Bench Memos

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She Omits, You Decide


In today’s Washington Post, Ruth Marcus, who covered the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas for the Post sixteen years ago, declares that she was more inclined to believe Anita Hill than Thomas then, and that she believes Hill even more now.  She goes on to give “some of the evidence Thomas omits” from his memoir, My Grandfather’s Son

Thomas was under no obligation to tell Anita Hill’s side of the story in his memoir, but journalistic ethics would seem to require some balance on Ms. Marcus’s part, even in an opinion column.  She accuses Thomas of omitting the claims of witnesses at the time on Hill’s side of the dispute.  But Marcus leaves out entirely the fact that in 1991, the only witnesses to testify who had personal knowledge of both Thomas and Hill, and their interaction in the workplace at the relevant times, came down unequivocally on Thomas’s side.  I don’t claim any particular historical expertise here, but to my knowledge no one has ever rebutted the testimony of these contemporaneous witnesses to the Thomas-Hill workplace relationship, all of whom testified in October 1991:

  • J.C. Alvarez, a woman who worked as Thomas’s special assistant at EEOC for four years, who said that “[t]he Anita Hill I knew before was nobody’s victim,” and who went on to say that Thomas “demanded professionalism and performance,” and would not tolerate “the slightest hint of impropriety, and everyone knew it.”
  • Nancy E. Fitch, a special assistant historian to Thomas at EEOC, who said “[t]here is no way” Thomas did what Hill alleged.  “I know he did no such thing,” she declared under oath.
  • Diane Holt, Thomas’s personal secretary for six years, who often ate lunch with Anita Hill, and who swore that “[a]t no time did Professor Hill intimate, even in the most subtle of ways,” that Thomas did or said anything untoward.  “Nor did I ever discern any discomfort, when Professor Hill was in Judge Thomas’ presence.”
  • Phyllis Berry-Myers, another special assistant to Thomas, who said he “was respectful, demand[ing] of excellence in our work, cordial, professional, interested in our lives and our career ambitions.”

All of these witnesses, when asked directly by senators while under oath whether it was even possible to believe Hill’s charges against Thomas, said with one accord that it was “impossible to believe” what she alleged.  They worked with both Thomas and Hill, in constant contact with both of them, and denied utterly that Thomas ever acted improperly.

No one on Anita Hill’s side has ever produced testimony this direct, relevant, unequivocal, and probative, from persons in a position actually to know what transpired between them in the workplace.  (If you want to read their testimony for yourself, go to this page at the Law Library of Congress, download Part 4 of the Thomas hearing transcripts, and start at page 337.)

But Ruth Marcus has evidently forgotten the names of Alvarez, Fitch, Holt, and Berry-Myers.  Shame on her.


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