Recycling the Trash Against Clarence Thomas: Is the New Accuser's Motive Financial...or Political?

The Washington Post is apparently an easy mark for someone selling 19-year-old sex allegations – or in this case pornography allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In 1991, during the Hill-Thomas hearings, Lillian McEwen kept quiet. But now, she has a memoir she's "shopping to publishers." The Post splashed her face across the front of Friday's Style section. The headline was “I have nothing to be afraid of,” leaving out “and a book deal to gain.” The subhead was “Nineteen years after his turbulent confirmation, Lillian McEwen opens up with telling details about her intimate relationship with Clarence Thomas.” But are the “telling details” true or false?

Reporter Michael Fletcher (co-author of a critical biography of Justice Thomas) downplays that McEwen was a Democrat and lawyer for Senator Joe Biden on the Judiciary Committee. In their 1994 anti-Thomas book Strange Justice, reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer quote Sukari Hardnett (another Thomas accuser) claiming Thomas discussed his personal life with her, complaining that McEwen viewed him as “a puppet of the Republicans.” 

Hardnett claimed Thomas said he would buy McEwen a mink coat anyway.

The political problem with the Hill-Thomas hearings from the get-go was that this was not a trial, and the whole thing was he said-she said allegations. McEwen didn't come forward, she told the Post, because “She did not want to do anything to harm her career...Plus, she realized, 'I don't look good in this.'” In other words, McEwen didn't see a tell-all (substantiated or unsubstantiated) as in her interest until after she retired. Now suddenly, it is.

Fletcher included a denial of comment from Thomas, but he made no apparent attempt in his Friday story to seek new comment or rebuttal from the flock of Thomas co-workers who spoke in his defense in 1991. He merely rehashes old arguments and counter-arguments. What really, surely thrilled liberals today was revisiting claims of Clarence Thomas the Office Pervert and Porn Maniac:

"He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners," McEwen said matter-of-factly. "It was a hobby of his."

Her story also includes explicit details of her relationship with Thomas, which she said included a freewheeling sex life.

Given that history, she said Hill's long-ago description of Thomas's behavior resonated with her.

"He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now 63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."

McEwen added that she had no problem with Thomas's interests, although she found pornography to be "boring."

According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.

Presented with some of McEwen's assertions, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Thomas was unavailable for comment.

However bizarre they may seem, McEwen's recollections resemble accounts shared by other women that swirled around the Thomas confirmation.

Fletcher's story concluded with McEwen declaring she's remained “reasonably friendly” with Thomas and had brought friends to his office for long conversations, which tends to undercut her story. Now, she says, “I know Clarence would not be happy with me.” But the problem is all his, as Fletcher concluded with her suggesting Thomas is in denial: “It is just that he has manufactured a different reality over time. That's the problem that he has.” 

Anti-Thomas liberals were obsessed with the degree of Thomas's affinity for porn as a way to make Hill's Long Dong Silver story more plausible. This kind of detail would normally be of zero interest to liberals unless a conservative nominee felt porn should be outlawed. No other Supreme Court nominee in the modern era has been investigated for which porn films they had reviewed and whether they talked about them.

Would the Post have considered it fair if a Republican Senator had asked Elena Kagan this year to describe which porn flicks she had seen? Why it's still revisiting vague and weak allegations that Thomas was "obsessed with porn" is a mystery -- and an outrage. On the front page, on the same day, in the same paper, the Post is highlighting Bill Clinton campaigning for Democrats, with no revisitation of his extensively proven sexual obsessions.

In Thursday's Post, reporters Karen Tumulty and Kevin Merida (Fletcher's co-author) rehashed McEwen with zero mention of her Democrat past:

Lillian McEwen, a retired administrative law judge who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post: "The Clarence I know was certainly capable of not only doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then."  

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