Former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson is calling for the impeachment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Taking to the pages of New York magazine in a thinly-veiled attempt to reheat long-debunked sexual harassment allegations against Justice Thomas, Abramson writes, “…Thomas, as a crucial vote on the Supreme Court, holds incredible power over women’s rights, workplace, reproductive, and otherwise. His worldview, with its consistent objectification of women, is the one that’s shaping the contours of what’s possible for women in America today, more than that of just about any man alive…”
The out-of-left-field, 4,200 word article runs with allegations made in 2016 by a woman named Moira Smith who claimed on her Facebook page that Thomas groped her decades ago at a dinner party.
Abramson writes, “Smith had been silent for 17 years but, infuriated by the ‘Grab ’em by the pussy’ utterings of a presidential candidate, could keep quiet no more.”
At the time, Smith said of Thomas, “He was charming in many ways — giant, booming laugh, charismatic, approachable. But to my complete shock, he groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should ‘sit right next to him.’ When I feebly explained I’d been assigned to the other table, he groped again … ‘Are you sure?’ I said I was and proceeded to keep my distance.”
In 2016, the accusation died on the vine when witnesses said the two were never alone and the incident never happened. The story fell from the public’s eye, with almost no calls for Thomas to leave the position he’s held since 1991.
Abramson claims Thomas got off the hook due to omitted crucial evidence but does not go on to specify what that evidence may have been.
Early in her career, Abramson made a name for herself by attacking Justice Thomas and co-authored a book in 1994 titled, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.
Justice Thomas, only the second African-American man to sit on the Supreme Court, behind Thurgood Marshall, is the son of sharecroppers and a direct descendant of slaves. Abramson, a Manhattan-born, former Ivy League arts editor, has been looking to rejuvenate her career since she was unceremoniously dismissed from her position as Executive Editor at the New York Times in 2014, a position she held for only three years. She was the first woman to hold that position at the paper. But it was revealed the Times staff found her “impossible” to work with and she was described as “very, very unpopular.”
Abramson has since written a string of poorly researched, and possibly libelous, columns trying to get a story to stick on Justice Thomas.
But these articles have largely been debunked into dust. In a five-part series dedicated to exposing Abramson in National Review, Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network, writes, “Abramson’s piece included allegations against Justice Thomas by a reporter named Nancy Montwieler…Except…Montwieler says none of that ever happened.”
According to a former clerk for Thomas, Marcia Coyle, “Montwieler, reached by the [National Law Journal] after the publication of Abramson’s story, said she sent a message to New York magazine on Monday that read in part: ‘I knew Clarence Thomas in a professional capacity and never experienced any type of inappropriate behavior from him. Moreover, despite allegations in the article, I do not recall any conversations with Justice Thomas regarding inappropriate or non-professional subjects.’”
Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony against Justice Thomas was the most high profile. An appointee by President George H.W. Bush, during Justice Thomas’s nomination process, Hill came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct while he was her supervisor at the Department of Education.
Those charges met a dead end when the FBI deemed Hill to lack credibility, with one agent saying she had “comments that were in contradiction with” previous statements. Hill’s allegations of Thomas making “crude remarks” were never substantiated by any other co-worker or witness. The witnesses called to testify believed Thomas over Hill, and Thomas dramatically testified:
“I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically, that I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her.”
Around 9:30 p.m., after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas responded, calling his nomination hearing “a high-tech lynching.”
At the time, polls also showed 58 per cent of Americans believed Justice Thomas while only 24 per cent believed Hill. Abramson’s old paper even reported in 1991: “The poll, taken Sunday night, shows that a majority of Americans remain skeptical of the accusations made against Judge Thomas by his former aide, Anita F. Hill. More than half of those surveyed said they believed that the account of sexual harassment offered by Ms. Hill, now a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, was ‘probably not true.’”
Abramson’s sprawling New York magazine piece, and shot-in-the-dark to restart her career, banks on holding Justice Thomas under a #MeToo movement microscope. Yet, her credibility, not just as a reporter but as a feminist, raises eyebrows among those who could point to Abramson’s partisan cheerleading of Democratic senator Al Franken and former Democratic president Bill Clinton amid their own allegations of sexual assault.
Abramson also has been entangled in sexual misconduct allegations at her own paper, accused of turning a blind eye to New York Times former Washington bureau chief Michael Oreskes‘s predatory behavior toward women while Abramson was his boss.
Her response to that scandal was, “If I had to do it again, I would have told him to knock it off.”
As recently as last November, writing for the Guardian, Abramson defended Franken after actual photographic evidence of him surfaced sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. In light of the Franken case, she called the #MeToo witch hunt ‘concerning.’
Still, I see a wide gulf between Harvey Weinstein, facing rape allegations, and Franken’s admitted misconduct. Franken was not yet elected to public office when this photo was taken. He was not the woman’s boss. He has sincerely apologized and called for a Senate ethics investigation of himself.
These are mitigating circumstances.
I worry that zero tolerance does not allow for such distinctions. The immediate calls for Franken to resign, some coming from Democratic progressives and feminist columnists, concerns me.
In her National Review series against Abramson, Severino published nine testimonies of women who had worked for Justice Thomas, calling him, “one of the most humble, kind, fundamentally decent human beings I have ever known,” “man of generosity, kindness, and above all, integrity, who treats every human being with respect and warmth,” a “mentor and hero,” and “an invaluable asset to the country.”
Abramson, a one-time investigative reporter, has been out of the political book game for a while. Her last grown-up title was published in 2011. It was a book about her dog called, The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout, followed by a series of children’s books about Scout, including 2012’s Ready or Not, Here Comes Scout, and 2013’s Puppy Parade.
feature image via Newsweek
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Pawl Bazile is Patriotism Correspondent for DANGEROUS and Production Director for Proud Boy Magazine. He tweets at @PawlBazile.