ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The most notorious instance of he said, she said in the history of Supreme Court confirmation hearings was back in the news this week. It was reported that Virginia Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, had recently left a voice message for Anita Hill.
Mrs. Thomas was seeking an apology from Hill for what she said about her husband in 1991. Anita Hill had worked for Clarence Thomas and said that he made sexual comments to her at work about pornographic movies, about body parts. She said he even bragged of his sexual prowess.
Thomas vehemently denied Hill's testimony. He was confirmed, but those allegations have never fully gone away. And now, 19 years later, another voice has been heard from in a Washington Post article by reporter Michael Fletcher.
Now Michael Fletcher, your article today is about Lillian McEwen. Who is she?
Mr. MICHAEL FLETCHER (Journalist, Washington Post): Lillian McEwen is a retired lawyer and administrative law judge who for years was a close friend of Clarence Thomas'. They dated in the early 1980s, the late '70s to early 1980s, and she talks about a Clarence Thomas that in some ways resembled the Clarence Thomas that Anita Hill talked about at the hearings.
SIEGEL: In what way?
Mr. FLETCHER: In terms of his interest in pornography, interest in sex and kind of a, you know, free-wheeling sex life and that sort of thing, and also talking a lot about the women at work and kind of assessing them through that kind of sexual filter.
SIEGEL: Assessing the women at his office sexually to his friend, sometime girlfriend?
Mr. FLETCHER: Exactly right.
SIEGEL: This is an account of Clarence which, if it had been heard at his confirmation hearings, would have substantiated some of what Anita Hill was saying. Why didn't Lillian McEwen testify?
Mr. FLETCHER: Well, Lillian McEwen was never asked to testify, first of all. And secondly, you have to remember the spectacle that these hearings were.
You know, the all-white, all-male Judiciary Committee was embarrassed by this whole situation. And the then-chairman Joe Biden, now the vice president, he limited testimony to women who worked with Clarence Thomas, who for years had been head of the EEOC and before that had worked in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Education.
SIEGEL: Well, why, 19 years after the confirmation of Justice Thomas, why has she now decided to talk about this?
Mr. FLETCHER: Yeah. That is so interesting, Robert. I wrote a book about Justice Thomas, along with a colleague here at The Post. And at the time, we knew that Lillian McEwen had dated him for a long time.
We pursued her for an interview and wanted to talk to her, and other biographers had done the same. And she refused to talk. She would never respond to messages.
Then one day I met her actually after giving a book talk, and I had lunch with her maybe twice. And we talked off the record some about what she's been doing and a little bit and she talked kind of elliptically about her relationship with now-Justice Thomas.
But she didn't really want to put any of this on the record. And secondly, there was no reason to because there would be no peg. But she was so, I guess, stunned by the news of the voicemail that Ginny Thomas left at Anita Hill's office at Brandeis University that she then decided to talk.
She felt that for too long, in her view, Clarence Thomas had sort of painted himself as a victim in this. And she wanted to give a fuller description of the Clarence Thomas she knew.
SIEGEL: Did you try to run this past Justice Thomas to see what he would say?
Mr. FLETCHER: Yeah, I did. I called the court, and Justice Thomas was away and unavailable for comment.
SIEGEL: Well, Michael Fletcher, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. FLETCHER: My pleasure.
SIEGEL: That's reporter Michael Fletcher of The Washington Post.
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