What Was Clarence Thomas's Wife Thinking?

Ginni Thomas asks for an apology from Anita Hill, 19 years later

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Picking at a 19-year-old scab, Ginni Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wants an apology from Anita Hill, the woman who testified against her husband during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings. On Oct. 9, Ms. Thomas called Hill's office at Brandeis University, saying:

Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas. 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. Okay have a good day.

Ms. Thomas's voice mail revives a controversy that conservatives and liberals dispute to this day. Before the infamous confirmation hearing, Hill was an aide to Mr. Thomas and accused him of making profane sexual comments, such as discussing his penis size and the placement of a pubic hair on his soft drink. Mr. Thomas denied the allegations, calling attacks by Democrats a "high-tech lynching." When Hill received the voice mail, she notified Brandeis University police. Ms. Thomas insists the phone call was an "olive branch" and she meant no harm.

With the hearings 19-years-old at this point, what was Ms. Thomas thinking?

  • This Opens a Huge Can of Worms, writes Colby Hall at Mediaite: "By any measure, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of the early 90s was an ugly and divisive time in America politics. Some have pointed to it as the beginning of the bitter partisan divide that has created the current opinion media landscape; and at least Andrew Breitbart claims his 'political trajectory from left to right' started with the Clarence Thomas hearings."
  • This Is Baffling, writes Bonnie Erbe at Politics Daily:
What in the world would give Ginni Thomas the idea that she might succeed at getting a woman who is not apologetic in the least, to apologize? This especially when Anita Hill has nothing for which to apologize.

Hill is not someone who sought public attention. She filed a confidential affidavit about her personal encounters with Thomas. She said he acted quite strangely, discussing pubic hairs on soda cans and other notable off-color remarks. It took not one but two reporters to talk her into going public with her story, after they were leaked information about why the committee was trying to rush Mr. Thomas' nomination to a floor vote. NPR's Nina Totenberg was one of those reporters and the one who talked Hill into her first public interview.
  • Here's a Thought, offers David Weigel at Slate: "That [voice mail] was left the morning after Thomas appeared at the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention. I can't psychoanalyze her, but in the past nine months Thomas, a frequent conservative operator, has emerged as a wanna-be Tea Party leader and TV pundit. All of a sudden she's in newspapers and on TV shows. Does she feel that it's incumbent on her to re-engage with Hill, to clear up that part of the Thomas family story?"
  • Ginni Is Delusional, writes Taylor Marsh: "Ginni Thomas had accused Anita Hill of fantasizing about her husband and having romantic notions about him, which Hill recounted in her book. It’s a phenomenal reach considering what Hill went through to prove she’d been harassed and that Mr. Thomas was unfit for the Supreme Court. Obviously Mrs. Thomas checked out during the confirmation hearings, because it’s a far leap to imagine from Hill anything of the sort."
  • Still, Anita Hill Didn't Need to Call the Police, writes Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway: "Getting the FBI involved is just the height of silliness. Though it may have been a dumb thing to do, there’s nothing in that voicemail that objectively constitutes a threat. However, by doing so, Hill and her colleagues at Brandeis have found another way to embarrass Clarence Thomas, and that’s something that Anita Hill has a history of doing."
  • What Kind of 'Olive Branch' Is That Anyway? wonders Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It’s a pretty spineless way of approaching things. If you call someone at her office at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, you clearly don’t want a conversation. You’re hoping to plant your little timebomb and scurry away." Jane Mayer at The New Yorker adds, "When I heard a recording of the message, it came off as more adversarial than most peace offerings."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.