'New York Magazine': Do You Believe Anita Hill Now? Steve Inskeep talks to Jill Abramson, who writes in New York Magazine about the long-standing sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

'New York Magazine': Do You Believe Anita Hill Now?

'New York Magazine': Do You Believe Anita Hill Now?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/587195863/587195864" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Steve Inskeep talks to Jill Abramson, who writes in New York Magazine about the long-standing sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.


A writer who's closely followed the career of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas favors a second look at the allegations against him. Back in 1991, his former colleague Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, a story broken by our own Nina Totenberg. In dramatic confirmation hearings, Thomas denied all the charges and was confirmed. Journalist Jill Abramson covered that story then and has now revisited the allegations in New York magazine. She lays out the case for Thomas' impeachment. Abramson yesterday told us that Anita Hill was not the only woman who wanted to speak against Clarence Thomas.

JILL ABRAMSON: She was not alone. And the great victory that the Republican senators scored during the hearings was to keep other women who could've corroborated Anita Hill's testimony as far away from the microphones as they could.

INSKEEP: Did Thomas' behavior, so far as you know, continue after he became a Supreme Court justice?

ABRAMSON: Well, I had not heard that it had continued, but right before the election in October of 2016, a lawyer in Alaska named Moira Smith posted on Facebook. This was after the notorious "Access Hollywood" grab-'em-by-the-you-know-what tape came out. She went on Facebook to say that in 1999 when she was a young lawyer, she'd been at a dinner in Washington where Justice Thomas was the guest of honor and that while was she was setting the table for this dinner, Justice Thomas comes early. She can hear his booming laughter. He comes into the room, and to her astonishment, he grabs her by the behind.

INSKEEP: You're saying they just met, and this is the first thing that happened.

ABRAMSON: I mean, they had barely been introduced, and he is touching her on the rear end. And he says to her, and where are you sitting? And kind of stunned, she points to where she's sitting. And the justice, he lets go for a second but then grabs again, and she stammers. He says, are you sure you don't want to sit by me? And she just blurts out, no, no, my boss is particular about the seating, and I'm going to stay where I am. That very night, she told her roommates and her boyfriend at the time, who she later married, but she remained silent publicly. Then, when the Donald Trump notorious "Access Hollywood" tape came out, she could hold her silence no more.

INSKEEP: What, if anything, did Justice Thomas say when these allegations became public?

ABRAMSON: He denied that.

INSKEEP: In any detail or simply saying nothing ever happened?

ABRAMSON: No. Through the Supreme Court spokesman, he issued a categorical denial, which basically was what he did during the original Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.

INSKEEP: You write that this may be, in your view, an impeachable offense. What would make these events impeachable offenses?

ABRAMSON: Well, perjury is an impeachable offense, and there's no statute of limitations. And so I think that the evidence that I collected and present in this piece shows overwhelmingly that Clarence Thomas lied during the hearings in 1991.

INSKEEP: And you think you can prove that he was lying because you believe you could present more than Anita Hill. You could present multiple women.

ABRAMSON: Yes, other women.

INSKEEP: ...Who had similar experiences.

ABRAMSON: ...And corroborators for those women.

INSKEEP: Can you imagine that impeachment ever happening? He would have to be impeached by the House of Representatives and put on trial before the Senate.

ABRAMSON: No. I don't think, given political realities now, certainly, that impeachment is plausible. Even if the House turned Democratic in the 2018 elections and the House decided to take an impeachment vote, which I think is unlikely, a Republican Senate would never vote to convict Justice Thomas.

INSKEEP: How does the story that you try to tell of Justice Thomas fit in with Me Too moment?

ABRAMSON: Because it shows the historical pattern of how difficult it is for women who bring sexual harassment and sexual abuse charges into the public sphere to be believed and that it's still very hard.

INSKEEP: Jill Abramson, thanks very much.

ABRAMSON: Thanks so much for your interest, Steve.

INSKEEP: She revisited the story of Clarence Thomas in light of the Me Too movement for New York magazine in a story called "Do You Believe Her Now?"

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.