ABC's Greenburg cast Anita Hill's allegations as charge that Thomas simply "pressured her to date him"

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

In a report on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg stated simply that Anita Hill "told the FBI that, 10 years before, Thomas pressured her to date him." However, Hill has said she told the FBI agents who interviewed her "about Thomas' descriptions of pornography, the pressure for dates, [and] the discussions of his sexual activities."

On the October 1 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America, while discussing the 1991 sexual harassment accusations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, ABC News legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg stated simply that Anita Hill, who was a law professor at the University of Oklahoma at the time, had "told the FBI that, 10 years before," while working for Thomas in the federal government, he "pressured her to date him." However, in her book, Speaking Truth to Power (Doubleday, September 1997), Hill wrote that she told the two FBI agents who interviewed her, John B. Luton and Jolene Smith Jameson, "about Thomas' descriptions of pornography, the pressure for dates, [and] the discussions of his sexual activities." Further, according to an October 7, 1991, New York Times article, "[c]ongressional officials" said that "in an affidavit submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee," "Professor Hill said that typically after a brief discussion of work, Judge Thomas would turn the conversations to discussions about his sexual interests. She described his remarks as vivid as he discussed sexual acts he had seen in pornographic films."

In her opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, on October 11, 1991, Hill testified that after she turned down Thomas' "invitation to go out socially with him," he "continued to ask me out on several occasions" and "pressed me to justify my reasons for saying no to him." She asserted that Thomas also "began to use work situations to discuss sex" and that these "conversations were very vivid." She claimed that "on several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess."

When Greenburg's report ended, host Diane Sawyer stated: "[W]e tried to contact Anita Hill. She is a professor at Brandeis, and we had no comment from her."

From the October 1 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America:

SAWYER: First, we are going to turn, as we said, to the Supreme Court, back at work this morning, kicking off its new term, and a rare interview with arguably the man who has been most talked about on that court, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He has written a personal memoir, My Grandfather's Son , in which he tells his side of the story about his bitter confirmation battle 16 years ago, the one everyone stopped to watch, and ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg, who covers the Supreme Court for ABC, sat down with Justice Thomas and his wife, Virginia.

[begin video clip]

GREENBURG: It was 1991 and the nation was riveted by the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Accused of sexual harassment by a former co-worker, Thomas was defiant.

THOMAS: It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.

GREENBURG: Thomas says he faced more racism during the confirmation fight than he did as a child in the segregated South.

THOMAS: Because so much of that in the '60s was ignorance, this is intentional, and this is by very well-heeled and well-positioned people.

GREENBURG: Thomas' wife, Virginia, known as Ginny, sat behind him while senators grilled him on his conservative views. Then came the co-worker, Anita Hill. She told the FBI that, 10 years before, Thomas pressured her to date him.

When you first learned of Anita Hill's allegations, you immediately called your wife. What did you say?

THOMAS: I told her that there was what the FBI agents had come out to say -- who she was and that I had tried to help her and given her a job when she was asked to leave her law firm. And that's all there was to it. And of course, the FBI agents, by that afternoon, had pretty much affirmed what I had said.

From Speaking Truth to Power (Pages 117-118):

FBI Agents John B. Luton and Jolene Smith Jameson arrived at my home at 6:30 in the evening. Naively, I had not asked anyone to be there with me, and later I regretted it. I apologized for the disarray in my living room as I showed them in. The work that had begun in the summer was still progressing, although I was now able to use my living room furniture, albeit crammed into a small space in the front of the room. I did not take notes, and neither they nor I recorded the conversation.

Under what was described to me as standard procedure, Agent Luton asked most of the questions, and Agent Jameson took notes. Luton explained that the notes would be used to file their final report. Neither of them said anything about their experience in investigating this type of complaint. I offered the agents a copy of my statement to accompany their report, but they informed me that they already had a copy. I told them about Thomas' descriptions of pornography, the pressure for dates, the discussions of his sexual activities.

After I answered specific questions about Thomas' behavior, Agent Luton asked if there were other details that I would feel comfortable relating to them. I declined to add anything further. He suggested that I might feel more comfortable giving details to Agent Jameson alone. I again declined to add to the information I had provided. I thought that what I had said was more than enough to convey the nature of what had happened. I still did not trust their role in the process. Moreover, their inquiry was not a demanding or probing one. It was professional but relaxed.

I did add the comment Thomas made on the evening of my "exit interview" over dinner: that if anyone ever learned about his behavior toward me, it would ruin his career. I had mentioned the comment in my statement and when I spoke with [James] Brudney [chief counsel to Sen. Howard Metzenbaum's (D-OH) Labor Subcommittee at the time], but it had not come up during the FBI questioning. I remember precisely what I said to the agents because I could not forget Thomas' own words. Nor could I forget that the tone of his words had been neither apologetic nor remorseful. The only regret he expressed was that his behavior might appear improper to others. Thomas made it clear that he expected me to keep my mouth shut. Agent Luton would remember the comment differently -- he claimed I said Thomas had threatened to ruin my career -- and it would be reported diffirently. In statements circulated to the press by Republican senators, the FBI would allege a "discrepancy" between my testimony about Thomas' remarks at the hearing and what I told their agents.

From Hill's opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 11, 1991:

HILL: In 1981, I was introduced to now Judge Thomas by a mutual friend. Judge Thomas told me that he was anticipating a political appointment, and he asked if I would be interested in working with him. He was, in fact, appointed as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. After he had taken that post, he asked if I would become his assistant, and I accepted that position.

