Sex scandal back to haunt judge after 20 years

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The Independent US

The passage of time heals all, certainly if we are talking decades. But not so, it seems, for Ginni Thomas, wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been caught leaving a voicemail for the woman who accused him of sexual harassment back in 1991 asking for an apology.

The recipient of the call was Anita Hill whose allegations almost 20 years ago turned Senate hearings designed to confirm the nomination of Justice Thomas into a circus that made headlines around the globe and divided America.

To this day the mystery of who was telling the truth and who wasn't remains unsolved. Ms Hill, who is now a professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, said she had been the victim of inappropriate advances when she worked for Justice Thomas in two government departments. He denied it vehemently and in the end was confirmed as the new Justice to replace Thurgood Marshall.

Riddle or not, it would be reasonable to imagine that the drama would have now become the territory of history buffs and not of the front pages of yesterday's newspapers.

Through a spokesman, Ms Thomas, who is well known for her advocacy of conservative politics in Washington and the low esteem in which she holds the "power grab" Obama administration, confirmed she had left the voicemail. What prompted it at this juncture she did not say.

"Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas," it began. "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 some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband."

Not to be unfriendly she signs off with: "Have a nice day."

Ms Hill, 53, unsure whether the call was a prank, handed the voicemail message to campus police at Brandeis asking that they forward it to the FBI in Boston. It was not long before it leaked.

"I did place a call to Ms Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago," Ms Thomas admitted. "That offer still stands. I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same."

But Ms Hill shows no sign of playing along. "I certainly thought the call was inappropriate," she said via a Brandeis spokesman. "I have no intention of apologising because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony."

She added that even if no offence was meant, "she can't ask for an apology without suggesting that I did something wrong, and that is offensive".

That the memories of the tumult still fester with all parties is not altogether a surprise. Ms Hill reflected on the firestorm in a 1998 book, recalling that Ms Thomas had accused her of being in love with her husband. Justice Thomas, meanwhile, referred to Ms Hill as his "most traitorous" adversary in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather's Son.

Noting a racial dimension to the drama, Justice Thomas wrote that because of Ms Hill's allegations his ascent to the Court had almost been derailed by liberal groups in Washington deploying "the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct".

Ms Hill's allegations contained some lurid details, even involving one scenario with pubic hair on cola cans. The rumpus they ignited led the Senate Judicial Committee, presided over by the now Vice-President Joe Biden, into what even now scholars will say was far from its finest hour.