What would prompt the wife of a prominent man accused of sexual harassment to stir the ashes of an old controversy and reignite a divisive scandal 19 years after the accusations surfaced? And to place a call to the accuser at 7:30 am on a Saturday morning, pushing for an apology?
Anyone who's been in a marriage knows this kind of behavior doesn't come out of the blue. Something must have triggered the wife -- either in her professional or personal life -- to behave in a way that qualifies as very odd. Who among us would voluntarily re-air our dirty laundry?
But if something did happen between Virginia Thomas and her husband Clarence, we'll never know.
If you haven't already figured it out, the husband in question is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- infamously accused by former employee Anita Hill of inappropriate behavior including discussions of pornography and the size of his member. The scandal, which almost derailed his Supreme Court nomination, is still the most famous "he said, she said" situation in which neither party prevailed nor firmly convinced the American public of what really happened. Many women believe strongly that Hill spoke the truth and Thomas lied about what happened when she worked for him at the Department of Education and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
For those of us who watched the hearings conducted by an all-male committee, it was a frustrating, cringe-worthy moment in American politics. We could see the men simply did not 'get it.' Sexual harassment, formerly a topic that garnered little attention, moved front and center and led to a national dialogue that moved us forward; many workplace policies in existence today are rooted in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. That's the good news.
The bad news? The scandal has never been resolved in a manner that might put it to rest.
Three years ago this month, Thomas published his memoir My Grandfather's Son which revisited the Senate hearings and reopened old wounds all over again. Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, rebutted his version of the story in an op-ed piece published by the New York Times.
Virginia Thomas's decision to awaken the proverbial sleeping dogs is intriguing for many reasons. Could there be a political motivation related to the upcoming midterm elections? Mrs. Thomas isn't merely "Mrs. Thomas." As reported by Newser.com last March, she is a prominent Tea Party supporter:
Spurred by the "hard-left agenda" of President Obama, the conservative justice's wife of 23 years recently founded Liberty Central Inc., a Tea Party-linked nonprofit that will lobby on behalf of conservative "core principles."
While there are no rules binding the partisan activities of justices' spouses, reports the LA Times, Ginni Thomas is nevertheless headed onto an uncharted, possibly slippery slope. "I really don't know because we've never seen it," says one law expert. Thomas is undeterred: "I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country," Thomas told CPAC. "I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great."
Apparently Ginni Thomas has also felt called to look backwards and harass Anita Hill with a phone call that -- due to the time of day it was placed and its odd language, excerpted below -- made Hill think it was a prank:
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.
Hill contacted Brandeis campus security which in turn contacted the FBI. And that hoped-for apology? Hill says the call was inappropriate and she will not apologize because she was telling the truth. Virginia Thomas says she didn't intend to harass Hill and was merely "extending an olive branch."
In this "she said, she said" situation, who's got a firmer grip on the truth? Is this a sincere attempt to resolve an old conflict, or a calculated political ploy? Or did Virginia Thomas temporarily lose it and act on an impulse she's now deeply regretting? What was she thinking, and why did she do it?