The Slatest

Lawyer Alleges Clarence Thomas Groped Her in 1999

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

On Oct. 7, the night an audio tape emerged of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, a lawyer named Moira Smith described her own alleged experience of unwanted sexual contact: In 1999, she wrote on Facebook, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas groped her twice at a dinner party.

“At the age of 24, I found out I’d be attending a dinner at my boss’s house” with Thomas, Smith wrote. At the time, she was living in Washington, D.C., as a Truman scholar. “I was so incredibly excited to meet him, rough confirmation hearings notwithstanding. He was charming in many ways—giant, booming laugh, charismatic, approachable.” Smith continued:

To my complete shock, he groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit “right next to him.” When I feebly explained that I’d been assigned to the other table, he groped again … “are you *sure*??” I said I was and proceeded to keep my distance.

Smith noted that she had been raped three years prior and groped by an acquaintance a few years later. “I do not take the decision to share these incredibly personal and painful moments lightly,” Smith explained:

I also do not share this because of the election, or even really because of Donald Trump. I share this because if this can happen to me—a privileged white woman—three times in ten years, how bad must it be for those who are not as privileged?

Enough is enough.

In interviews with Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal, Smith’s three roommates at the time confirmed that she described the incident to them shortly afterward, as did a fellow Truman scholar (who is also Smith’s ex-husband). As one former roommates told Coyle:

I remember her telling us almost immediately. We sat there stunned. We were children of the ’90s, and came of age the time of Anita Hill. We were appalled. What I remember her saying is he groped her, grabbed her rear. She had planned that dinner for the Trumans so this was a big deal; she put a lot of work on it. She had to be a professional, so she was worried about saving face and getting through the evening.

Thomas responded to Smith’s claim through the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman in a statement to the National Law Journal. “This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” he said.

During Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings, Anita Hill alleged that Thomas had sexually harassed her when the two worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Two women were prepared to corroborate Hill’s claims, but the Senate Judiciary Committee dismissed them without testifying. One of Thomas’ former assistants, Sukari Hardnett, told the Judiciary Committee staff that “if you were young, black, female, reasonably attractive and worked directly for Clarence Thomas, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female.”