The Hill-Thomas Mystery

The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story

by David Brock
Free Press, 438 pp., $24.95

Anita Hill
Anita Hill; drawing by David Levine

Recall the scene before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 1991, when a nationwide television audience heard two irreconcilable accounts describing what happened between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. Hill testified that Thomas had made sexual overtures to her and had talked of pornography when she worked for him a decade earlier, first at the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education and later at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of which he was the director. He had spoken to her, she said, of sex scenes from pornographic films—“sex with animals,” “group sex,” “individuals with large penises,” including “Long Dong Silver,” and “individuals with…large breasts.” She testified that he had once asked, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” And she testified that he had told her “graphically of his own sexual prowess,” “referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal,” and spoken “of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex.”

Thomas “unequivocally, categorically” denied that he ever “had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill,” or ever “had a personal sexual interest in her.” “This is a person I have helped at every turn in the road since we met,” he testified, and their relationship had been strictly cordial, civil, and professional. When asked where her allegations might have come from, he said he had “been racking my brains” and “eating my insides out” trying to imagine but had no clue. Airing such unfathomable charges before television cameras, he said, was a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.”

At the time of the hearings, most of those polled—men and women, black and white—said they believed Thomas and not Hill. Thomas was narrowly confirmed by the Senate and now sits on the Supreme Court for life. But within a year the polls shifted: more people said they believed Hill than Thomas. Hill’s supporters at the time of the hearings had asked rhetorically what motive a former Reagan administration lawyer, from a rural, conservative Baptist background, could possibly have had to come forward under oath before a national television audience and lie. The shift in the polls suggested that most people thought she did not lie after all. This April David Brock published his book claiming that she did lie, and it soon became a national best seller.

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In writing The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story, Brock sifted through the public record of the hearings and of the subsequent Senate investigation of who leaked the Hill story to the press. He also interviewed various witnesses and other sources himself (pro-Thomas witnesses cooperated, pro-Hill witnesses generally did not). He concludes that Anita Hill did not tell the truth. He argues in laborious detail that her case had gaps and inconsistencies that created more than a…


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