Sore Loser: With No Clarence Thomas Interview, NBC Features Anita Hill

CBS's 60 Minutes got the first interview with Clarence Thomas on the occasion of the release of his memoir and ABC's Good Morning America is in line for the morning show exclusive interview with him to air multiple days this week, thus leaving NBC News out of the mix. So, the losing network decided to resurrect Anita Hill. Anchor Lester Holt teased Sunday's NBC Nightly News: “Her story. Justice Clarence Thomas speaks out, and tonight so does the woman who nearly derailed his confirmation. My exclusive interview with Anita Hill.” Though Hill's charges against Thomas look pretty tame through the later revelations of Bill Clinton's actions with women, Holt depicted them as “charges of crude sexual advances” and “shocking allegations.” Also, without any mention of the left-wing activists with whom Hill colluded, Holt sympathetically described her as “a reluctant witness.”

Hill declared of Thomas: “I don't think he's been a particularly convincing justice.” Holt concluded by forwarding her political agenda: “Anita Hill believes at the time of the Senate hearings, she was judged against the backdrop of both black and female stereotypes. And as a direct result, she has become an outspoken advocate of issues of gender and racial equality.”

In contrast, previewing her GMA interviews with Thomas, on Sunday's World News Jan Crawford Greenburg characterized Thomas as the one “maligned” in the hearings:
The first Monday of October is always kind of a momentous day, but it's going to be overshadowed by these memoirs that really trace the course of a fascinating life of one of the most complex, divisive figures in modern life going through his bitter 1991 confirmation hearings. We sat down with him for nearly seven hours over the course of four days. Incredible, revealing, powerful interviews of a really maligned and misunderstood justice.
To his credit, Holt did at least introduce his piece on Hill by relaying Thomas's less than glowing assessment of Hill as a “left winger” and a “mediocre employee.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the September 30 NBC Nightly News story:
LESTER HOLT: The man known as the quietest justice on the Supreme Court is now speaking out. Clarence Thomas has a new book coming out tomorrow, My Grandfather's Son. In it, it's clear he has not forgotten his bruising confirmation battle and the charges of crude sexual advances leveled by his former employee Anita Hill. As we reported here last night, Thomas describes Hill in his book as a "left winger" and a "mediocre employee." He writes "she was touchy and apt to overreact."

Tonight, her story. Anita Hill was a reluctant witness 16 years ago. Her shocking allegations gave Thomas' confirmation hearings the confrontational tone of a trial. After Thomas was confirmed to the court, Hill returned to private life as a law professor. I spoke with her recently about the Thomas memoir and the hearings that transfixed the nation.

ANITA HILL: I was portrayed as crazy. I was portrayed as someone with an axe to grind. I was portrayed as someone who was in love with Clarence Thomas.

HOLT: Today Hill is a professor of social policy, law and women's studies at Brandeis University just outside Boston.

HOLT TO HILL: Are you still recognized on the streets?

HILL: Yes, I'm recognized on the streets, in funny ways, in funny places where I wouldn't have expected.

HOLT: She says she has never fully put the episode behind her.

HOLT TO HILL: Clarence Thomas has an autobiography coming out soon. Are you bracing yourself for that?

HILL: He has made clear that he thought that the confirmation hearing really was an attempt by politicians, really, to crucify him or the high-tech lynching of Clarence Thomas. So I can't imagine that there will be new things coming out in this biography, autobiography, that I have not heard or that he hasn't even himself said before.

HOLT: Hill says she hasn't had any personal contact with Thomas since the hearings. And her professional assessment of him is carefully measured.

HOLT TO HILL: What kind of justice do you think he's been?

HILL: I don't pretend to be objective about Clarence Thomas as a justice, and I would be dishonest if I said I am objective. But from my reading of the cases, I don't think he's been a particularly convincing justice.

HOLT: As she moves forward, Hill is also looking back. She received over 20,000 letters in the months after the hearing, letters she now wants to revisit.

HILL: I'm going to go back and look at what those letters say about where we were as a society then and hopefully what they say about how we can move forward.

HOLT: And looking back, Anita Hill believes at the time of the Senate hearings, she was judged against the backdrop of both black and female stereotypes. And as a direct result, she has become an outspoken advocate of issues of gender and racial equality.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center