Laura Ingraham Smacks Down CNN's Toobin on Thomas's 'Rage'

Update (NB Staff | Oct. 3, 14:55): Ingraham's producer was kind enough to send us an MP3 (14:03 long, 4.82 MB) of the exchange.

On Monday’s Anderson Cooper 360, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin unspooled a wild, unsubstantiated theory that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is "furious all the time" and when Cooper asked if his "hatred of the media" started with the Anita Hill charges, Toobin said that event sent his rage into "the stratosphere." Toobin also criticized CBS for not cross-examining Thomas on sexual harassment on 60 Minutes, when "subsequent evidence" (books by liberal reporters) "generally favors Anita Hill, not him, in what really happened between them."

On Tuesday’s Laura Ingraham show, Toobin accepted an interview invitation, and Ingraham, who was a clerk for Justice Thomas, lit into him about his Cooper interview. She found it "incredibly condescending," and also "appalling and stupid." She asked Toobin if he knew Thomas, and he changed the subject, referring to the theme of anger in his writings and speeches. Later, when Ingraham asked Toobin if he had ever met or interviewed Thomas for his new Supreme Court book, "The Nine," he wouldn’t even say yes or no. (Ingraham took that as a no.)

How can someone who's supposedly a media professional claim without ever meeting someone that they’re "furious all the time" and even "furious his entire life"? It would be one thing to say Thomas associates or even adversaries have seen an episode of fury, but "furious all the time"? (It's even weirder when, in other interviews -- but not this one -- Toobin reports Thomas is the most popular justice inside the Court. Popular, well-liked -- and "furious all the time"?)

The Cooper-Toobin exchange aired on CNN Monday night at around 10:50 Eastern time, and began with a big promotional "swoosh" of the words "The Nine" and the book cover, with Cooper gurgling about how remarkable Toobin's book was:

COOPER: CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin writes about Justice Thomas in his new book, "The Nine." It's a remarkable book. I spoke to him earlier. [To tape]

COOPER: We just heard Clarence Thomas talking about race. He really has not responded to criticism of him over the years, and there seems to be a lot of anger built up.

TOOBIN: The thread that goes through Thomas's life is rage. He -- by his own admission, he's furious his entire life. At first, he was furious at the racial discrimination. And, you know, he was, he wore overalls, and he says, you know, I named my son Jamal. That tells you where my head was at in those days. Yet, now, the rage is at white liberals. He is furious all the time at the people he believes tormented him during the Anita Hill hearings and criticized him on the court. I have never seen, frankly, anyone, much less a Supreme Court Justice, whose life is defined by anger as much as Thomas's.

COOPER: And it's interesting, though, I mean, in his law school days, in his college days, it was -- I don't think he said he was liberal, he said he was much more militant than that.

TOOBIN: No, he was a black separatist. I mean, he was -- I don't know if he was formally a member of the Black Panther party, but it was in that general idea of black nationalism, where he found himself. So, you know, he's done a 180, ideologically, but not temperamentally.

COOPER: Let's hear a little bit of what he said about the Anita Hill hearings.

STEVE KROFT, CBS: Was the Anita Hill that testified on the Hill the Anita Hill that you knew at EEOC?

THOMAS: She was not the -- the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed. That's not the person I knew.

KROFT: Who is the person you knew?

THOMAS: She could defend herself. Let's just put it that way.

COOPER: He doesn't really address any of the details of the accusations that came up during those hearings.

TOOBIN: No. Nor was he asked by Steve Kroft. I mean, he wasn't asked about corroborating witnesses who said that Thomas had engaged in this behavior before. He wasn't asked about, well, what was the nature of his relationship with her? How often was he alone with her, were they ever together outside the office? You know, the things that 60 Minutes usually does to cross-examine people, Thomas was not asked those questions.

COOPER: Do we know if he wasn't asked or it just didn't make it into the...

TOOBIN: They didn't broadcast it. I don't know. But I mean, I think the point is, that -- I don't draw -- the subsequent evidence that has come out, you know, whether it's Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson's book called "Strange Justice" or elsewhere generally favors Anita Hill, not him, in what really happened between them.

COOPER: And the hatred of the media, of liberal Democrats, did that start with the Anita Hill hearings?

TOOBIN: Well, I think he felt like he was badly treated when he worked in the Reagan administration, and the Department of Education, at the EEOC. He felt like, you know, the liberals made him not feel like he was defending the interests of African-Americans. But certainly, it was the hearings that sent the conflict into the stratosphere and along with it, his rage.

COOPER: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks.

Ingraham played the "furious his entire life" and "life defined by anger" snippets on her show, and walked Toobin through some of the outrages of Anita Hill's unproven charges. She asked Toobin if it was proper for Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to leak raw allegations in Hill's FBI file to the media. He said no. She asked Toobin if he's "ever worked with a woman." He said of course. Has he ever been alone with a woman in the office? Yes. And if that woman came forward ten years later and accused him falsely of sexual harassment, wouldn't he be a little angry about that? Yes.

But overall, Toobin was incredibly slippery, trying to tell Ingraham that in his book, he tries to tell the "complete story" of Thomas. But that's not at all what he offered last night on CNN. He made wild allegations about Thomas that he cannot substantiate. CNN ought to be ashamed.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis