Supreme Court: Echoes of Anita Hill
“It feels like 1991 all over again,” said Anna North in Vox.com. Nearly three decades after Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill stepped forward to accuse Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, another Supreme Court nominee is facing allegations from women that could keep him off the bench. Much like Brett Kavanaugh, Thomas appeared to be a lock for confirmation until a leaked FBI report revealed that Hill had alleged Thomas made unwanted advances while she was working for him. Hearings were reopened, and Hill testified that Thomas frequently subjected her to comments about his sexual prowess and pornography habits, at one point asking her who’d put pubic hair on a can of Coca-Cola. Thomas adamantly denied the allegations, calling the hearings a “high-tech lynching.” The details of the Thomas and Kavanaugh cases may be different, “but the basic outline is eerily similar.”
“We haven’t forgotten our history,” said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, “but we still seem doomed to repeat it.” Women still have to defensively explain why they do not always report sexual harassment and assaults, while watching an “all-white-male chorus” of Republican senators—two of whom tormented Hill 27 years ago—suggest that Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford is a “loony fantasist.” Sadly, the Senate “still lacks proper procedures to deal with accusations against a nominee,” said Moira Donegan in NewYorker.com. Democrat Joe Biden infamously refused to call multiple witnesses who would have corroborated Hill’s testimony. This time, Republicans are rushing Kavanaugh’s confirmation through without an FBI investigation of several allegations.
Liberals have forgotten one important thing, said John Fund in NationalReview.com. The American people believed Thomas by a 2-to-1 margin. That’s because they saw the Hill fiasco for what it was: a desperate attempt by liberals to sink a conservative Supreme Court appointee “at the eleventh hour.” Times, however, have changed, said Janie Velencia in FiveThirtyEight.com. The Thomas hearings triggered a national awakening about sexual harassment, as women told their stories. Just one year after Thomas’ confirmation, Americans had come to believe Hill by a margin of 43 percent to 39 percent. Today, almost three-quarters of Americans see sexual harassment in the workplace as a serious issue. If the #MeToo era had begun in 1991, “it’s difficult to imagine the Thomas confirmation hearings playing out the same way.” ■