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.
…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.
…To McEwen, Hill’s allegations that Thomas had pressed her for dates and made lurid sexual references rang familiar.
“He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners,” McEwen said matter-of-factly. “It was a hobby of his.”
…”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.”
…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.
Go figure. Not that I think, at this late date, that there’s anything that should or even could be done about it in the specific case of Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice. But I think it ought to serve both as a reminder that Anita Hill was the one who was “high-tech lynched” by a gang of very media-savvy Republican handlers who coached Clarence Thomas through his confirmation hearings to be the most-narrowly confirmed Justice in the modern era, and also as a clarion call to remember to trust – and believe – women. For every accusation of rape or abuse made by a woman that turns out to have been of the sort that a masseuse made in Oregon against Al Gore – i.e. false and done for spite or gain – there are uncounted other incidents of sexual abuse of women by men that are either never reported for fear of not being believed (or having to go through the crap-storm that comes with making such charges), or are made but not believed, or are made and believed but still not adequately addressed by the system which is supposed to prevent and correct such abuses.
I doubt seriously whether Clarence Thomas has ever actually raped anyone – maybe not even groped anyone against her will. Such a thing would have been too great a risk to have come out during the confirmation process for the fixers in the GHW Bush administration to have risked their shot on such “damaged goods,” had Thomas had such incidents in his past. And I doubt that Thomas’ repeatedly-confirmed penchant for porn affects his ability to function as a judge on most matters which come before him in his capacity as a SCOTUS Justice, in the same way that I doubted that Bill Clinton’s penchant for young women not his wife affected his ability to govern the country in most matters.
But these fresh revelations serve to underscore something first brought up by Sandra Day O’Connor and underscored by numerous other SCOTUS-watchers and historians: that having men with the attitudes Thomas clearly has toward women on the bench means one fewer vote out of only nine who will even consider – let alone take into account – the differences between men’s and women’s experience of things when it comes to cases like this (just a coincidence who the lone dissenter was in that case, right?).
And that’s a real, glaring deficiency in justice on our nation’s highest court.