CBS Brings On Anita Hill to Tout New Documentary, Slam Clarence Thomas

More than 20 years after Anita Hill tried to wreck the Supreme Court confirmation of Clarence Thomas with unsubstantiated sexual-harassment claims, CBS This Morning brought her on to hype a new documentary simply titled “Anita.”

During the interview on Thursday, all three CBS hosts treated Ms. Hill to a softball interview and allowed her to uncritically slam Justice Thomas throughout the entire segment. Co-host Gayle King hyped how Hill “because of you, Anita Hill that girls today know sexual harassment is not okay and they can do something about it.” [See video below.]

CBS brought on no one to speak for the Thomas view -- despite the uncomfortable fact that a large contingent of Hill's and Thomas's female co-workers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -- where the alleged harassment occurred -- sided with Thomas.  

The segment began with King promoting how “On October 11, 1991, people in more than 20 million homes tuned in to watch a young black law professor named Anita Hill. She testified before an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee. Hill says she endured repeated acts of sexual harassment while working for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas at two government agencies.

Other than Norah O’Donnell briefly reading Clarence Thomas statement condemning Anita Hill in 1991, the entire segment focused on Ms. Hill and her insistence that “I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent.” Co-host Charlie Rose proceeded to ask Hill whether or not she thought “the hearings were fair, when you look back at it today?” which allowed her to go on a lengthy rant condemning the committee’s questioning of her:

I don't think they were fair. Because again, the people who are the finders of fact, the triers of truth, were outside campaigning against me. And so you can’t have a fair…it would be like having a judge on a judicial panel outside giving press conferences about one of the witnesses. You can't have a fair hearing. 

Rather than push back against Ms. Hill accusations, O’Donnell proceeded to cheerlead for her, asking “What makes you proud about what came from those hearings? We had the year of women. Record number of women elected to Senate, Congress, sexual passed discrimination laws. What were some of the things that resulted?”

Hill proclaimed that, ”As important as the women running for Congress and the greater attention that we had with women going forward and filing complaints, where the public conversations and the private conversations that people had with their own family members, stories that they had never shared before. And our ability to talk about the issue as a society has moved because of those conversations. 

The fawning over Hill continued when Gayle King hyped up her legacy and proclaimed that: “People say because of you, Anita Hill that girls today know sexual harassment is not okay and they can do something about it. And I remember in October of 2010 Ginni Thomas called you, Clarence Thomas' wife, left a message on your voice mail asking to you apologize. When you heard that, what did you think?”  

The Anita Hill promotional hour concluded with Rose asking “Beyond the obvious attention that it's brought, how has it changed your life?” to which she commented that “since 1991, we've come to terms with the fact that, yes, sexual harassment is wrong and it does matter and it exists.”

It would have been nice if CBS had bothered to give Justice Thomas a fraction of the attention it gave to Ms. Hill rather than bringing her own to promote her new documentary and slam the Supreme Court Justice as if it was 1991 all over again.

 

See relevant transcript below.


CBS

CBS This Morning

March 13, 2014

8:41 a.m. Eastern

GAYLE KING: On October 11, 1991, people in more than 20 million homes tuned in to watch a young black law professor named Anita Hill. She testified before an all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee. Hill says she endured repeated acts of sexual harassment while working for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas at two government agencies. The graphic allegations divided the country over race, gender, and politics and the hearings sparked a national debate about sexual harassment. They’re now part of a new documentary it’s called "Anita." 

ANITA HILL: My purpose was to speak as clearly as possible, tell the Senate about behavior that I had experienced at the hand of Clarence Thomas. I couldn't say, oh, well, I'm going to prove sexual harass harassment. I couldn't do that. I could say, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to tell what happened to me. In 1981 I was introduced to now-judge Thomas by a mutual friend. He was, in fact, appointed as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. He asked if I would become his assistant and I accepted that position. After approximately three months of working there, he asked me to go out socially. With him. What happened next, and telling the world about it, are the two most difficult things -- experiences of my life. It would have been more comfortable to remain silent, but when I was asked by a representative of this committee to report my experience, I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: The Senate confirmed Thomas 52-48 that is the narrowest margin in a century. Thomas denied the allegations calling the hearings a circus and claiming, quote, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves. Justice Thomas has always maintained his innocence. Hill returned to her job but life was never the same. Anita Hill, good morning. 

HILL: Good morning. 

