The XX Factor

Why Did Ginni Thomas Call Anita Hill?

Here’s what I wonder about the startling message Ginni Thomas left Anita Hill, asking her to “consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband”: Did Thomas intend the message to become public? Given her savvy and experience, it’s hard for me to imagine that she didn’t consider the possibility. And the voice mail makes a lot more sense to me as a way to resurrect this old tale to appeal to her conservative base than as an “an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago.”

If you really wanted to reach out to an old adversary, would you leave a breezy off-hand message on her voice mail? As Hill said, starting with the assumption that she has something to apologize for is “accusatory,” not peacemaking. “Certainly no offense was ever intended,” Thomas’ publicist said. Really? Certainly it was given.

Was it in Hill’s interest to give the voice mail to the press? It makes Thomas seem presumptuous and nutty, yes. But it also dredges up the old tale of Hill’s testimony against Thomas at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, alleging that he made sexual comments to her when she worked for him, in a way that fronts the idea that she should apologize. If you’re on the Thomases’ side already, you have a fresh chance to feel angry on his behalf. If you’re paying only passing attention, and don’t remember much about Hill’s testimony, then maybe you come away with the impression that she at least may have done something wrong. This story has boomeranged against Anita Hill before. If Ginni Thomas dredged it back up to extend an olive branch, it’s one dipped in syrupy poison.

Photograph of Virginia Thomas by Jennifer Law/Getty Images and Anita Hill by Alex Wong/Newsmakers.