NBC's Mitchell Bemoans: Virginia Thomas Interrupted Anita Hill's 'Secluded' Life

  NBC's Andrea Mitchell, in a piece aired on Thursday's Today about Virginia Thomas' call to Anita Hill, made a point of tying the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to "conservative causes" but offered no ideological label for Hill. Mitchell also offered two sound bites from Hill supporters, but only featured a brief clip of an old audio-book excerpt from Clarence Thomas expressing sympathy for his wife.

After the NBC correspondent noted that Hill and her "allies" claimed Thomas' request for an apology was "inappropriate" Mitchell aired Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree calling Thomas' behavior "bizarre." Mitchell also featured Jill Abramson, the New York Times reporter and author of the Clarence Thomas bashing book, Strange Justice, questioning the timing of the Supreme Court justice spouse.

Mitchell did play a clip of Clarence Thomas reading from his book My Grandfather's Son, in which the Justice relayed how the two "shared the pain" during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings, but then went on to bemoan that this new controversy "interrupted the secluded life Hill now leads at Brandeis University."

The following is the full story as it was aired on the October 21 Today show:

ANN CURRY: Now to fallout over that voice mail left for Anita Hill by the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Virginia Thomas wants an apology for the sexual harassment allegations Hill made against her husband 19 years ago. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has the latest on this story. Andrea, good morning.

[On screen headline: "October Surprise, Why Did Virginia Thomas Call Anita Hill Now?"]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Ann. Virginia Thomas' surprising voice mail requesting an apology from Anita Hill opened a deep wound in the national psyche, reminding us of the raw emotions at Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearing 19 years ago. Arriving on campus Anita Hill did not want to revisit the feud with Clarence Thomas and now his wife.

ANITA HILL: I am on my way to teach my class and I don't want have any comment, at this point, and I'd really like for you to get out of the street, because I don't want anybody to get hurt.

MITCHELL: Virginia Thomas, now a Tea Party activist, acknowledges leaving a voice mail for Hill, saying, "I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did." Thomas says she meant it as an olive branch. Hill and her allies call it inappropriate, saying she will not apologize because she told the truth.

PROFESSOR CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It dredges up, you know, 19 years of what's happened and it's really unfortunate that we have this bizarre behavior on the 19th anniversary of what was a tragic experience for Professor Hill.

MITCHELL: It was nearly two decades ago. A Supreme Court confirmation hearing that would forever change the way America views charges of sexual harassment.

ANITA HILL: He would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters.

CLARENCE THOMAS: It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.

MITCHELL: A searing experience for all involved, including Virginia Thomas, as her husband wrote three years ago in his book, My Grandfather's Son.

THOMAS: It hurt me to know that they were being blared around the world and Virginia shared that pain with me.

MITCHELL: Since his confirmation, Clarence Thomas has been the least vocal of the justices, but his wife is outspoken and unusually partisan for a Supreme Court spouse. A high profile fundraiser for the Tea Party movement and other conservative causes.

VIRGINIA THOMAS: Washington is sick, it's corrupted. There's a bubble over it.

MITCHELL: Her sharp criticism of President Obama and refusal to disclose her donors has gotten attention, 11 days ago on the front page of the New York Times. That story appeared on the 19th anniversary of her husband's Senate showdown with Anita Hill. That same morning, Virginia Thomas called Hill's office.

JILL ABRAMSON, THE NEW YORK TIMES, MANAGING EDITOR: I don't know whether the story, you know, had anything to do with provoking her to call, but it's an interesting coincidence.

MITCHELL: The controversy interrupted the secluded life Hill now leads at Brandeis University.

ANDREW GULLY, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: It's business as usual. Professor Hill is in class, right now, with her students and as far as we are concerned the, the matter has, has already moved past us.

MITCHELL: Before learning that Virginia Thomas was indeed the caller and not a prankster, the university had called in the FBI, but now the FBI says there is nothing to investigate because no crime was committed. So we are left with a story about the deeply personal and long lasting effects after public humiliation, years after. Ann?

CURRY: That's right. Andrea Mitchell, thank you so much for explaining it all to us this morning.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.