O’DONNELL: It's been 23 years. 

HILL: Yes. 

O’DONNELL: And you've resisted, really, speaking publicly. You've had a very private life. Why do this documentary? 

HILL: Well, the documentary really is a reminder that, in fact, it has been 23 years. And because I teach on a university campus, I am aware that we have a whole generation of people who have left, who have been born since the hearing, gone into the workplace, graduated from college. Some people have gone into the military. And these issues continue. And so the issues are out there. And now a new generation is facing them. And we need to come to terms with our past so that we can learn and move forward. 

KING: Let's go back to the past for just a second because what surprised me is that when you -- when you testified, you did not intend to make this public. You had sent a confidential statement, you thought. You had no intentions of going and testifying in front of the Senate committee. And Jill Abramson said at the time, you basically walked into a lion's den. What did you think was going to happen? 

HILL: I absolutely understood that they were going to ask questions but the level of outside incidents of press conferences and statements about me that were made by people who were on the committee, I think, were so far beyond what I expected to happen. I expected to be able to give my testimony, for them to ask probing questions because I really wanted people to understand exactly what had happened. But I didn't think that all of the outside campaigning that was done against my testimony, by the people who were supposed to be determining what the truth was, was appropriate. 

CHARLIE ROSE: But now when you look back, having just said that, do you think the hearings were fair, when you look back at it today? 

HILL: No, no, I don't. 

ROSE: Why not? 

HILL: I don't think they were fair. Because again, the people who are the finders of fact, the triers of truth, were outside campaigning against me. And so you can’t have a fair…it would be like having a judge on a judicial panel outside giving press conferences about one of the witnesses. You can't have a fair hearing. 

ROSE: But the questions from those senators was unfair or – 

HILL: The questions themselves were not fair. They were ill-informed questions. They were drawing on myths and things that had not been proven, things no one had sworn to. Statements that I don't even know that they are accurate statements. Senator Simpson said that he had letters and faxes but when asked to present them, he refused to present them. So I don't even know if those things were, in fact, true. 

O’DONNELL: You know, Anita I was in college at the time and like many Americans, was riveted by these hearings. There were tens of millions of people that watched every day. Clarence Thomas was confirmed which you still believe to this day he should not have been confirmed. But what came from those hearings? What makes you proud about what came from those hearings? We had the year of women. Record number of women elected to the Senate, Congress, sexual passed discrimination laws. What were some of the things that resulted?

HILL: Well, the civil rights law that was passed in 1991, for the first time women when they proved their claims were able to fully recover. 

O’DONNELL: Damages. 

HILL: That was monumental. Fully recover the damages, the losses that they had suffered. That was monumental. But, you know, as important as the women running for Congress and the greater attention that we had with women going forward and filing complaints, where the public conversations and the private conversations that people had with their own family members, stories that they had never shared before. And our ability to talk about the issue as a society has moved because of those conversations. 

KING: People say because of you, Anita Hill that girls today know sexual harassment is not okay and they can do something about it. And I remember in October of 2010 Ginni Thomas called you, Clarence Thomas' wife, left a message on your voicemail asking to you apologize. When you heard that, what did you think? 

HILL: Absolutely I had no intentions of apologizing. But when I initially heard it, I thought this was a prank phone call because I couldn't believe that the wife of a Supreme Court justice would be calling me up at my workplace. But, you know, this was something that she had presented before, this idea that I should apologize. So, once she confirmed that it was, in fact her on the telephone, I wasn't entirely surprised. But I do think, again, it's inappropriate. Because, actually, she's asking me to retract my sworn testimony, which was truthful. 

ROSE: Beyond the obvious attention that it's brought, how has it changed your life? 

HILL: Well, my life has changed in so many ways because of the attention it brought, because of the thousands of letters that I have from people around, talking about what the experiences meant to them in their workplaces. In 1991 -- or since 1991, we've come to terms with the fact that, yes, sexual harassment is wrong and it does matter and it exists, it's prevalent, but we still haven't figured out exactly what to do about it. And so, in addition to my career as a professor and as educator and as a lawyer, I've been able to go out and try to help people understand how we can move forward and what we do need to do about?

ROSE: Thank you for coming. 

HILL: Thank you. 

O’DONNELL: An important part of history. Thank you Anita Hill, thank you.

HILL: Appreciate it.

O’DONNELL: The documentary "Anita" opens next Friday in select cities. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.