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Anita Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in Washington. (American Film Foundation via The New York Times)

Déjà vu

Previously unaired footage reveals ‘most difficult part’ of Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas

By WITW Staff on September 18, 2018

With Dr. Christine Blasey Ford set to testify against Judge Brett Kavanaugh in his vetting for a seat on the Supreme Court, a lot of memories are being stirred of Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony during Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation process.

Ford has claimed that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Hill  accused Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her in the workplace.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow came across a transcript of unaired footage from a 2017 interview with Hill, and recognized how poignant her reflections were on having to detail her sexual harassment allegations in front of her elderly parents. Maddow decided to share it to offer additional context to what Dr. Blasey will face on Monday.

“The most difficult part, my parents were in — my mother turned 80 on the day of the vote to confirm Clarence Thomas, and I believed the difficult part was to watch my parents, who were elderly people, who had lived good lives and raised their children and to be honest and truthful and hardworking and all of the things that we want parents to do for their children,” Hill recalls in the previously unaired footage.

“To watch them go through it, the sense that they felt that they couldn’t protect me from it, and I think it was really hard on them,” she said.

“It undermined their confidence in whether or not the government truly represented them and for an African-American family, those kinds of questions have existed, and to have it personalized, I think was really difficult, but I have to say they were so strong and so wonderful and so supportive, and they never wavered.”

“But it was still hard for me to watch them go through that and to know that I couldn’t protect from the feelings that they had.”

The Maddow segment included footage that features Hill’s parents entering the hearing, and an extraordinarily composed Hill, reluctantly sharing the excruciating details of her allegations under some pressure from then Senator Joe Biden, in his role as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, Hill — for whom the experience remains sharply etched — has weighed in with an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times, laying out four basic ground rules that would ensure the Senate Judiciary Committee can “do better” this time around. The 1991 proceedings, she says, “gave employers permission to mishandle workplace harassment complaints throughout the following decades.”

“That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement,” Hill writes.

“[T]he weight of the government should not be used to destroy the lives of witnesses who are called to testify.”

Read the full stories at Raw Story and Hill’s Op-Ed at The New York Times.


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