CBS 'Early Show' Claims 'New Scrutiny' for Virginia Thomas Over Conservative Activism

In the wake of Virginia Thomas requesting an apology from Anita Hill, on Thursday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Chris Wragge used the story to raise questions about Thomas's political involvement: "That phone call is bringing up new scrutiny upon Virginia Thomas, who is not just an angry spouse but also a long-time advocate of conservative causes."

In the report that followed, CBS chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford implied that since Virginia Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas her conservative activism in a conflict of interest: "She has long advocated for conservative causes....she formed a grassroots conservative group called Liberty Central and has spoken at tea party conventions....Critics have raised questions about her role in the group as the wife of a sitting Justice, and Mrs. Thomas, not one to suppress her opinions, has felt the heat."

Crawford went on to point out that "The New York Times published a story about whether her work amounted to a conflict of interest for Justice Thomas." Later, Wragge asked Crawford: "How odd is this that a spouse of a justice is taking such an active role in politics like this?" Crawford replied: "Very. I mean, that's a one-word answer. It is very odd, I've never seen it..." She added: "...I think it reflects the changing role of women in society. Virginia Thomas, Ginni Thomas, has a career. Should she sacrifice that her whole life if there is not a direct conflict?"

The network evening newscasts on Wednesday, including the CBS Evening News, similarly raised the issue of Thomas's conservatism. The coverage has treated Thomas as the sole controversial figure in the story, not questioning the credibility Hill's 1991 testimony.  

Here is a full transcript of the October 21 Early Show segment:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Ahead this morning, we're going to have some new information about that phone call made by the wife of Clarence Thomas to Anita Hill, where she demanded an apology for Hill accusing her husband of sexual harassment. This morning we're going to take a look at who is Ginni Thomas and why did she make that call now, we have some insight.

7:07AM ET SEGMENT:

CHRIS WRAGGE: Now the latest on that controversial message to Anita Hill from Justice Clarence Thomas's wife asking for an apology. That phone call is bringing up new scrutiny upon Virginia Thomas, who is not just an angry spouse but also a long-time advocate of conservative causes. CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford is Washington with more for us this morning. Jan, good morning.

JAN CRAWFORD: Good morning, Chris. You know, it is not often that you see the spouse of a Supreme Court justice basically being the story, but that's what Ginni Thomas is today. The telephone call put Anita Hill back in the media spotlight.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Who's Sorry Now?; Thomas-Hill Back in Spotlight]

ANITA HILL: I need for you to get out of the street. I don't have any comment.

CRAWFORD: But it is also shining a light on Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She has long advocated for conservative causes. Mrs. Thomas has worked largely behind the scenes as a lawyer, lobbyist, and advocate for those causes, but she has recently begun to take center stage. Earlier this year, she formed a grassroots conservative group called Liberty Central and has spoken at tea party conventions. The organization is working to repeal President Obama's health care reform law and elect congressional candidates. Critics have raised questions about her role in the group as the wife of a sitting Justice, and Mrs. Thomas, not one to suppress her opinions, has felt the heat.

On October 9th, The New York Times published a story about whether her work amounted to a conflict of interest for Justice Thomas. It was the very same morning she placed her call to Anita Hill, asking for an apology for her testimony at Thomas's Senate confirmation hearings 19 years ago. 'I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.' In an interview with 60 Minutes, Mrs. Thomas described the experience as a nightmare when she watched her husband face graphic questions about sex and obscenity. Mrs. Thomas and her husband have always insisted Hill's testimony was untrue.

GINNI THOMAS: That was the hardest thing I've ever gone through.

CRAWFORD: Now those close to Mrs. Thomas say those scars from that experience still linger and she may have reached out to Anita Hill because of the stress from the article, because she wanted vindication, for everyone to know she was right and Anita Hill was wrong for all these years. Chris.

WRAGGE: Jan, before I let you go, just a quick question, how odd is this that a spouse of a justice is taking such an active role in politics like this?

CRAWFORD: Very. I mean, that's a one-word answer. It is very odd, I've never seen it, but, you know, I think it reflects the changing role of women in society. Virginia Thomas, Ginni Thomas, has a career. Should she sacrifice that her whole life if there is not a direct conflict? Clarence Thomas does have a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

WRAGGE: CBS's Jan Crawford in Washington for us this morning. Jan, thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: So she can't hurt him.

WRAGGE: At this point, yeah.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC