The XX Factor

Why Did Ginni Thomas Wait 19 Years?

Emily , I agree there’s something fishy about Ginni Thomas calling Anita Hill at 7:30 in the morning to demand that Hill apologize for testifying in 1991 about her experiences working with Thomas, when she alleges he sexually harassed her.  As far as I can tell, most people outside of conservative circles tend to fall on Hill’s side of the story, if only because she had no real reason to lie and lots of credibility.  In an environment like this, you’d think Thomas would just let it go, figuring it’s a win at the end of the day when you get to be one of the most powerful men in the country.  Also, you’d think if you were eager to disprove allegations that you’re a bully, then it’s not really wise if your wife continues the harassment 19 years after the accusations were made.

On one hand, it’s not exactly news to anyone who follows politics closely that Clarence Thomas is a particular brand of conservative, made in the Richard Nixon mold: a fumer who collects lists of enemies to review every time he wishes to get a shot to the arm of his own victimization. Not surprising that he married a fumer, too.  The evidence, according to the New York Times , indicates a strong unwillingness of either member of the Thomas marriage to let this one go:

In her 1998 book “Speaking Truth to Power,” Ms. Hill noted that she had been accused of harboring a romantic interest in Justice Thomas by his wife. “Virginia Thomas and I have never met,” Ms. Hill wrote. “And one can imagine that she is guided by her own romantic interest in her husband when she assumes that other women find him attractive as well.”

Justice Thomas weighed in with his own autobiography in 2007, “My Grandfather’s Son, ” referring to Ms. Hill as “my most traitorous adversary” and asserting that liberal advocacy groups stooped to “the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct” to block his ascent because of his conservative views.

I particularly like the term “traitorous,” which implies that Hill had an obligation to keep her trap shut out of loyalty.  Finding out if Thomas actually bothers to make a case for why Hill owes him this is enough to make me almost want to read his memoir/enemies list.

On the other hand, it’s possible that there’s more going on than Real Housewives- levels of grudge-holding by the Thomases.  Nancy Goldstein , in today’s entry for America’s Next Great Pundit Contest, suggested that this might be an example of a classic PR diversion tactic, what Don Draper would call “changing the conversation.”  Sometimes in PR, it’s better to get people talking about how stupid your client is rather than how dangerous.  As Nancy notes, the very morning of the voice mail, the New York Times published an article about the potential conflicts between Virginia Thomas’ Tea Party antics and Clarence Thomas’ work on the bench.  Is it possible that the Thomases had advisers who suggested it’s better they be in the news as a laughingstock than be in the news because of allegations that Thomas can’t be an impartial judge? It’s hard to imagine that in the furor over the New York Times story, they’d even have time to spend fuming over Hill’s allegations.

If so, as Nancy suggests, they misjudged (again) Anita Hill’s character.  She didn’t actually run to the press and wash out the original story, but instead worked through her options slowly, taking a full 10 days to actually get the story out into the media.  Perhaps the Thomases should find another punching bag, someone a little more hot-headed and easier to manipulate.