NPR Host Amazed Mrs. Thomas Wants Anita Hill's Apology

National Public Radio is continuing its historical place as the scene of the original unproven allegations of Anita Hill. NPR's Nina Totenberg broke the story of Hill's unsubstantiated tales of sexual harassment back in 1991. On Monday, NPR talk show host Diane Rehm professed it was "a remarkable thing to say" that Virginia Thomas would dare ask for an apology from Hill. At NPR, they can't even imagine a possibility other than Thomas is a liar. Rehm also wondered if "this kind of fury" from Thomas has biased his court decisions against "the people he calls the liberals who were out to get him." (Audio here.)Diane Rehm's Monday guests were CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and  Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic. (Rehm described them as "two authorities on the Supreme Court," with no troublesome ideological label.) Toobin spurred Rehm's commentary by spinning his wild theory that Thomas was both popular at the Court and simultaneously "furious all the time," and Rehm didn't respond by asking if he'd ever met Thomas:

TOOBIN: He’s such a paradoxical figure because he’s so obviously twisted by anger, even sixteen years later. I mean, sixteen years is long enough for most people to get over a traumatic event, especially one that ended in victory for Clarence Thomas. After all, he was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, for whatever else it is, is a pretty sweet gig. But at the same time, he is twisted by anger over, and it’s not just the confirmation, it’s the media, it’s Yale Law School, it’s the whole constellation of liberalism which he despises. He’s the most likable person at the court. He is a very popular figure there. He is, uh, knows all the names of the employees at the court. It’s famous that he doesn’t ask questions at oral argument, but if you actually watch them in oral argument, he’s passing notes to Justice Breyer, Justice Kennedy. He is comfortable at the court, but he is also just furious all the time about this, this treatment. REHM: On Good Morning America, Justice Thomas’s wife said they are owed an apology by Anita Hill. That’s really a remarkable thing to say.TOOBIN: It’s remarkable, not least because if you look at the historical evidence, the subsequent investigations that have gone on, particularly Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson’s book Strange Justice, I would say it’s safe to say the weight of the evidence supports the veracity of what Anita Hill said, not what Clarence Thomas said, so, obviously we’re never going to know for sure, but if anyone’s owed an apology, it’s probably Anita Hill. REHM: It’s so fascinating to wonder to what extent this kind of uh, fury, this kind of anger, this kind of hostility to the people he calls the liberals who were out to get him, how that might or might not affect his thinking process on the court. Jeffrey Rosen. (Italics mine, she really emphasized the word in her plodding way.) ROSEN: This is a fascinating question, absolutely, and it really puts the focus on how important personality is. Let’s imagine the Anita Hill thing had not happened. Would Thomas have voted very differently? People who knew him back then think that in fact, he would have been more unpredictable. You can imagine him sometimes voting with liberals, sometimes with conservatives, still radical – because he’s temperamentally radical, he likes these broad principles. But he would have been less consistent. And we can also think of other Douglasses, uh, other justices who’ve also been paralyzed by anger. Douglass is the right example. It’s because he had contempt for his colleagues. He was always raging against what he called the establishment. He was angry that he hadn’t gotten a Rhodes scholarship, and he felt that elite people looked down on him, that he was, went off the deep end and was less effective than he otherwise would have been.

Rosen began the segment by explicitly comparing Thomas to the bitter ultraliberal Douglass, who he said penned a memoir comparing Nixon to Hitler, and really damaged his reputation. His obvious inference: Thomas's memoir would further damage him in the history books. It's not exactly a fair and balanced (and fact-based) debate they have on NPR's Diane Rehm show, with a liberal host and two liberal Court watchers who all think Thomas is a bitter liar, and the evidence to the contrary is not part of their "all things considered." 

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