomas may have sexually harassed, and start thinking of her as a respected scholar.”