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Will Clarence Thomas' Wife Demand Apology From Latest Accuser? (It's His Ex-Girlfriend)

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Well, Ginni Thomas -- how's that apology demand workin' for ya?

You may recall that two days ago, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called Anita Hill, demanding an apology for accusations of sexual harassment that Hill made against Thomas at his nomination hearing for this seat on the high court.

Talk about a strategic blunder. The controversy, long consigned to the history books, is now reignited, thanks to the decision of Thomas's former girlfriend, Lillian McEwen, to come forward with her recollections of Thomas's behavior toward women in the workplace, and his purported "obsession" with porn -- accusations that echo what Hill told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991.

When Anita Hill made her decision to speak truth to power at Thomas's nomination hearing, she was rewarded the way in which victims of sexual abuse and assault ordinarily are: she was dragged through the mud, smeared with lies about her own supposed predilections and vilified by the senators -- all white men -- who then sat on the committee. Through it all, Lillian McEwen remained silent, even though she knew better. "I don't look good in this," she tells the Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher in an article published this morning.

But Ginni Thomas's demand for an apology from Anita Hill for the accusations of sexual harassment she made about Clarence Thomas -- claims of Thomas's references to pornography in a meeting he had with Hill, his subordinate at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and more -- apparently pushed McEwen to air her own experience with Thomas. (Or maybe it was the opportunity to push her memoir manuscript into the hands of a publisher.)

In today's WaPo, McEwen tells Fletcher:

"He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now 63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."

[...]

According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.

Back in the day, it was quite something to have these kinds of accusations swirling around a Supreme Court nominee, and a true spectacle in 1991, when the right-wing Thomas appeared before the committee as only the second African-American to win nomination to the highest court in the land -- a distinction he still holds. Through the testimony of Hill and Thomas, I wrote in Debating Sexual Correctness (Dell 1995), the dominant culture got to see a fundamental dynamic of its own society acted out by players from an oppressed minority culture. Given the way in which sexualized depictions of African-Americans have been part and parcel of their oppression for centuries, Thomas explosively called his hearings "a high-tech lynching," playing the race card at the expense of all women -- but African-American women, in particular.

As wild as the Thomas confirmation hearings were, McEwen's accusations are something entirely new, even if they sound familiar. Clarence Thomas is now a sitting Supreme Court justice of long tenure; never in my lifetime have such incendiary claims been made against a sitting member of the court.

Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is Clarence Thomas's alignment with the religious right. Thomas was one of three justices to dissent from the court's decision to strike down a state's right to pass laws outlawing gay sex between consenting adults in Lawrence v. Texas; he joined the dissent penned by Antonin Scalia that declared the court's decision in Lawrence an indication of itsĀ  having "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda." Behold Clarence Thomas, an arbiter of the sex lives of Americans.

Weirder still is the way in which his wife's actions of late are serving to further sully his reputation. Ginni Thomas now leads a Tea Party-affiliated think tank, Liberty Central, which, AlterNet reported, touts its relationship with Gun Owners of America, whose president, Larry Pratt, once spoke before a gathering of white supremacists; as well as its alliance with the Missouri Sovereignty Project, which recently featured a short film on its site in which states' rights advocates threaten an armed insurrection against the government.

At this year's Taxpayer March on Washington, a Tea Party gathering sponsored by FreedomWorks, hundreds of marchers wore Statue of Liberty crowns made of foam, and inscribed with the Liberty Central's logo. Addressing the crowd, Ginni Thomas herself donned a foam crown. FreedomWorks is chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, on whose staff Ginni Thomas used to work. Thomas also worked at the Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business organization with Matt Kibbe, who is now the president of FreedomWorks.