Politics & Policy

The Latest Shameful Accusation Against Justice Thomas

Thomas with fellow justices at the presidential inauguration ceremony, January 21, 2013. (Reuters photo: Kevin Lamarque)
A liberal Democrat has accused Thomas of groping her at a dinner party in the ’90s. The story is in no way credible.

On Thursday, National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle reported that Alaska lawyer Moira Smith recently claimed on Facebook that nearly 20 years ago, in 1999, Justice Clarence Thomas touched her buttocks at a dinner party. To say that Smith’s account raises questions about its accuracy is an understatement; the story was obviously fabricated.

Smith has produced no witnesses for the alleged incident, so Coyle ran with Smith’s version. As Smith tells it, she was helping to set the table at the small dinner party, hosted by the head of a legal scholarship program to which she belonged, and ended up standing next to Justice Thomas, who was mysteriously seated alone at the table before dinner while the other guests mingled elsewhere. At that point, Smith alleges, Justice Thomas squeezed her buttocks several times and suggested she sit next to him. 

Since Smith had no witnesses, she helped Coyle track down several of her roommates from that period whom she claims to have told about the incident shortly after it happened. Those roommates have varying levels of recollection that seem to correlate pretty strongly with their level of involvement with liberal political causes.

Laura Fink, the most outspoken of the roommates, is the liberal co-founder of a California political-consulting firm connected to the Clintons and the SEIU. A second housemate remembers a discussion but has a “fuzzy” memory of the details, and a third had nothing but vague memories and wouldn’t let Coyle publish his or her name. The only other source to go on the record was Smith’s ex-husband, Paul Bodnar, a former senior director for energy and climate change in the Obama administration’s National Security Council.

Smith herself has been closely associated with partisan causes for more than two decades, including working for a Democratic state legislator, giving money to Senator Mark Begich (D., Alaska), and serving as national committeewoman for the Young Democrats of Alaska. Smith’s current husband, Jake Metcalfe, was chairman of the Alaska Democratic Party until he stepped down to run for Congress. He withdrew from that race during the primary after his campaign was revealed to be responsible for several fake websites attacking one of his rivals. Metcalfe has worked for unions, too, including the Alaska affiliate of the public-sector employee union AFSCME.

RELATED: Justice Thomas Speaks

Apart from the fact that Coyle’s sources are all liberal partisans, there are big holes in the story itself. For one thing, it’s very unlikely that a Supreme Court justice could have been alone with Smith at a small private dinner party in the first place. Anyone who has spent any time around Supreme Court justices in the Washington, D.C., area is familiar with the sort of attention that other guests give to them. 

Consistent with that idea, the host of the dinner party that night and the director of Smith’s program, Louis Blair, told Coyle that he was “skeptical that the justice and Moira would have been alone.” He also noted that Smith never reported the incident to him, even though other students in the program reported inappropriate comments by guests on other occasions. Even if there had been some brief moment in which Justice Thomas would have been alone with Smith, why would he have been seated at the dinner table all by himself? And why would she have then posed for a picture with the justice afterward? The story simply doesn’t add up.

Smith’s allegations are utterly inconsistent with the honest, respectful, and trustworthy man that I know.

I’ve known Justice Thomas for nearly ten years now, having worked closely with him on a daily basis during the year I clerked for him. We have stayed in touch since my clerkship, and I still consider him the best boss I’ve ever had. But he is also one of the people I most admire, not just for his adherence to his legal principles but because in his personal life he is unfailingly kind, generous, humble, and loyal.  

To cite only one example, when I interviewed for my clerkship I was newly pregnant with my first child. The Justice gave me the option to defer my start date for a year, affording me time at home with my daughter while she was still a baby before jumping into my very full-time job at the Court. I don’t know of any of the other justices who would have come up with a plan that was simultaneously so supportive of their female clerks’ motherhood and careers. In typical fashion, Thomas was criticized that year for having ended up with four male clerks. Ironically, it was his pro-woman policy that meant I wasn’t in his chambers that term. It is all too easy for people to jump to conclusions that support their own prejudices. 

RELATED: Celebrating Justice Thomas’s 25 Years on the Supreme Court

Smith’s allegations are utterly inconsistent with the honest, respectful, and trustworthy man that I know. I am certain that all of the other women who have clerked for him would say the same. 

The Left has a long track record of trying to destroy Justice Thomas with lies and fabrications, and these allegations are only their latest attempt. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Carrie Severino — Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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