Anita Hill Testimony: The Witness Not Called
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We'd like to go back now to the situation that comes closest to this in recent memory. That would be in 1991, when Anita Hill was summoned by the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about allegations of sexual harassment by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Those hearings riveted the nation.
There were other witnesses who spoke on her behalf and on behalf of Clarence Thomas, but not everybody who wanted to was called by the committee chairman, the Democratic Senator Joe Biden. One of the people who wanted to testify but was not called was Sukari Hardnett. Like Anita Hill, she'd worked for Clarence Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She wound up submitting a sworn affidavit. And Sukari Hardnett is with us now.
Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
SUKARI HARDNETT: Hello.
MARTIN: Let me just clarify that you worked at the EEOC from 1985 to 1986. You never met Anita Hill. You didn't overlap with her at the agency. What prompted you to send a letter to the committee about your experience and to offer to testify?
HARDNETT: Well, I worked in the same position that Anita Hill worked in as a special assistant to the chairman in the chairman's office. And oftentimes, I saw people come in and out of the chairman's office. So when I looked at what was happening to Anita Hill, it was unconscionable to see the way that she was being treated by the committee. And I knew that what she was saying was true because I'd observed some of those very same situations myself.
MARTIN: So let me just paraphrase from the sworn affidavit that you said. You said you were not claiming to be a victim of sexual harassment, but you wanted to testify about a sexualized atmosphere that you observed where you said that young, black women in particular were, quote, being inspected and auditioned as a female. But why did you feel that that added to the understanding of the events? Because you're saying you did not have specific knowledge of their interactions.
HARDNETT: What I wanted to do was corroborate the fact that Anita Hill, like so many other young females at the commission, would be an audition by Clarence for whatever purpose. He would call them into his office. In particular with me, Clarence expected me to be available to him every morning and for lunch, and I would run down to a friend of mine's office and hide just to avoid being in the situation with Clarence where I would have uncomfortable conversations.
MARTIN: Why do you think you weren't called to testify?
MARTIN: Did they ever say anything to you, or do you have any sense of why you were not called?
HARDNETT: I have no idea. My letter was not solicited. I met with the dean of my law school. We drafted the letter and submitted it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. There was some talk about the fact that certain people would be called to testify, and I agreed to do that. And I did it reluctantly. I didn't really want to be thrown into the public atmosphere any more than anyone else. But I felt it was necessary to say that because that position is a very important position. It's a position that affects the lives of all of us.
MARTIN: Were you glad that you spoke up when you did? Are you sorry that you spoke up when you did?
HARDNETT: Oh, no. I have no regrets about speaking up when I did. I mean, there have been repercussions in terms of my employment, in terms of law firms who wouldn't want to be associated with someone who had a history of making a statement against a Supreme Court justice by the mere fact that some of their cases could possibly go before the Supreme Court. It did have somewhat of a negative impact on my professional career, but I've always tried to live on the right side of justice. Now, I may not have always succeeded, but I've always tried. And I thought that that was really important to make the statement on behalf of Anita Hill.
MARTIN: Before we let you go, Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers say she will testify. But how do you hope the Senate Judiciary Committee will proceed?
HARDNETT: Well, Michel, as you know, I'm an attorney. And in a court of law, the way that you prove a case is you present evidence. And if you have two parties both alleging different things, you call witnesses, and you call witnesses to weigh the evidence. Professor Ford is someone who does not have any legal experience. Judge Kavanaugh has a lot of legal experience. So I think it's really necessary to have additional evidence to support the position of Kavanaugh and/or to support the position of Professor Ford.
MARTIN: That is Sukari Hardnett. She worked as a special assistant to Clarence Thomas at the EEOC from 1985 to 1986, and she was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C.
Sukari Hardnett, thanks so much for joining us.
HARDNETT: You're welcome.
MARTIN: Here, we think it's important to point out that Clarence Thomas strongly denied Anita Hill's allegations. He denounced the hearings as a, quote-unquote, "high-tech lynching." And, as you probably know, he went on to be confirmed.
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.