Thomas Accuser Angela Wright Sticks to Claims - Part II
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
In a few minutes, we hear from a former queen of the hip-hop videos and the Mocha Moms.
But first, we're going to go back to our conversation with a former employee of the EEOC. She worked for Clarence Thomas. Her name is Angela Wright. She was interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee but she was never called to testify during the Thomas confirmation hearings.
Angela Wright, at the time we took our break, you were telling us that - you were describing that, at the time, you were fired by Clarence Thomas, he told you that he just thought you were ineffective in your position, if you just finish the thought you were had - you were making.
Ms. ANGELA WRIGHT (Former Director, Public Affairs, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission): Yeah. It was just really a point to demonstrate a certain level of character when I said to him I thought that he could have given me the opportunity to move because it was clear to me that it was a political move, he said. I said I was your friend, I was loyal, I try to support you, and he just said to me I don't care anything about friends or loyalty. From that point, I said, okay, fine.
MARTIN: But did you consider yourself friends?
Ms. WRIGHT: I considered at myself a supporter of his. I - there were times, yeah, when we talked as friends when - I guess, friends in that do we hang out together. We had organized together along with several other black Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association, so…
MARTIN: You were a Republican then?
Ms. WRIGHT: It wasn't like I knew him. I was a Republican then so.
MARTIN: You were Republican then. Mm-hmm.
Ms. WRIGHT: And there was just, you know, there was a small group of us so, yeah, I guess we all at some point that say we were friends.
MARTIN: Now Justice Thomas suggests then and now that there was a conspiracy to derail his nomination, that there were people who just did not like his politics and he suggests then and now that Anita Hill was part of that conspiracy. You weren't named in the book. You aren't mentioned in his memoir at all. But do you give any credence to that perspective?
Ms. WRIGHT: Not at all. I think that if there was a conspiracy, the conspiracy was on the opposite side. There was a conspiracy to make sure he got to the Supreme Court at all costs. I think that Anita Hill, that clearly, in the beginning she didn't even give her a name. I think that Anita Hill simply wanted to provide the FBI and the Senate Judiciary Committee with information that they should - she thought they should consider before deciding whether this was the man they wanted to put on the Supreme Court.
And if you read the book, "Strange Justice," you know, it talks about this major political machine that the White House put in place. I think it's important for people to understand that this is really was not Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas. It was Anita Hill versus the White House, Bush White House political machine of which many, if not all, of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were a part of. And it was Angela Wright, you know, just trying to go up against that machine also.
MARTIN: What was that like for you when your - you became a public - your name became public that you were called for session? What was that like?
Ms. WRIGHT: Oh, it was - really, it was terrifying, but, you know, all of a sudden, I have people quote it like, Senator Orrin Hatch, who'd never meet me, saying things like he was going to hand me my A-S-S on a silver platter. There were people who were, you know, calling my home. When I got on the plane, there was this man following me on the plane and being rather confrontational…
MARTIN: What do you mean confrontational? Saying things to you? Like challenging you, or…
Ms. WRIGHT: Well, when I got on the plane, this one man, you know, because it was big news, several people knew who I was when I got to the airport. This one man had just walked - I took a seat, I was in coat. He just walked up to my row and just stood there and stared at me and glaring at me, you know, it made me very uncomfortably, he wouldn't move. And the flight attendant, one of the flight attendants, recognized it and she came up. She asked him to take his seat and she moved me to first class. It was in a very awkward - because, you know, I was also a member of a newspaper. I was in the business and so, by virtue of becoming part of the story, my newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, by extension became part of the story. Yet here I was and, you know, being ferreted away from the — what is now the Reagan National Airport in a car, running from the media. And then getting to the office of my attorneys and sort of - it was like being held prisoner while people flogged me and not being able to defend myself because…
MARTIN: I wanted to ask you, we only have about a minute and a half left, I know that you read the memoir. You read it after we contacted you, and I mentioned you aren't in the book, I don't know how you feel about that. But I just wondered if you had any reaction to Clarence Thomas's memoirs. Is there anything that you learned from the book that changed, perhaps, the way you view him or what happened between you?
Ms. WRIGHT: Well, no. I always knew him to be a mean spirited, nasty, you know, fairly unstable person. It was enlightening to read his account of his childhood because that did put it in perspective. I actually, my heart went out to the young child Clarence, once I understood, you know, he was a child, you know, whose father was absent and whose mother sent him away. He was raised by an unemotional grandfather. I finally understood where all his anger and mean spiritedness came from. I knew it was there. And also, his self-loathing and his hatred for anything black or civil rights-oriented or affirmative action.
MARTIN: By wait, wait a minute, I'm sorry, Angela. This was some fairly strong words that you're using so I do have to ask, what is the basis for your saying that you feel that there is self-loathing there? And I know we don't have - we only have a couple of minutes left but…
Ms. WRIGHT: Oh, for doing it - I know. Well, I mean, as his director of public affairs, I sat in his staff meetings while he made jokes about pickaninny dolls, and he did it for the entertainment of white people. And he teased some other white staffer who was having some trouble getting a loan or something, saying, you're just not black enough. You need to get black. Wear a Dashiki and pump your fist and then you can get all the money you want. So it was that kind of thing. He always took a special effort to denigrate anything about black people, about civil rights, affirmative - and that to me is self-loathing.
MARTIN: So finally, Angela, I know this, I feel I need to emphasize for the sake of - and we only have time for yes or no answer. Do you stand by the testimony that you gave or rather the interview that you gave 16 years ago to the Senate Judiciary Committee saying that Thomas made these inappropriate comments to you? Do you stand by those comments?
Ms. WRIGHT: Absolutely.
MARTIN: All right. Thank you so much. Angela Wright is the former director of public affairs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
Ms. WRIGHT: Thank you for having me.
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