In my early period there, I had two major projects. The first was an article I wrote for Judge Thomas' signature on the education of minority students. The second was the organization of a seminar on high-risk students which was abandoned because Judge Thomas transferred to the EEOC where he became the chairman of that office.

During this period at the Department of Education, my working relationship with Judge Thomas was positive. I had a good deal of responsibility and independence. I thought he respected my work and that he trusted my judgment. After approximately three months of working there, he asked me to go out socially with him.

What happened next and telling the world about it are the two most difficult things -- experiences of my life. It is only after a great deal of agonizing consideration and sleepless number -- a great number of sleepless nights that I am able to talk of these unpleasant matters to anyone but my close friends.

I declined the invitation to go out socially with him and explained to him that I thought it would jeopardize what at the time I considered to be a very good working relationship. I had a normal social life with other men outside of the office. I believed then, as now, that having a social relationship with a person who was supervising my work would be ill-advised. I was very uncomfortable with the idea and told him so.

I thought that by saying no and explaining my reasons my employer would abandon his social suggestions. However, to my regret, in the following few weeks, he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He pressed me to justify my reasons for saying no to him. These incidents took place in his office or mine. They were in the form of private conversations which would not have been overheard by anyone else.

My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions, he would call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects, or he might suggest that, because of the time pressures of his schedule, we go to lunch to a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters.

His conversations were very vivid. He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts. On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess.

Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects. I would also try to change the subject to education matters or to nonsexual personal matters such as his background or his beliefs. My efforts to change the subject were rarely successful.

Throughout the period of these conversations, he also from time to time asked me for social engagements. My reaction to these conversations was to avoid them by eliminating opportunities for us to engage in extended conversations. This was difficult because at the time I was his only assistant at the Office of Education -- or Office for Civil Rights.

During the latter part of my time at the Department of Education, the social pressures and any conversation of his offensive behavior ended. I began both to believe and hope that our working relationship could be a proper, cordial, and professional one.

When Judge Thomas was made chair of the EEOC, I needed to face the question of whether to go with him. I was asked to do so, and I did. The work itself was interesting, and at that time it appeared that the sexual overtures which had so troubled me had ended. I also faced the realistic fact that I had no alternative job. While I might have gone back to private practice, perhaps in my old firm or at another, I was dedicated to civil rights work, and my first choice was to be in that field. Moreover, the Department of Education itself was a dubious venture. President Reagan was seeking to abolish the entire department.

For my first months at the EEOC, where I continued to be an assistant to Judge Thomas, there were no sexual conversations or overtures. However, during the fall and winter of 1982, these began again. The comments were random and ranged from pressing me about why I didn't go out with him to remarks about my personal appearance. I remember his saying that some day I would have to tell him the real reason that I wouldn't go out with him.

He began to show displeasure in his tone and voice and his demeanor and his continued pressure for an explanation. He commented on what I was wearing in terms of whether it made me more or less sexually attractive. The incidents occurred in his inner office at the EEOC.

One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office. He got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, "Who has pubic hair on my Coke?" On other occasions, he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal, and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex.

At this point, late 1982, I began to feel severe stress on the job. I began to be concerned that Clarence Thomas might take out his anger with me by degrading me or not giving me important assignments. I also thought that he might find an excuse for dismissing me.

In January of 1983, I began looking for another job. I was handicapped because I feared that, if he found out, he might make it difficult for me to find other employment and I might be dismissed from the job I had. Another factor that made my search more difficult was that there was a period -- this was during a period of a hiring freeze in the government. In February of 1983, I was hospitalized for five days on an emergency basis for acute stomach pain which I attributed to stress on the job.

Once out of the hospital, I became more committed to find other employment and sought further to minimize my contact with Thomas. This became easier when Allison Duncan (sp) became office director, because most of my work was then funneled through her and I had contact with Clarence Thomas mostly in staff meetings.

In the spring of 1983, an opportunity to teach at Oral Roberts University opened up. I participated in a seminar -- taught an afternoon session and seminar at Oral Roberts University. The dean of the university saw me teaching and inquired as to whether I would be interested in furthering -- pursuing a career in teaching, beginning at Oral Roberts University. I agreed to take the job in large part because of my desire to escape the pressures I felt at the EEOC due to Judge Thomas.

When I informed him that I was leaving in July, I recall that his response was that now I would no longer have an excuse for not going out with him. I told him that I still preferred not to do so. At some time after that meeting, he asked if he could take me to dinner at the end of the term. When I declined, he assured me that the dinner was a professional courtesy only and not a social invitation. I reluctantly agreed to accept that invitation, but only if it was at the every end of a working day.

On, as I recall, the last day of my employment at the EEOC in the summer of 1983, I did have dinner with Clarence Thomas. We went directly from work to a restaurant near the office. We talked about the work I had done, both at education and at the EEOC. He told me that he was pleased with all of it except for an article and speech that I had done for him while we were at the Office for Civil Rights. Finally, he made a comment that I will vividly remember. He said that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career. This was not an apology, nor was it an explanation. That was his last remark about the possibility of our going out or reference to his behavior.

In July of 1983, I left Washington, DC area and have had minimal contact with Judge Clarence Thomas since. I am of course aware from the press that some questions have been raised about conversations I had with Judge Clarence Thomas after I left the EEOC. From 1983 until today, I have seen Judge Thomas only twice. On one occasion, I needed to get a reference from him, and on another he made a public appearance in Tulsa.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Gender, Government, The Judiciary
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Jan Crawford Greenburg
Show/Publication
Good Morning America
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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