WaPo Reporter Misquotes Clarence Thomas Book -- Exactly As Anita Hill Misquoted It

Anyone reading the Anita Hill puff piece in Friday's Washington Post could see reporter Krissah Thompson was a big Anita Hill fan. But did she also have to be a lazy, handout-accepting Anita Hill fan? The only conservative skepticism toward Hill that the Post allowed were five words from Justice Clarence Thomas's memoir. But they were misquotes.

I have an autographed copy of the book from a Heritage Foundation dinner with the Thomases, and could not find the quotes Thompson used...until I found a New York Times op-ed by Anita Hill from October 2, 2007 -- in the week the Thomas book came out. It was called "The Smear This Time," and Hill misquoted the book. So did Krissah Thompson, copying Hill's misquotes...word for word.

Here's the Post story:

After Thomas’s confirmation, she stepped away from Washington, but the hearings have been a constant shadow. Thomas wrote in his 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” that Hill was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.”

Here's Anita Hill's New York Times opinion piece:

In the portion of his book that addresses my role in the Senate hearings into his nomination, Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.”

The spirit of those words is in the Thomas book, but there's not a "combative" with the left-winger, and the word  "slights" is not used.

From page 243:

But just what was Anita claiming that I’d said or done – and, just as important, why was she claiming it? I felt sure that I had never said or done anything to her that was even remotely inappropriate, but I knew that in Washington, what matters is not what you do but what people can be made to think you’ve done. I also knew from working with Anita that she was touchy and apt to overreact. If I or anyone else had done the slightest thing to offend her, she would have complained loudly and instantly, not waited for a decade to make her displeasure known.

From page 250, reading the first article on Hill in Newsday:

I met for the first time an Anita Hill who bore little resemblance to the woman who had worked for me at EEOC and the Education Department. Somewhere along the line, she had been transformed into a conservative, devoutly religious Reagan administration employee. In fact whe was a left-winger who’d never expressed any religious sentiments whatsoever during the time I’d known her, and the only reason she held a job in the Reagan administration is because I’d given it to her.

This is not such a glaring factual error that one would demand a correction. But it might demand a copy editor who actually checks the book, or a reporter that doesn't accept everything word for word from someone she admires.

I admire Justice Thomas -- beginning with his endurance of some of the most horrendously personal liberal media bias put on display in modern American history. But I would like to think that if Thomas ever quoted from Anita Hill's million-dollar memoir -- I'm sure he's never touched it -- I would find my own quotes, or at least check his quotes, and not just take a handout. If I did take his quotes, I'd like to think I would tell the reader they were his quotation choices, not mine.

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