WaPo's Hearts and Flowers for Anita Hill and the 'Hearing That Never Adjourned'

Twenty years ago, Senate Democrats and National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg colluded to try and ruin the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas by promoting the never-substantiated sexual harassment allegations of Anita Hill. If a woman ever claimed Barack Obama talked up Long Dong Silver porn films to her, you can bet it would be seen as an ugly, racist right-wing smear promoted by crackpots. But the liberal media presented Hill as a sober and centrist Saint Anita, not part of a lie-manufacturing left-wing conspiracy. (See Totenberg's activism in our new Special Report as one of the top 20 liberal excesses of public broadcasting.)

Hill strongly denied to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was making these allegations for her own benefit or that she would be making any hay out of her time in the spotlight. Then at the end of 1993, news broke that she struck a million-dollar-plus book deal with Doubleday. On Friday, The Washington Post's Krissah Thompson filed a report that celebrated "her role" in the hearings, and completely sidestepped whether she was lying her face off.

The headline on the front of the Style section was "Anita Hill and a hearing that never adjourned." This is a laughable headline, considering that liberals and feminists all developed a feverish amnesia when in 1994, Paula Jones accused President Clinton of dropping his pants and telling her to "kiss it" in a Little Rock hotel room  in 1991 when he was governor. Their feminist consciousness completely vanished in 1999 when Juanita Broaddrick's tale of Bill Clinton raping her at another Little Rock hotel in 1978 surfaced. The hearings were "adjourned" throughout Clinton's presidency. Anita Hill was not sought out for comment on Clinton.

If the "hearing never adjourned," then we might have learned how Hill's story surfaced in the liberal media -- but then, in an epic triumph on NPR transparency, Nina Totenberg shredded documents to avoid legal scrutiny.

Thompson utterly ignored Hill's millionaire payday, still presenting Hill as some kind of victim for what she tried to do to destroy Thomas's career:

For many, Hill embodies the fight against sexual harassment and gender discrimination, even as she triggers vitriol from others who dismiss her testimony as a partisan attack against Thomas.

“The hearing had for me an unexpected consequence,” Hill said in an interview. “I just didn’t have any sense that it was going to resonate in the way that it did. It has been kind of difficult for me.

...As a key witness at his nomination hearings, she brought graphic accusations against him before a Senate panel, detailing lurid and harassing sexual statements, which Thomas vehemently denied. The controversy gripped the country.

The hearings also changed the trajectory of Hill’s life. The questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee, then a panel of white men, was “hurtful,” she said, and she does not believe a white woman would have met the same reception. But she also said she does not regret her involvement.

Thompson ignores that the confirmation hearings were over when Hill's unproven tale surfaced on NPR, which forced a special weekend of additional hearings. Other than a few snatches of quote from Justice Thomas's autobiography, there was no conservative or Republican or Thomas supporter in the article to dispute Hill's charges or her lucrative career or her liberal objectives. Instead, liberal D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is brought forward to speak for the Sisterhood:

For years after the hearings, Hill focused her scholarly work on issues of sexual harrassment, saying she felt compelled to raise the matter. Looking back, she and others believe the hearings were something of a turning point on gender.

“Sexual harassment was something women didn’t even want to speak about,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), one of the speakers at a day-long event Thursday at Georgetown Law Center titled “Context and Consequences: The Hill-Thomas Hearings Twenty Years Later.”

“They felt cornered by it. They felt trapped by it,” Norton said. “Something had to be done. We had to talk about it.”

...Norton, one of seven women in Congress who publicly demanded that the Senate hear from Hill, said the “most important” result of the hearings was the large number of women elected to Congress in 1992.

“It is very hard to think of any legal proceedings that had the effect of the Anita Hill hearings in the sense that women clearly went to the polls with the notion in mind that you had to have more women in Congress.”

This is the same tone the media had in 1991 -- Hill's accusations were treated as something to be supportively sensitive about -- and whether the allegations were true was utterly beside the point. Did Eleanor Holmes Norton make a scene at the Capitol in 1994 or 1999 as she had with the other feminists in 1991? Did she or any of the female Democrats elected in 1992 care whether President Clinton was a rapist? Try and find the evidence. The Post article closed with a supportive flourish:

Speaking Thursday at the gathering, Hill sounded almost celebratory.

“I could not be happier than I am right now because I know that testimony, no matter what anyone said and no matter who sits on the bench today, I know that testimony was not in vain,” she said as she closed the conference. “I have lived with the issues of the hearings for 20 years now. I know the work that is being done and as I hear it I am encouraged.”

Liberals are always encouraged by the sympathetic publicity provided by the Washington Post.

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