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'No Way To Explain' Thomas' Call, Anita Hill's Former Lawyer Says

The unlikely resurfacing of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill story has perhaps surprised no one more than the man who represented Hill back in 1991. In fact, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree says he's been "shocked" by the turn of events.

"There's no way to explain it as a thoughtful, rational step by anyone to take," says Ogletree, describing the call Virginia Thomas made to Hill seeking an apology for her husband — whose nomination to the Supreme Court was nearly destroyed by Hill's allegations of sexual harassment.

Charles Ogletree says he was "shocked" to hear Ginny Thomas contacted Anita Hill.

hide captionOct. 13, 1991: Charles Ogletree speaks to reporters in the Russell Senate Office Building, after reporting that his client, Anita Hill, passed a lie detector test about her statements that she was sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas.

John Duricka/AP

Speaking today with NPR's Michel Martin, Ogletree said that Hill called him after receiving the message from Thomas — and he advised her to call the authorities, thinking that it could only be a prank.

Ogletree also described what he's seen of Hill's life in the 19 years since she testified on Capitol Hill:

It's been a living nightmare for professor Anita Hill. She has turned her life around, written a couple of books, teaching here at Brandeis, minding her own business, and to get this sort of call out of the blue is just beyond imagination.

Here's the full audio of Ogletree discussing the episode with Martin and Slate senior legal correspondent Dalia Lithwick:

Hear Ogletree on Tell Me More

Hill released a statement about the incident Tuesday night. In it, she said, "I have no intention of apologizing because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony.''

Hill also characterized Thomas' call to her office as "inappropriate.''

In a statement of her own, Virginia Thomas said that she had not meant to give any offense. Instead, Thomas said that she was "extending an olive branch to her after all these years."

While the call from Thomas may seem to have come out of the blue, it's not the first time this debate has been rejoined.

Over at Time's site, Michael Scherer revisits how this "he said/she said" case has evolved over the years.

The most notable may have been in 2007, when Clarence Thomas published his memoir, My Grandfather's Son — and Hill denied his version of events in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.

As it happens, Virginia Thomas had been scheduled to talk with NPR's On Point program today. But she bowed out late Tuesday after the news of her phone call to Hill spread.

The Associated Press says that when reporters approached Hill on her way to work Wednesday, she had nothing to add to her statement.

"I don't have any comment right now,'' she said. "Please, let me go teach my class.''

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