Excuse Me, Virginia Thomas. You Have That Anita Hill Apology Thing Backwards

Virginia ThomasWhen a 20-year-old incident prompts you to pick up the phone to rehash a piece of history that wasn't even your own, there's something serious going on. At least that was my reaction when I heard that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, called Anita Hill to demand an apology from her for what Hill had "done" to her husband!

We all have things we stay angry about. I was plenty peeved when my law school boyfriend thought it was a good idea a couple of decades ago to give me kitchen knives for my birthday (only romantic in a Fatal Attraction sort of way), but it's not something I think about anymore other than as occasional comic fodder. I've moved on.

Apparently Ginni Thomas hasn't.

The reason?

I say it's to divert attention from her growing vocal alliance with the Tea Party that could become a political hazard for her husband.

This episode, which felt like a kind of phone stalking, brought back my "I can't believe we confirmed a man to the Supreme Court who apparently talked with his staff about porn, bestiality, and (don't listen my Diet Coke-loving friends) pubic hair" nightmare I had during Thomas' confirmation hearings when I was still a starry-eyed law firm junior associate. 

I know there are people who disagree with my take. But regardless of what anyone thought at the time, it happened 20 years ago. If Anita Hill has moved on, becoming a professor at several universities, including her current position at Brandeis, you'd think Thomas and his family would have. After all, he won.

He made it on to the Supreme Court and somehow managed to convince enough people that either Hill was making up some crazy sexual harassment stories or that it was inconsequential. (Although I don't believe for a minute that any woman could make up such detailed and consistent accounts of such extreme inappropriate behavior and bring herself to testify about it in front of Congress and the world, knowing full well she would be the one to take the brunt of the trash talk.)

Thomas confirmed it was indeed her who picked up the phone and left the following message on Hill's office answering machine:

Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay have a good day.

So what in the world would prompt the wife of a Supreme Court justice to pick up the phone at 7:30 in the morning one day and think, "Hey! I'm going to call up Anita and see if I can worm an apology out of her!"? If it had happened at 2 a.m., after a long night of drinking, at least it would make a little more sense. There's another reason that I can think of -- the uncomfortable backlash that her newfound political and public persona is causing.

Thomas has become increasingly active in right-wing politics in the last few years and that raises the whole appearance of impropriety thing for her husband with her Tea Party advocacy. Thomas founded a group in 2009 called Liberty Central, a non-profit conservative lobbying group, but she's also become a darling of the Tea Party set, especially women. Part of Thomas' political currency for those who follow her is based on being a righteous woman married to a righteous man. But when she starts getting into a part of the political world that could make her husband seem more partisan than he already is, that creates an issue for cases he rules on, what they call in the judicial business "the appearance of impropriety" -- it doesn't matter if it is bad, it only matters if it looks bad. 

Whether or not Justice Thomas can in good conscience rule on certain cases in the future (like, say, that Citizens United case about political fundraising) if his wife is at the heart of conservative political activity is an issue that I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to address. And it will be harder still for him to maintain that he can seem judicially impartial when his wife is taking up the cause of the extreme right.

So if your personal activities are getting a lot of attention, shift the focus, hope the media follows, and then ... play the victim! That card has worked well for Sarah Palin, so why not for Ginni Thomas?

While we're all talking about her voicemail message, maybe no one will notice that even if it's not illegal, it's not good a thing for the spouse of a Supreme Court justice to be a political operative.


Image via Liberty Central

feminism, in the news, politics, supreme court, tea party


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Lisse Lisse

Ok, maybe I'm out of it, but I had never heard how Virginia Thomas benefited directly from the Citizens United case until she made this foolish phone call.

If anything, I think she has attracted more unwanted attention to the utter inappropriateness of this ruling.

My husband and I were discussing the "whys" of this phone call last night and we came to the conclusion, that she must have either found or heard something that disrupted the denial she's been living in all these years. Frankly, she sounds a bit unhinged.

Beth Corbin

PM, I also find it odd that she claims the call was an "olive branch" to Hill.  But it's not really an "olive branch" to ask someone else to apologize. An olive branch, in my opinion, would have been for her to say something like "I understand there were strong emotions on both sides, and I am extending a hand because I would like to let go of my hard feelings and move forward."  You might be on to something with the Tea Party connection.  Or maybe Clarence is up to his old tricks, and Ginny just wants to make someone else suffer?  Whatever the case, this makes Ginny Thomas look really bad.

Amyin... AmyinMotown

I am sorry, but the only possible explanation I can think of is a drunk dial. Nothing else remotely makes sense.

Kristen Hammond

What does what Ginni Thomas does have anything to do with what her husband does? Ginni didn't contact all the major media outlets to tell them she demanded an apology from Anita Hill. But oh, look. We are now talking about Anita Hill again.

As for Clarence Thomas, unless he serves on a board or contributes, I'm pretty sure the judicial standards of ethics will help determine what he can hear or from which cases he should recuse himself.

I thought this was 2010. Joanne, are you suggesting she should straighten up so she's not an embarrassment to her man?

As for the phone call, I agree with Anita Hill. It was horrific enough to contact campus police and every single media outlet. Luckily for Ginni Thomas, stupidity isn't a felony.

issia... issianemmi

Can we say IDIOT!!! I could not believe this when I read about it this am. What an idiot.

La Cochran

I suspect Mrs. Thomas needs to believe that her husband is innocent and is struggling with that. Hence the call.

Pundi... PunditMom

Kristen, I think you know exactly what I'm saying -- there are potential conflict of interest issues that there, especially if Justice Thomas is not one to recuse himself from cases that may arise that are connected with her political activity.  And, as I know you also know, the whole "appearance of impropriety" thing isn't an easy one to deal with, but it is there and whether those in the judiciary (and their families) like it or not, it can rear it's head when you least expect it.  That doesn't mean she can't do whatever she wants in her political live, but there are always consequences to people's actions.

As for contacting the authorities, as someone who has been the victim more than once of stalking episodes, I would totally have reported an off phone call like that to the police, especially in light of the fact that Hill had no idea for some time after the call that it actually came from Thomas herself.

nonmember avatar OpinionatedGift

I think it is both that she has made a calculated step to divert attention from the growing evidence of her and her husband's innate corruption, but that she is so unhinged that she can't see that she's done the opposite.
The very fact that she, the wife of a Supreme Court Justice refers to the Obama Administration as Left Wing Tyrants demonstrates that she has more than a single screw loose.
I think we can expect more of this sort of thing from her, which brings about happy fantasy.
A year from now Justice Thomas announces his retirement. He'll play the victim card as usual, claiming that he cannot remain in his position and watch his poor helpless wife be persecuted by the vicious political climate.
Whatever...as long as that incompetent boob leaves.

Pundi... PunditMom

@OpinionatedGift  Funny -- I was thinking the same thing.  That in light of Ginni Thomas' newfound political activism, and how much the conservatives love her, that as her profile gains steam that Justice Thomas might step down from the court (though he knows if he does Obama gets to appoint another justice).  Next year it will be 20 years on the court and he could probably make a LOT more money to retire on if he and his wife take their uber-right wing show on the road.  He'll only be 63, so there's lots of time to have another career -- one where I would guess he would actually speak up, as opposed to his perennial silence from the bench.

DebaLa DebaLa

m'yeah. Definitely a calculated, political thing. And what's a Tea Party without someone to stir the pot? Satisfies sooo many agendas in so many ways...

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