Almost 20 years after Anita Hill’s testimony about then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas’ alleged unwanted sexual advances and harassment, she finds herself back in the headlines. Reports surfaced this week that Thomas’ wife, Virginia, left Hill a voicemail out of the blue, inviting her to apologize for her testimony before Congress two decades ago.
Hill, who is now a professor at Brandeis University, reported the voicemail to campus authorities because she believed it was a prank. Word about the message quickly leaked to the media. Mrs. Thomas, for her part, is claiming that the message was an olive branch, and that she was hoping to talk with Hill and offer her forgiveness for Hill’s testimony. Hill has adamantly refused to do so, and stated that she stands by her testimony about Thomas’ conduct.
Former Democratic House of Representatives member Eric Massa found himself the object of allegations regarding sexual harassment and uninvited advances earlier this year, prompting him to abruptly abandon his seat. He then went on a bizarre media campaign to defend himself against any wrongdoing. He claimed during interviews that he had quit because of illness, only to change his story later and claim that he left under pressure from Democrats over his intentions to vote against the health care reform bill. Democratic leadership has denied his allegations, and more accusers have stepped forward in subsequent months with similar allegations of misconduct.
Like Massa, Virginia Thomas has made the situation worse by bringing it, whether intentionally or not, into the public eye. The Anita Hill case, while infamous, hadn’t been in the media for years. Clarence Thomas was appointed a Supreme Court Justice, and has served the majority of his years on the bench without having to address the allegations against him any further. What Massa did, and what Virginia has now done, is make the allegations look more credible.
Massa will benefit from the fact that public opinion of politicians is at a historically low point right now, and his allegations were preceded by similar cases involving several other government officials at the state and federal levels in the last few years. So it’s likely that, given a little time, his issues will be mostly forgotten. Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas was a big deal because it was so unique at the time, and the witness, Hill, was so credible and detailed about her allegations. Even so, while it is an infamous case, it too had faded from public memory somewhat in the intervening decades. Virginia Thomas’ move, however, has ensured its continued longevity.
Michael Tomasky, “Anita Hill’s message for Virginia Thomas.” Guardian.co.uk
Jake Tapper, Ariane de Vogue, and Mark Matthews, “Virginia Thomas leaves Anita Hill voicemail asking for an apology-Hill says no.” ABCNews.com
Jonathan Karl and Teddy Davis, “Massa Media Blitz: Embattled N.Y. Democrat Tries to Explain Behavior.” ABCNews.com
RasmussenReports, com, “Congressional Performance.”