Don't Put Clarence Thomas In with the Bad Boys
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, Anita Hill's star is shining brighter than it has since the riveting Hill-Thomas hearings in 1991. "Hill gave voice to the silent indignities endured by women," wrote Jonathan Capehart recently in the Washington Post – Capehart being one of many pundits who made such claims without any substantiation whatsoever. In fact, the actual evidence strongly suggests that if Hill ever suffered indignities, Clarence Thomas did not inflict them.
Some background is in order. Speaking to a NOW convention in July 1991, shortly after Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court, radical feminist Florynce Kennedy announced, "We're going to Bork him. We're going to kill him politically."
The woman who would orchestrate the Thomas assassination watched the news of his nomination at her California home. "He's the one," Susan Hoerchner screamed to her husband. He was the one, Hoerchner recalled, whom her Yale Law school pal Anita Hill had fingered as a hound dog back in 1981 when both she and Hill worked in Washington. Ten years later, Hoerchner was serving as a low-level judge in California, but Hill had moved on to the law school of Oral Roberts University in her native Oklahoma, a humble teaching post Thomas had helped her secure.
Although no one would take credit for what happened that July of 1991, it seems likely that the politically savvy Hoerchner put the harassment story in play. Before the month was out, well wired media people like Tim Phelps of Newsday and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio knew about the Hill allegations. So too did abortion activists like Kate Michelman, the national director of the National Abortion Rights Action League. Abortion, after all, was the cause that inspired the Borking.
Thomas expected the confirmation hearings in September to be brutal, and they were. He expected the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to zero in on abortion, and they did. He ducked and dodged as he had to and avoided any crippling blows. With his confirmation all but assured, the activists had no effective recourse but to surface Anita Hill.
They had been scheming to force Hill into the open for weeks. Hill, however, continued to vacillate. She did not want her name in play, and she certainly did not want to speak to the FBI, but Senate staffers continued to lean on her, as did her friend Hoerchner, as did the media.
Finally, on September 23, Hill faxed a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee claiming that Thomas had pressured her to date him and talked graphically about sex in her presence. A staffer persuaded her to speak to the FBI, and this she reluctantly agreed to do. Later that same evening, two FBI agents interviewed her in Oklahoma. Hill proved oddly evasive. "She advised the interviewing Agents that she made the decision to prepare the statement after several telephone conversations with her personal friend, Susan Hoerchner," one of the FBI agents would later testify.
Thomas learned of the allegations two days later, when FBI agents came to his home to follow up on Hill's accusations. "When informed by the FBI agent of the nature of the allegations and the person making them," Thomas would testify, "I was shocked, surprised, hurt, and enormously saddened." He had never had an accusation like that leveled against him before.
In constructing her harassment narrative, Hill had some obvious inconsistencies to explain away. The most notable was why she had followed Thomas to the EEOC after he had harassed her at the Department of Education. In testifying, she offered the lame explanation that towards the end of their mutual tenure at the DOE, Thomas's behavior had somehow changed for the better.
"It appeared that the sexual overtures, which had so troubled me, had ended," she claimed with a straight face. Then, alas, the behaviors started up again at the EEOC. "He said, that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career." So she kept quiet throughout the four prior Senate confirmations that Thomas had undergone, maintained a friendly relationship with him over the years, and even helped recruit him to Tulsa for a conference on civil rights law.
In the most stunning part of her testimony, Hill listed the abuses to which Thomas had allegedly subjected her. He pointed out a pubic hair on top of a coke can. He talked in detail about a porn star famously named "Long Dong Silver." He talked about his own sexual prowess. And he kept pressing her for dates, which she continued to decline.
When given the chance, Thomas did not apologize as his supporters advised but let the furies loose. "Senator," he said to a surprised Joe Biden, "I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically, that I deny each and every single allegation against me today." No one expected to hear this, certainly not with such ferocious conviction. Hill, after all, seemed so believable, and all Washington understood the risks of denying a woman's testimony.
"From my standpoint as a black American," Thomas thundered, "[the smear campaign] is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas." Thomas was just warming up.
"It is a message," Thomas continued, "that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree." As Thomas saw it, the "old order" was no longer Jim Crow. The new "old order" was progressivism.
Thomas, of course, survived the lynching, but the question remains as to whether Hill was telling the truth, at least about Clarence Thomas. Only one individual testified that Hill had complained about Thomas at the time of the alleged harassment in 1981. That was Susan Hoerchner. In her deposition for the Judiciary Committee, Hoerchner told of how she and Hill spoke regularly throughout 1981 when both lived in Washington. It was during this time that Hill confided in her that Thomas had been harassing her. In September 1981, Hoerchner left for California, and the conversations stopped. Here is how this played out in the deposition.
Q. And, in an attempt to try to pin down the date a little bit more specifically as to your first phone conversation about the sexual harassment issue in 1981, the year you mentioned, you said the first time you moved out of Washington was September of 1981; is that correct?
Q. Okay. Were you living in Washington at the time you two had this phone conversation?
Q. When she told you?
Q. So it was prior to September of 1981?
A. Oh, I see what you're saying.
Hoerchner and her attorney, future DHS honcho Janet Napolitano, promptly asked for a recess. Hoerchner had just subverted the timeline on which the case against Thomas rested. "I began working with Clarence Thomas in the early fall of 1981," Hill told the Judiciary Committee. "Early on, our working relationship was positive." By Hill's account, Thomas did not begin to pester her for roughly three months. At the earliest, that would have been December 1981, three months after Hoerchner left for California, three months after she and Hoerchner stopped talking on any kind of regular basis. Hoerchner, in fact, described her communication with Hill after September 1981 as "sporadic." In her deposition, she described only one post-Washington contact: that of meeting with Hill at a professional seminar in 1984.
After conferring with Napolitano, Hoerchner had a convenient change of memory. Now it was time for the friendly Democratic counsel to ask, "When you had the initial phone conversation with Anita Hill and she spoke for the first time about sexual harassment, do you recall where you were living – what city?" Answered Hoerchner, "I don't know for sure."
The author who first reported the Hoerchner angle was none other than professional chameleon David Brock. Once the scourge of the left, he morphed into progressive smear artist extraordinaire as impresario of Media Matters for America. Although he has tried to distance himself from his reportorial past, his work on Hoerchner's testimony holds up. He explained why in a New York Times op-ed attacking Anthony Lewis's 1993 review of his book, The Real Anita Hill.
The problem with Hoerchner, wrote Brock, went much deeper than "a harmless lapse of memory." Hoerchner, Brock explained, had been entirely clear on the regularity of her calls with Hill: when they took place, where they took place, and how they ended after Hoerchner moved. This all changed when a Senate lawyer pointed out the inconsistency in timing.
When Hoerchner came back from a hasty recess, she "was suddenly unable to recall anything about the time or place of the call. But she was now adamant that Ms. Hill had named Judge Thomas as the perpetrator, a point on which she had previously been unsure."
The inference that Brock made here and in his book was that if Hill had been harassed as she charged, the harasser was not Thomas. The giddy momentum behind the accusation took Hill to a place she did not really want to go. This happens.
The media have chosen to forget. With their help, Anita Hill has come to play the sacrificial victim role for the feminist movement in much the same way that Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin play that role for the Black Lives Matter movement. The reality is this: America's progressives have little or no regard for the truth. The case they make for Hill is as dishonest as the case they make for Martin or Brown. They owe Clarence Thomas a major apology.